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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. Carolyn Vinson

    Its a bless for to see President Obama and his very Loveing family to go to church together.I Seen them on World News. A family that goes to church and Pray together stays together. I am prayen that they will Continue to go
    and Worship the Lord together. President Obama the is hearing your family Prayer and May the Continue to bless you and the White House S taff to make the right decesion for to help the poor and middle class people.please increase the food stamps five dollar increase isnt enough because the cost of live have increase includeing food,gas and light bills,etc have increase. Thank you President Obama if you read this and thank you CNN for letting me leave this comment.We are truely bless to be liveing in the UnitiedStates of America. So let us start back keeping the Prayer event going because we dont need another 911 to take place around our World. Peace wih Freedom with Faith with prayer with Love with joy with kindness with Goodness all these Fruit of the Spirit come from the Lord our God and more. From Carolyn A Vinson in Racine Wiconsin Sept 19 Sunday

    September 19, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You are joking right? You honestly think 9/11 happened because someone didn't pray enough?

      It is good to not be you.

      September 19, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      You should pray that God teaches you to use spell-check.

      September 19, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Sagebrush Shorty
      You said, "You should pray that God teaches you to use spell-check."

      LOL! But, prayer doesn't work.

      September 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  2. Kenny

    Well unlike everyone else, I had to be different. If you raise my right arm and get close, really close for a good look, you will see in small print the date of my mfg., model number and my serial number.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  3. Wade Johnson

    I do not care if he pretends to be a Christian who knows maybe he actually believes he is one in spite of the misery he brings to every one. I just wish he would quit pretending to be President because we all know now he has failed miserably at that.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  4. Over~It

    What ever. If he went to church every sunday then some one whould say he spends too much time in church. And what's half black people say that as if its a problem. Why not half white? And further more I'm so tired of we as Americans bashing the president. When Bush was the president you where consider un-American if you told of his obvious ignorance. The job he requested to fill with the peoples vote backing him is the worst job in the world. Some one will always find fault or look for some hidden message being sent.I could give 2 rats ass if he goes to church or not. Just get this economy back on it feet. Bring back the American dream and release of from this nightmare.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:13 pm |
  5. m0t0rm0uth

    Going to church doesn't make him a Christian any more than being inside a hen-house makes him a chicken.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  6. Wade Johnson

    Well it is almost election time Obama seems to be doing a lot of things for the first time like acting like he cares about eh middle class, acting like he supports business and acting like he wants to be bipartisan . It is almost time for an election so he dose what he does best! Show the face he wants us to see just long enough to get some votes then he will go back to being who we have seen the last 2 years. The man who ignores the will of the people, shuts the GOP out of everything then accuses them for blocking his insane agenda of the destruction of America.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  7. RUReal

    And the Lord sayeth elections are nigh. "Go thee forth that they might know that you are my faithful follower."
    And thusly did the Chosen One go forth into the house of the Lord on a quarterly basis. Verily even in the season of Football di the Chosen One go, that he might be seen by the people.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  8. dalis

    If you require religious adherence of your political leaders, you are begging to be lied to. Going to church doesn't make one a Christian; not going to church doesn't mean you're not one either.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:07 pm |
  9. sandra

    get off this man back and let him run this world like GOD would have him to

    September 19, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  10. Will

    most articles on this subject implies that those who think he is a Muslim are misinformed or mistaken, whereas it seems clear that people are aware that he calls himself a Christian and simply don't believe him. as an atheist and democrat, I always saw Obama as basically a non-believer, who uses religion or pays respect to religion when it is politically appropriate or expedient. for me there is nothing wrong with doing that, but how much should we really be surprised when people don't believe him? Obama is not a Muslim or a Christian, he is trying to appeal to Christians and Muslims by paying lip service to both religions, and sometimes the consequence is those who think he must actually have a religion perceive him as being duplicitous. I do think he went too far by claiming to be a Christian himself, but its not like he can take it back – I would be happy if he did, but its not going to happen.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  11. W

    So, the media links the President's public attendance of church to prior surveys and construes them as directly related. Then, the bloggers rant their rhetoric and claim, 'Obama thinks thus and so...'. WOW!!!! WHAT STUPID PEOPLE WE HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY!!!

