For 20 years prior to his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama attended Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Since his election as president, Obama has attended Christian worship services numerous times, has spoken annually at the distinctly Christian National Prayer Breakfast, and has periodically issued messages of holiday solidarity (Easter, Christmas, etc.) to “my fellow Christians.”
But some people don’t believe he’s a Christian. He drinks beer, eats pork, and marks Islam’s holy month of Ramadan with good wishes to Muslims (in one, referring to “my own Christian faith”) rather than with that religion’s required fasting, but some people believe he’s secretly a Muslim. And some Republican politicians actively encourage that belief.
The can of hummus got opened up again on February 3, when Obama visited a mosque in Baltimore to tell American Muslims “you’re part of America too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.”
As expected, the smirkingest, most “I’m saying what you think I’m saying but am not actually saying” critique of Obama’s visit came from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who opined that “maybe he feels comfortable there.” In other words, maybe he’s a secret Muslim.
Comes now US Senator (and also presidential candidate) Marco Rubio, characterizing the mosque visit as “pitting people against each other.” Because, you see, telling Muslim Americans that they’re Americans is soooooo divisive (unlike, for example, asserting that America is “a Christian nation”). I wonder if Rubio isn’t maybe just jealous that he forgot to cover all his religious bases. He started off as a Catholic. Then he was a Mormon. Now he’s a Catholic again and a Southern Baptist too (yes, really).
I sometimes suspect that Donald Trump’s, Marco Rubio’s and Barack Obama’s real religions revolve around, respectively, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Barack Obama. But I digress.
Let me settle three questions for you as best I can.
Question #1: Is Barack Obama a Muslim?
Answer: No one can know another’s innermost thoughts, but going by Obama’s long record of public pronouncements and actions, no, he’s not a Muslim. He’s a professing Christian.
Question #2: Doesn’t that visit to a mosque make you wonder, though?
Answer: It shouldn’t. George W. Bush visited a mosque in Washington the week after 9/11, for exactly the same purpose as Obama did: To reassure Muslims that they are welcome in, and part of, America. Do you think George W. Bush is a Muslim too?
Question #3: Is America a Christian, or an anti-Muslim, nation?
Answer: I’ll let the first two presidents of the United States and the US Senate stand in for me on this answer. According to the Treaty of Tripoli, which was negotiated under George Washington and proffered to the Senate for ratification (it passed) by John Adams, “the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion … it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims] …”
Any more questions?
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
- “Obama visits the Mussulmen,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Orangeburg, South Carolina Times and Democrat, 02/10/16
- “Religious labels divisive and difficult to confirm,” by Thomas L. Knapp, San Antonio, Texas Northeast Herald, 02/10/16
- “Religion and politics,” by Thomas L. Knapp, Richmond, Virginia Legacy, p. 7, 02/10/16
Also published on Medium.