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. Abraham Yeshuratnasm

    oshua Dubois has not succeeded in changing Obama's pro-Islamic and anti- Christian views. Obama has twisted the geopolitical situation at the time of Exodus and he applies it for today's situation to give a perverted notion of the Bible. Obama says, “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”
    “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.” Modification is to bury Biblical ideas - Obama's support for gay and lesbian marriage, abortion even after advanced pregnancy etc.,Obama attending church may be for political support. But his views are complete didtortion of traditional bellefs.

    October 25, 2013 at 3:44 am |
  2. Joe from Ohio

    Sounds like CNN is trying to get some Republicans elected!!

    October 6, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  3. B

    Let's give a round of applause for stupidity. There is not one of you who know this man on a personal level yet you judge him on a surface level. He is the president, the man is in constant motion. No matter what he does whether it be good or bad right or wrong you still condemn him for it. I know that to be, hating. He goes to church you have something to say about what his longtime pastor has said, so he leaves. He is not seen going for months then he goes and you say its a political stunt. It pays to have a life of your own, you learn to concern yourself least with what does not concern you.

    September 26, 2010 at 2:49 am |
  4. Kevin

    Obama is an atheist, in my view. I have no evidence, but I have faith he is one.

    September 23, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  5. JimmyJay

    Obama has no core values. He left the church in Chicago in 2008 when polls showed he should do so. He finally went to a local church in Wash DC when polls showed he should do so. One cannot serve God and Mammon, but Obama thinks he can serve God and Polls. He is wrong.

    September 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  6. shree

    Test ing the

    September 21, 2010 at 8:05 am |
  7. eef

    Wow. I get a mix of emotions reading all of these posts. Organized religion is so unnecessary, and I do not like where the episcopal church has gone with their celebration of sin, though the Methodists have gone further.. Regardless, Christianity is not shoved down your throat, it is simply the belief of our forefathers, and many of us beleive it because it is TRUTH. Those who cannot see, or accept, likely have anger or pain to release before seeing the Truth. No archeologist or scientist has proven it wrong yet. It's just so disheartening to know how many people go through life without Jesus. Every knee shall bow... 🙂

    September 21, 2010 at 7:46 am |
  8. Psychedelicious

    I wish Obama would just say he's an atheist and get it over with. Most people who hate him will still hate him.

    September 21, 2010 at 6:58 am |
  9. Holly S.

    @ David Johnson You are perhaps the lone voice of reason here. I'd give ya a standing ovation if I could. Thank you for promoting logic & reason.

    September 21, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  10. zepplin

    that's one more time than i have...current issues need to be discussed,God can be found everywhere, not necessarily in organized religious services.... get relevant to today and maybe the seats will fill...

    September 20, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  11. NL

    So, the guy goes to church once every six months. Sounds like a pretty average American Christian to me. I'd be willing to bet that plenty who called themselves christian in the last pew survey spend even less time in church. Some probably haven't been there for years. Should we get them to stop calling themselves Christians on surveys, or is it more beneficial to have their numbers counted?

    September 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  12. jeff

    I can’t believe in this day and age a person in public office is seen to be less of a leader because he does not regularly attend church. There are 360,000,000+ Americans. According to religioustolerance.org, only 47% of American surveyed state they attend a religious service on a regular basis. My guess is that means about 20% of Americans attend a religious service at least once a week (and 27% of us lie to ourselves about how often we attend a service). Give Obama a break on the church issue. He is a Christian. He can practice his religion, pray, and worship God from anywhere and he should not have to show up at church just to “prove” to the idiots in this country that he is not Muslim.

    September 20, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
  13. Cee

    How can u say it dosent matter who he serves?? Jesus is real and so is Satan...the rest are made up rocks, clay idols that people made up to worship. But if he is serving either of the two mention above, it will have a major affect on the country. And based on the decisions he's made such as declaring June to be gay month, being for abortions and trying to add another gender other then male and female!! He's definitely not serving Jesus Christ!

    September 20, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  14. tired of the bickering

    Come on people... Get a clue and stop being so ignorant. It gets us laughed at by the rest of the world. Obama's religion should not be so much of a debate that he has to stage going to church to make meaningless headlines. We should start working together as a nation in order to get things done instead of making huge issues out of nothing.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  15. Cee


    September 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  16. Cee


    September 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  17. Calvin

    The Episcopalian church is perfect for the President. They don't believe in anything.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  18. serg

    The lord accepts our Muslims president also…he does not discriminate.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  19. heresme

    Phony. Now this is what he meant by transparency. You can see right through it.

    September 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
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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.