    September 19, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
  12. sagin

    I really don't know why the heck Mr. Obama doesn't dump the freak'n presidency and raise his beautiful children – America doesn't deserve a seasoned and one of a kind genius like Mr. Obama. After pulling out the country from the worst mess in history, all he is getting is ' why is he not not going to church regularly? is he really a Muslim?...These and other rubbish statements. OMG! You folks don't deserve him. Then again, when did America got what she deserved since J.F. Kennedy? nuff said!. Just my Canadian neutral perspective!

    September 19, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Sadly, our country hasn't outgrown its racist roots.

      September 19, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
    • Morgan

      From your mouth to the lords ears... It's sad that a Canadian is on here telling us that we don't deserve our own president and you are absolutely right. I don't know why everyone has to be so malicious. I just wish they would stop blocking all his bills so we can actually get some progress going. It's said that racism still exist. ITS SAD THAT CNN EVEN POSTED THIS ARTICLE! Shame on CNN!

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

    hey I used to play the piano in that church!

    September 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  14. offgrid

    And then this rabbi guy from Nazareth said "I am God" and so are you. That's all that exists. Everything is God. Ein od milvado.

    September 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  15. offgrid

    Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Gnostic, who cares..... what's the difference ?

    I like all the heretics and blasphemers- Spinoza, Meister Eckhart, Cantor, Valentinian, Jesus ....

    September 19, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  16. IrishRican

    Interesting that he chose to go to church days after omitting "endowed by our Creator" from his quote of the Declaration of Independence. He's just covering his bases in case the MSM actually does its job and reports his 'misquote.'

    September 19, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • David Johnson

      There is no creator. Didn't you get the memo?

      September 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
    • Adrian

      Really David?

      September 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Adrian

      You said, "Really David?"

      Yep, there is not god. Prove me wrong Adrian. Or accept it as fact.

      September 19, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
    • Adrian

      Read my other post above.

      September 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm |
    • Andrew Messenger

      Based on latest Census statistics, 84 percent of all Americans know that we are given our rights by our Creator, and 0.5 percent of all Americans say "there is no Creator".

      September 23, 2010 at 1:17 am |
  17. JOSEPH HERRERA

    I AM GLAD THAT WE HAVE A PRESIDENT THAT IS WILLING TO HUMBLE HIMSELF TO A HIGHER POWER. I CAN HARDLY WAIT TO SEE WHAT OUR REACTION IS GOING TO BE TO POTENTIAL PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MR. ROMNEY WHEN HE TRIES TO BE THE FIRST MORMON PRESIDENT.

    September 19, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  18. David Johnson

    You said, "Personally I think he's atheist/agnostic, but basically wears his faith on his sleeve, because it's impossible to get elected to political office in the U.S without being Christian"

    You are exactly right. Obama is intelligent. He is a thinker. Yep, I agree with you.

    September 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  19. Anon

    You guys are idiots who think he's Muslim. Plain and simple.

    If you knew a single thing about Islam then you'd realize that if he were in fact Muslim, according to the quran he'd be executed for apostasy for attending church. They cannot have anything to do with christianity much less attend a church service and not expect to get basically excommunicated from Islam for doing so.

    Personally I think he's atheist/agnostic, but basically wears his faith on his sleeve, because it's impossible to get elected to political office in the U.S without being Christian. Many presidents have done this actually. Millions of insecure people in this nation at root, want a semi-theocratic government rather than democracy, and they don't even realize it because they probably don't know what theocracy even means nor do they know how hard the founding fathers worked to remove all religious influence from our government (only to have it creep back in starting with Eisenhower).

    September 19, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  20. KB

    Criticized if he attends, criticized if he doesn't. What gives? And how can we know less now than last year? hmmmm

    September 19, 2010 at 6:43 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.