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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. iPwn

    Propaganda. We know Obama's a Muslim.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • Isuzan

      We do? 'Cause I surely don't. Where is your evidence? Just what you hear on the no-news Faux news channel? Is Glenn Beck now your spiritual leader? How sad...

      September 19, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  2. fatima

    I don't care whether he goes to church or not. It is between him and his faith and no one Else's business. I would rather the president (any president) attend to the good of country and act as per his conscience and not go about starting wars just to satisfy the lobbies t and the ol industry.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  3. Yozhik

    If you look carefully, you can see a Quran in his pocket. It is written in Swahili (spoken in Kenya) and has a library stamp from his school in Indonesia. A-ha!!! Tea baggers ahoy!

    September 19, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  4. Cthulance

    "For the first time in months, President Obama attends church publicly"

    What a dumb thing to do. Religion is just plain silly.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  5. Mary

    Shame on CNN for stirring the pot on this issue. Why do we care so much what our President's religious beliefs are? Do we not live in a country based upon freedom of religion?

    September 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  6. Steve

    Just goes to show easy people can be brainwashed if they don't know he is a Christian.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  7. jen

    I am definitely a Christian. If Obama is going to church, great. The Christian thing to do is to pray for him to successfully lead our country. If you loved our country and were a true American you would pray for success no matter who was in office. I have seen SO MANY people on all these reality news media shows claiming to be Christians, but are certainly not acting very Christian like. Jesus did not hang out with politicians and rich people. He never lead an army to take over anything. His movement was completely PEACEFUL. And so we should do the same.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  8. tuttysan

    I'll be voting for Obama again. He could be an Atheist for all I care.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You say that like being an atheist is a bad thing. *sigh*

      September 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  9. NYCL Poster

    Funny how his faith gets a bit stronger around election time......sorry guys, we wont fall for this a second time around. This administration is the absolute worst I have ever seen. I would rather take a Democratic society with Republican fat cats over a Socialist one waiting in bread lines to get my "rations". This was not good change folks....sorry.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • Isuzan

      You don't even have a clue what "socialism" means. Really? If we follow your illogic; social security? SOCIALISM. Taxes? SOCIALISM! Please don't open your mouth and spew these wacky faux news blatherings.

      September 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
    • free clues for the unemployed and clueless

      @NYCL Poster

      You want a job? Get those "free market capitalists" to give you one. They want an unregulated market so they can cheat, swindle, pollute and do everything and anything to make a buck – at the expense of everyone else.
      That's what they mean by a "free market" – free to be criminals and as greedy and nasty as they like.

      They are the ones keeping you from getting a job by making sure that there are no jobs for you to get. They have collectively defrauded the USA out of trillions of dollars and are making sure that money does not create jobs.
      The President is against these people and he wants to create jobs. Why would you say he is keeping jobs from being created? The GOP is saying NO to EVERYTHING including JOBS.

      Prove me wrong if you can...

      September 20, 2010 at 12:38 am |
    • David Johnson

      @free clues for the unemployed and clueless

      Prove you wrong, you say? I will sing your praises so all can hear! You are exactly right. Think about how much more Obama could have done for the country if not for the party of no.

      Cheers to you my friend!

      September 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  10. fred

    I don't know what's in his heart... or his head for that matter but... I think it's interesting that he is now attending church at a time his political career would benefit from it. I don't trust him. At all. He's a slick politician and is a walking, talking TV commercial.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  11. gh

    I love the President he has done a wonderful job. More to do.........This country was a mess..........

    September 19, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • chase

      News Flash: nothing has changed

      September 19, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
    • a newer newsflash

      @chase

      Newsflash: You are a clueless dork

      September 20, 2010 at 12:30 am |
  12. Rock God

    I respect Obama for keeping his religion to himself and not beating us over the head with it like those wacky Republicans. It makes me think more of real Christians/

    September 19, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
    • fatima

      exactly. I think some guys are going the deep end on someone else's faith which is none of our barn business.

      September 19, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  13. righteousnessbeforegodliness

    Maybe they finally lit the right candle. In my opinion, you're candle of biggotry and hate should have drowned in the first wave of enlightenment. Bring on round two.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  14. Ed

    Wow, he went to church, a dead one at that. They support gay rights. Their candle is out.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
    • Isuzan

      Actually Ed, their candle brightly shines so others can see God. It's a shame you're so close-minded. What would Jesus do? Turn away people you might consider sinners?

      September 19, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  15. eliza

    It is really obvious why the President has decided to not attend church regularly. The amount of security and commotion that his attendance warrants makes it unfair to the the other church goers in the congregation. If he were to go to the same place every Sunday, can you imagine the security risk that would be? It takes over 2 hours to have everyone go through metal detectors, etc. before they can enter the building. He has said so himself that he feels that is unfair to everyone else in the church and therefore has decided to not attend a weekly service.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  16. It's irrelevant

    Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, just like sitting in the garage doesn't make you a car...

    September 19, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  17. D J

    Doesn't matter what he does, in the eyes of some, it's always wrong or has a hidden meaning.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  18. Seraphimo

    So I guess now you can only be Christian and be considered as a Christian is if we wear huge crosses on your backs, tattoo a cross across my face and scream loudly to everyone that you are a Christian. At the same time, let us take out a full page advert in the newspapers testifying to all that one is a Christian. PS: do not forget to get the blessings of Glen Beck, O'Riley and Fox news....just to reaffirm the Christian faith.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  19. yianni

    Why the President should be a Christian of Muslim? He can be anything he wants to be. He can be an Atheist, or whatever he wants to be. And he does not have to let everybody knows what he believes. Fortunately, he very well knows, that people of religion are uneducated idiots, hypocrites, liars, living in the fear of their God.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  20. susan

    I think you all need to stop worring about the president and pray for him you all have been on the mans back ever since he step foot in the white house everybody needs to do what the word of GOD says which is to "work out your own soul salvation with fear and trembleling."

    September 19, 2010 at 10:02 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.