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September 19th, 2010
04:36 PM ET

For first time in months, President Obama attends church publicly

President Obama publicly attended church Sunday morning for the first time in nearly six months, and shortly after a major survey showed that only a third of Americans can correctly identify Obama's faith as Christian.

The first family attended the 9 a.m. service at St. John's Church Lafayette Square, an Episcopal congregation about a block from the White House.

The Obamas - the president, first lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha - made the trip on foot.

The family sat a few rows from the altar, among roughly 40 worshippers. Each family member received communion, led by the president.

St. John's rector, the Rev. Luis Leon, preached on the weekly gospel reading, Luke 16:1-13, which ends, "You cannot serve God and wealth," in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

The visit, Obama's first public trip to church since Easter, comes several weeks after a major survey showed that a substantial and growing number of Americans believe that Obama, a self-described Christian, is Muslim.

Nearly one in five Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, up from around one in 10 Americans who said he was Muslim last year, according to the survey, conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The number of Americans who expressed uncertainly about the president's religion, meanwhile, is much larger and has also grown, including among Obama's political base. For instance, fewer than half of Democrats and African-Americans now say that Obama is Christian.

The survey was conducted in late July and early August.

Despite intense media speculation about which Washington church Obama would join when he arrived in Washington, the White House has yet to announce that he has joined any, though the president sometimes attends chapel at Camp David.

Obama had been a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago until spring 2008, when he left after videos surfaced showing his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, delivering controversial sermons about the United States.

At St. John's on Sunday, Rev. Leon said that the week's gospel passage - known as the parable of the dishonest steward - was a call to "act shrewdly on behalf of God."

He said that the parable showed that "Jesus has a sense of humor... he also likes to shock us" and the extent to which "everyone has cut a corner or two."

After the roughly hour-long service, Obama chatted with Leon and the first family and strolled back to the White House.

According to the Pew survey released last month, most of those who think Obama is Muslim are Republicans, but the number of independents who believe he is Muslim has expanded significantly, from 10 percent last year to 18 percent this summer.

In March 2009, 36 percent of African-Americans said they didn't know what religion Obama practices. Now, 46 percent of African-Americans say they don't know.

"You would think the longer the person is in the White House, the more the 'don't knows' would decline," said Alan Cooperman, the Pew Forum's associate director for research. "But the 'don't knows' are higher now than when he came to office."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Barack Obama • Church • Houses of worship • Politics

soundoff (508 Responses)
  1. heresme

    What a phony. Now that he has a poor approval rating, he pulls the religion card out for all to see. Ugh. Had he said in his campaign that he does not believe in God or go to church, that would have at least been honest. This is where the transparency went! You can see right through it!

    September 20, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  2. 4America1

    “WE WILL GO THROUGH OUR FEDERAL BUDGET-PAGE BY PAGE, LINE BY LINE-ELIMINATING THOSE PROGRAMS WE DON’T NEED”-PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA, NOVEMBER 2008. MR. PRESIDENT, WE ARE STILL WAITING. WE THE PEOPLE EXPECT YOU TO TELL THE TRUTH AND KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
  3. actionbuzz

    Praise the Lord, my brother in Christ, President Obama, personally attended a church service. Hopefully this will silence the mouths of those who claim he is not a Christian. Sadly the half of the Democrats and African Americans who are confused with whether or not he is a Christian or Muslim, probably don't even know what it takes to be a Christian. They need to read the Bible – John 3:16 specifically. I pray that the President will be freed up to be the leader he has been called to be.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  4. heresme

    @David Johnson, that spitting report was refuted. Did not happen. As to the POTUS finally attending church, what a phony. I would rather he just said he does not go, does not believe, whatever...than to pull the religion card now that his approval rating is in the toilet (holy water).

    September 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  5. dave richman

    Boy I guess we can all forget about any doubts we had cause now he iis seen a church. What an empty and predictable, sorry excuse for a President

    September 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  6. Violet

    I personally don't give a flying flip what this man worships or why. He just needs to do his job and everyone else needs to worry about their own business not this man's religion. Afterall, why does it even matter? Would you want anyone questioning your beliefs? No. You'd tell them to mind their own damn business. I'm not saying he's Muslim, im not saying he's Christian for that matter either- leave the man's religion alone if nothing else.

    September 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  7. MIchael Schulze

    It's sad that our Presidents must have a Christian affiliation in order to be elected. I hope none of them were really that stupid.

    September 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  8. pkfops

    I he might be secretly on the far right.

    September 20, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  9. Alley Jade

    I've never commented on here before, mostly because I've never seen the need. However, I do have a few things to say on this topic. 1. Politics and religion should never mix. Period. The President should be able to make decisions that are in the best interest of the country and its people. He is to represent this country as a whole. So what if he's Muslim or Christian? This would only display our RIGHT to practice different religions. If he and his family want to go to church they should be able to, without a massive media blow out. Yes, I personally do believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.. However, I also believe one can go to church every Sunday and ride the church pew straight to hell. 2. For those of you who believe people disprove of the President because he is black, half black, half white, purple, orange or green... I hate to break it to you, but this simply isn't true. You have to stop and ask yourself.. Is the reason you are voting for Obama, the same reason you believe they aren't? Race shouldn't be an issue any more than religion should be. The truth is, Obama never would have been elected in the first place if "white america" hadn't voted in his favor. So please, stop playing the racism card. 3. I do believe he is running things to the best of his ability and as a nation, that's all we can ask of him. And as a nation, we also must realize, he isn't perfect but he's a hell of a lot better than our former presidents! So back up, give him some space, and let him do his job.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  10. Mike

    Who cares? Important thing is that idiot not be re-elected and him and that amazon he's married to go back to Kenya and never be heard from again!

