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. MsJesusChristaboveallthings

    To whom ever this person is that wants to challenge God and his people. By questioning and asking us to prove there is a God. As long as you have breath in your body, do play with God, that's a dangerous thing to do. His word says, that he allows us to have choices. He is a gentleman, if you choose not to believe that, he's ok with that. In hell you will lift up your eyes. For his word says do not argue with a fool. So if you don't believe than so be it. I just don't understand, why wouldn't one believe in a man who encourages love....But God Bless You because he loves you anyway. I truly hope you see Jesus when you lock and load, and the shoe is on the other feet. Before you close your eyes you will confess that Jesus is Lord...Be Blessed.. I love you and there ain't nothing you can do about it...

    September 19, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Your loving god murdered men, women, children including babies, and animals.

      Your god made a man believe he was to sacrifice this son to him.

      Your god made a bet with Satan that a man would still love Him, even if the man's children were killed, his possessions taken, and he be tortured. God won the bet

      Your god is blood thirsty. Why do you worship him?

      September 19, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  2. awa

    now some idiot can shut up and say that he is not muslim

    September 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  3. NY CL Poster

    Funny how his faith got stronger around election time....lol.....boy, this guy is an idiot.......

    September 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  4. rand

    How funny......he managed to pause right at the exit of the church door... for all the world to see him....in a perfectly orchestrated photo shoot......45 days before voters go to the voting booth. His next book could be called "How to be President and run a campaign simultaneously."

    September 19, 2010 at 8:11 pm |
  5. Ojay

    When are you American's going to dump your ridiculous addiction to religion and get on with being the most powerful and progressive nation in the world? Religion is the ball and chain the holds people back from working towards the future and expanding their minds. If it was up to the church we'd all still be led to believe the flat earth was the center of the universe. Rebel from the church. Realize you should be good for the sake of being good and not because your will be rewarded in the afterlife but that you will be rewarded in this life!

    September 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  6. Sagebrush Shorty

    I guess you really can fool some of the people all of the time.

    September 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  7. Carroll E. Gant, JR.

    I read and hear these stories about what The President, Barack Obama is or is not. But I wonder what the question was asked of those survayed? Anyone who had watched this President since 1984 and read his books or read features of him in the Major News Papers like the Washington Post and Time and Ebony knows the Truth and what he is. A Christian! I guess those who were part of this survay were White and uneducated and maybe over 60 or 70 years old. So I'm glad the President and his Family attended a Service on a nice morning here in Washington, D.C..

    September 19, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • Sagebrush Shorty

      I'm white and over 70, got my GED in the Navy and I can still spell "surveyed". How about that?

      September 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
  8. luckjoe

    Our racist, socialist president and family are in church for votes. He would kiss a donkey's a** to stay in office and play forward his socialist agenda.

    September 19, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
  9. Sagebrush Shorty

    "President Obama publicly attended church Sunday morning for the first time in nearly six months." What has he been doing for the last 6 months? Attending privately? Or perhaps not attending at all. These Chicago Community Organizers are a sneaky bunch.

    September 19, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  10. Roger

    The rest of the world must just look at us like "Wow, they're so stupid."

    September 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
  11. Kyo

    it's rediculous in this day and age that what religion you practice even matters. Religion has nothing to do with anything in politics except make or lose you votes which is sad in itself. Religion is just being used as a tool to further peoples agendas.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  12. Bevaaron


    Your comments are so good and you called called these two fools out.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • peace2all


      Oh... You mean my responses to @HONESTANON-– Thank you... yes, someone needed to start calling him on his c***.

      @HONESTANON has been inciting hatred among others, spinning lies, and trying to squelch free speech, while simultaneously attacking me and a lot of others on these blogs who have been here a long time.

      He is an 'agitator'..... pay no attention to this blog Tr0ll..... He is pathetic...

      September 19, 2010 at 8:26 pm |
  13. t

    The most successful leaders on the planet have been and are those who trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Doesn't matter which denomination they frequent. Without trusting in God, the tenure will be for nothing

    September 19, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • David Johnson


      Actually, your god of Abraham is a myth. A lot of scholars think Abraham is a myth also. Sorry to break it to you. Cheers!

      September 19, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Please name a few of these leaders and provide evidence they believed in a suparnatural being.

      September 20, 2010 at 2:34 am |
  14. cassandra jackson

    to the ones do not believe in god when you in tragic situation who do you call on, 911 happen when a republican took whitehouse so you idiots a tragic have not happen yet so prayer does work and you with all the hate and jealousy you will reap what you sow

    September 19, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      'to the ones do not believe in god when you in tragic situation who do you call on, 911 happen when a republican took whitehouse so you idiots a tragic have not happen yet so prayer does work and you with all the hate and jealousy you will reap what you sow'
      ok, if this is a serious post then my answer is.....in a tragic situation I certainly dont turn to an imaginary being in the sky because that would be pointless. And if you want to use the argument that prayer has stopped other bad events happening then I say worship me because my will has stopped an extinction event meteor from striking the planet. The fact one has not hit recently is proof of my divinity.

      September 19, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Cedar Rapids

      Yep! I salute you my friend! Cheers!

      September 19, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  15. Iqbal khan


    September 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  16. Iqbal khan

    want to know about Islam

    September 19, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  17. jen

    Obama is screwed either way. He goes to church then they say he is parading around trying to increase his poll numbers. If he doesn't go to church he is a Muslim. Either way, who cares what religion he is! I thought this country was founded on separation of church and state. Maybe we should elect an atheist so we can move forward? Many of our founding fathers and presidents were agnostic or atheist. So govenor of Hawaii who signed off on his birth certificate for the election was wrong? No wonder this country is in chaos.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  18. Eddie Simmons

    It is rather unfortunate for so called journalist to even come out with such a stupid game. Americans have better things to think about than the President and his family going to church. Did you and your family go to church, mosque or the temple?Can CNN find qualified journalist to serve America? We do not need more of Lou Dobbs in this News organization. Shame on you.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  19. FormerObamaFan

    In time for the November elections...hmmm...why do our leaders always do things just for the elections? If he isn't the church going type then by all means worship at home but don't publicly go to church as a reminder to the American people that your still a believer.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
    • JeanV

      Any American can attend any church any time they want. It's none of your business or mine. In fact, it's UNAmerican to question their perfect right to do so. You don't live inside his head. You have NO IDEA why he chose to attend church this day. Perhaps one of his daughters wanted to go, or his wife, or he had a dream that made him miss church, or he finally had some free time, or he just missed going...you have NO idea. Why make up crap?

      September 19, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  20. JeanV

    I blame cell phones for this nonsense. No one ever calls me for polls because I don't have a land line anymore. Smarter, younger, better-educated people tend to get rid of the land line and just use their iPhone or Droid or Blackberry (smart phone) because it's less expensive (why have both?) and more convenient for people who hear well and are always on the go (traveling for business, etc.) These pollsters are calling the senile, people who can't afford anything beyond a basic land line, shut-ins and illiterate immigrant house-wives who barely understand the questions. The lunacy in the polls has gone up in direct proportion to the number of people shutting down their land-line and switching to smart-phone-only. They've lost all relevancy, but don't expect the pollsters to acknowledge this fact.

    Oh, and the Obamas are Christians. Sheesh.

    September 19, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • jean2009

      It is the so called smart phones that are responsible for far too many driving accidents, and that is not so smart. To say people with land line phones are illiterate, ignorant, disabled, old and do not understand the issues just shows your total level of ignorance.

      September 20, 2010 at 10:53 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.