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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. Eric

    Going to a church makes you as much of a Christian as sittng in a garage makes you a car. The Bible says they will know we are Christians by our love. Period.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  2. .

    It should not matter what he is, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist....this is the United States and religion should have absolutely no effect on how the society sees someone.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  3. OrangeCat

    He didn't break into flame when entering holy ground?

    I guess that means he's not the Spawn of Satan.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:55 pm |
  4. jabba the hut

    DAMMIT! I didn't vote for him so he can sit in a pew. Get your ass out of that church and fix MY problems!!!!

    September 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  5. Ed

    Church? What a joke. Just like his old church the United CoC, they are of their father the Devil. The Epsicopal church he attended condones SIN. http://www.clergyformarriage.com/read.html
    The Priest supports gay marriage. A SIN!!!!!! These are dead churches and good places for god-less liberals to feel good about themselves. Repent and turn from your wicked ways. Hell is a long time.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
  6. jessica

    thank you for the article cnn. obviously there are a variety of opinions posted here. love that we live in a country that we can agree to disagree. that is the true beauty of America. Whether any of us are rightor not with God or those that don't believe, we will all have the opporunity in the end to find out.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • Ed

      Find out in the end? Yes at the Judgment seat of Christ. Hell is real.

      September 19, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
    • Critter

      @Ed

      Damnation makes no sense whether we have free will or not. Think about it. Why have a hell? It makes no sense at all.

      September 20, 2010 at 12:16 am |
  7. George S

    To Lamar H and everybody else out there
    Do you happen to open the bible and compare the christian rituals against ancient pagan rituals (surprise surprise)?!?
    To everybody else, count to ten and look into your lives, maybe you'll find out that you dont live your faith as you preach in these forums. Let the man be whatever he wants to be, i can care less!
    I will judge him on his performance as President.
    May your "God" bless you all!!!

    September 19, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
  8. abida

    Dont know if there is a code of religion for the American Presiden? How ever If he delivers good for America's prosperity, development & well being is sincere & patriotic. then what difference does it make if he is a Christian or a Muslim....

    September 19, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  9. Holly S.

    It's a horrible shame that in 2010 we cannot have an atheist president in the United States. Theists & organized religions ruin everything with their false moral pretenses & their false senses of superiority & righteousness. I look forward to the day when reason & logic reign supreme & we can leave all of the hoodoo-voodoo magic where it belongs – in fairy tales. You theists need to wake the heck up! You're living in a fantasy la-la land!

    September 19, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
  10. bud

    If he attends this church on a regular basis maybe the people of America will think he is a Christ Follower, Just like if I stand in my garage long enough my neighbors will think I'm a car.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:38 pm |
    • Isuzan

      While I laughed at your comment, as my mother would say, "Surely you jest". This whole discussion is so ridiculous it doesn't merit this board – CNN should take it down so the Faux News clones stop clogging ti with their idiotic copy-cat comments.

      September 19, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  11. Richard Malcom

    It's really sad people in this country still think President Obama is a muslim or wasn't born In the United States. I find some comments on this issue rather tasteless. It seems to me what religion he practices somehow affects you and me. I'm here to tell u whatever religion he practices (and I do believe it's christian) does not affect you at all. Like some on this site have stated, you really need to get a life, take care of your families and stop worrying about our Presidents religion. I support our President now and in the 2012 presidential election. You should too.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
  12. Iqbal khan

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dpKC7Mlrk7E

    September 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  13. Iqbal khan

    http://www.911Bible.com

    September 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  14. Antonio Quesada

    After reading all of this nonsense that has been published and focused on by our ridiculous corporate media, I kinda hope he is a Muslim. I am a Christian, being that I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, not the fairy tales and easily misinterpreted words that seem to be lacking the red ink. However, if this is how Christians act, then maybe I need to end that as well and just become one that understands and appreciates the good teachings of all the religions/wisdoms this world has seen to date (Do your research. They all correlate. All are attempts to explain what we don't know and/or ways to merge beliefs into one.) I just ask that he be a good president. So far – and mind you how long he's been in office – he has. Let him know that there are many that will defend him no matter what. And let the opposite know that the "judgement" and "weight of sins" apply to them as well.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  15. blahh

    i don't get why people think a president has to be Christian to be a good leader. since when does religion come into play with our secular nation?

    September 19, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
    • David Johnson

      'cause ~83% of the population are Christian.

      George W. was a born again Christian. He managed to muck up just about everything. Do you think he could do that without the help of Jesus?

      September 21, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  16. Lisa

    what's the fuss, I wouldn't care if the President is agnostic or an atheist. Going to church doesn't prove anything. I know a lot of hypocrites in church every Sunday – to be seen but they sure don't practice what was preached.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:29 pm |
  17. lululuck

    If India with 1.3 Billion population and with 1 Billion population of Non Muslims can accept a Muslim President, then, why shouldn't the US. What would go wrong if he was a Muslim? As a Muslim he has the right to become the president.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:21 pm |
  18. Cara

    Actually, Phil, IBM did make a typewriter that had variable spacing in the 60s. I hated typing on it but it existed!

    September 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  19. Amazed

    Seriously people, who cares what religion the president is??? Remember, this country was founded on FREEDOM OF RELIGION! If you don't that in this country you can be affiliated with whatever religion you see fit, then leave. This country welcomes ALL religions with open arms!! We need to be focusing on building this country back up rather than continuing to break it down. We need to focus on what's important and drop all this stupidity!!

    September 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  20. No way Joe

    Just in time for the election. How convenient.

    September 19, 2010 at 9:16 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.