    September 20, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike

      You said, "Mike
      Who cares? Important thing is that idiot not be re-elected and him and that amazon he's married to go back to Kenya and never be heard from again!"

      Showing your true colors. That is totally racist.

      If you are a Christian, I am glad I'm an atheist.

      I bet you are a Republican to. LOL

      September 20, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • Mike, from above

      Just want to clarify this is a different person from the conversation above.

      September 20, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Mike

      Wow.. dude.... Now THAT totally and completely RACIST ranting of yours' was absolutely and blatantly arrogant and ignorant. If you can't make any kind of real argument, let's attack the man and his wife.... on their 'race.'

      President Obama..... probably the single most 'vetted' and 'scrutinized' man in history...our President of the U.S.A... and yet still some people have the gall to continue to try and stir up controversy and hatred..... regarding this man's Nationality and Citizenship..!

      ALL of these questions were absolutely answered long ago....PERIOD.

      And now.... we have people posting 'racist' comments about the man. Real nice people...!

      Real nice @Mike.... way to make a solid and well-thought out and cogent argument....

      Listen up... for all of you 'RACIST'S' ...posting on this blog, including @Mike....

      Be patient... seems that all of you card carrying ...k*k*k* members..... just can't wait to get your 'white hoodies' in the mail.

      Christ... give it a break with the Nationality/Citizenship issue that was answered well before he became President. And, enough with the Racism. If you don't like what he has accomplished as President...fine. But, leave out the 'spin' propaganda and 'hate' speech...Please...

      Peace.....

      September 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm |
  11. Scott

    Why all these post blaming the Republicans for Obama not attending church. It's his decision.

    And to all of you atheists that post about this, Whay do you care so much? Are you missing something in your lives that make you bitter and militant about what others have found comfort in?

    September 20, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  12. Deb

    "You would think the longer the person is in the White House, the more the 'don't knows' would decline,"

    How can the confusion decline when so many people have made it their full time job to keep the lies alive??? Add to that, the intelligence level of the "Joes" in this country.....

    September 20, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  13. 4Real

    George Bush sayeth: See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over again for the truth to sink in to kind of catapult the propaganda. And thus did the Republican party go forth and spread lies about the opposition.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  14. cm

    Cnn do you if they use the restroom at church?

    September 20, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  15. David

    "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Luke 16:13

    That is so appropriate with Obama in attendance, lol. I love it.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:08 am |
  16. JoJo

    Obama's an atheist, which is good.

    September 20, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  17. PlainSimple

    S...You're absolutely right!!!

    September 20, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  18. Joe

    Just in time for elections, though I believe he would of been better if he just admitted it and went to Mosque.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:45 am |
  19. jmesd

    This is only news because people are so out of touch with reality on almost any issue. The problem is not the President's faith, it's that people don't even pay enough attention to facts to know he is Christian and has been one for 20 plus years. And news organizations like CNN broadcast religious BS from people like the son of Graham. His whole diatribe on how faith is inherited in Muslim families was broadcast uncritically, when in fact Graham was lying and speaking political innuendo. Once a Christian declares his faith as being Christian as the President did a long time ago – that's it. Any lay person would know that – and yet you had a reporter interview him who never challenged him at all. This is CNN pushing false controversy for profit – plain and simple.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  20. XWngLady

    If people don't know what relgion the President is, its because they either aren't informed (they don't follow watch or really care about politics) or they purposefully refuse to believe what the President has said is his own religion!!! The President is not a Muslim....Muslims do not say that Jesus is their savior (then Senator Obama said this unequivocally at Saddleback church on national television in 2008). Muslims do not baptize themselves and their children. They certainly don't take communion. The man is a Christian. Period. I wish I could follow every so-called Christian who is falsely witnessng against the President by trying to deny his salvation (I said "trying" because salvation is a gift given to ANYONE who confesses with their mouth and believes in their heart that Jesus is Lord and that he was raised from the dead, that NO ONE, not any TEA PARTIER or Obama hater can take from him), follow them for a day and record all of their behavior with a hidden camera and then broadcast it on a big screen for everyone to see. I guarantee we would see some behavior that is not Christian like and that could call into question whether they really are a Christian or not! That is NOT for us to determine. If the President says that he is a Christian then that's what he is. If you think that he is not walking as devoutly in his Christianity, then our jobs as Christians is to PRAY FOR HIM, not tear him down,, lie on him, call him names and stir up mischief!!! I am waiting for the REAL Christians to stand up and act like Christ and stop letting these pharisidic, legalistic, non-Christians co-op our faith! FAMILY, CHRISTIAN or MORAL values do not BELONG to the Republican party....certainly NOT the Tea Party.

    September 20, 2010 at 10:11 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.