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BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA
44th President (2009-2017)
Education: Columbia University, Harvard Law School
Occupation: Community Organizer, Lawyer, College Professor
Political Affiliation: Democrat
Religious Affiliation: United Church of Christ
Summary of Religious Views:
Views on Religion & Politics:
"The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states. " -- Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention, Boston, Massachusetts, 27 July 2004
". . . I think it's time that we join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy." -- Address, Sojourners/Call to Renewal "Building a Covenant for a New America" Conference, Washington, D.C., 26 June 2006
"I was not raised in a particularly religious household, as undoubtedly many in the audience were. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I've ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.
"It wasn't until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma.
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"And in time, I came to realize that something was missing as well that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone.
"And if it weren't for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn - not just to work with the church, but to be in the church.
"For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope.
"And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship the grounding of faith in struggle that the church offered me a second insight, one that I think is important to emphasize today.
"Faith doesn't mean that you don't have doubts.
"You need to come to church in the first place precisely because you are first of this world, not apart from it. You need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away - because you are human and need an ally in this difficult journey.
"It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ on 95th Street in the Southside of Chicago one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn't fall out in church. The questions I had didn't magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth." -- Address, Sojourners/Call to Renewal "Building a Covenant for a New America" Conference, Washington, D.C., 26 June 2006
"[A]s president, I want to celebrate the richness and diversity of our faith experience in this country. I think it is important for us to encourage churches and congregations all across the country to involve themselves in rebuilding communities. One of the things I have consistently argued is that we can structure faith-based programs that prove to be successful like substance abuse or prison ministries without violating church and state. We should make sure they are rebuilding the lives of people even if they're not members of a particular congregation. That's the kind of involvement that I think many churches are pursuing, including my own..
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"One of the things that I think churches have to be mindful of is that if the federal government starts paying the piper, then they get to call the tune. It can, over the long term, be an encroachment on religious freedom." -- "Q&A: Barack Obama", Interview by Sarah Pulliam and Ted Olsen, Christianity Today, January (Web-only) 2008, Vol. 52
"I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful. I didn't 'fall out in church' as they say, but there was a very strong awakening in me of the importance of these issues in my life. I didn't want to walk alone on this journey. Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals.
"There is one thing that I want to mention that I think is important. Part of what we've been seeing during the course this campaign is some scurrilous e-mails that have been sent out, denying my faith, talking about me being a Muslim, suggesting that I got sworn in the U.S. Senate with a Quran in my hand or that I don't pledge allegiance to the flag. I think it's really important for your readers to know that I have been a member of the same church for almost 20 years, and I have never practiced Islam. I am respectful of the religion, but it's not my own. One of the things that's very important in this day and age is that we don't use religion as a political tool and certainly that we don't lie about religion as a way to score political points. I just thought it was important to get that in there to dispel rumors that have been over the Internet. We've done so repeatedly, but obviously it's a political tactic of somebody to try to provide this misinformation." -- "Q&A: Barack Obama", Interview by Sarah Pulliam and Ted Olsen, Christianity Today, January (Web-only) 2008, Vol. 52
"Our Founders understood that the best way to honor the place of faith in the lives of our people was to protect their freedom to practice religion. In the Virginia Act of Establishing Religion Freedom, Thomas Jefferson wrote that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion.-- The First Amendment of our Constitution established the freedom of religion as the law of the land. And that right has been upheld ever since.
"Indeed, over the course of our history, religion has flourished within our borders precisely because Americans have had the right to worship as they choose -- including the right to believe in no religion at all. And it is a testament to the wisdom of our Founders that America remains deeply religious -- a nation where the ability of peoples of different faiths to coexist peacefully and with mutual respect for one another stands in stark contrast to the religious conflict that persists elsewhere around the globe." -- Religions Tolerance in America: Address at Iftar Dinner, Washington, D.C., 13 August 2010
"There's wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility. They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion. For to infringe on one right under the pretext of protecting another is a betrayal of both.
"But part of humility is also recognizing in modern, complicated, diverse societies, the functioning of these rights, the concern for the protection of these rights calls for each of us to exercise civility and restraint and judgment. And if, in fact, we defend the legal right of a person to insult another's religion, we're equally obligated to use our free speech to condemn such insults -- and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with religious communities, particularly religious minorities who are the targets of such attacks. Just because you have the right to say something doesn't mean the rest of us shouldn't question those who would insult others in the name of free speech. Because we know that our nations are stronger when people of all faiths feel that they are welcome, that they, too, are full and equal members of our countries.
"So humility I think is needed. And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments: between Church and between State. The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world -- far more religious than most Western developed countries. And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state. Our government does not sponsor a religion, nor does it pressure anyone to practice a particular faith, or any faith at all. And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion -- so that when you listen to Darrell talk about his faith journey you know it's real. You know he's not saying it because it helps him advance, or because somebody told him to. It's from the heart.
"That's not the case in theocracies that restrict people's choice of faith. It's not the case in authoritarian governments that elevate an individual leader or a political party above the people, or in some cases, above the concept of God Himself. So the freedom of religion is a value we will continue to protect here at home and stand up for around the world, and is one that we guard vigilantly here in the United States." -- Address at the 63rd National Prayer Breakfast, 5 February 2015
"... as Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, and that includes freedom of religion for all faiths. I already mentioned our Founders, like Jefferson, knew that religious liberty is essential not only to protect religion but because religion helps strengthen our nation -- if it is free, if it is not an extension of the state. Part of what's happened in the Middle East and North Africa and other places where we see sectarian violence is religion being a tool for another agenda -- for power, for control. Freedom of religion helps prevent that, both ways -- protects religious faiths, protects the state from -- or those who want to take over the state from using religious animosity as a tool for their own ends.
"That doesn't mean that those of us with religious faith should not be involved. We have to be active citizenry. But we have to respect the fact that we have freedom of religion." -- Islamic Society of Baltimore Address, Baltimore, MD, 3 February 2016
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