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. Benjamin

    Obama dumped his pastor Rev. Wright of 20-years once he became a political liability. Now that Obama is in trouble politically, he decides to go to church; after a 6-month hiatus. The truth is if the majority of Americans wanted a cross dressing man as president, Obama would be wearing a dress.

    September 20, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  2. CatfishMammy

    Praise Jesus! Damn da Debil!!!

    September 19, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
  3. Realist1

    Obama is really a unverisalist – a muslim and a Christian and an atheist. Its all good according to him.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  4. Rocky

    Reverends? Bibles? Obama is one of THOSE people?!

    September 19, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  5. Reality

    Wrong church!!!

    Being the leader of the Immoral Majority, BO should have went to the new wave "church" of the IM.

    Who are members of the Immoral Majority you ask? (for new members only)

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: The 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year. Said group put him in the White House and will do so for another term.

    i.e. the Immoral Majority now rules the land and will do so in the foreseeable future. How very sad and disturbing!!!

    2008 Presidetial Election Results

    Popular vote

    69,456,897 for BO
    59,934,814 for JM

    September 19, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
    • David Johnson

      I pray you are right. I want a Democratic President.

      September 20, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  6. JennyTX

    CNN, this is news??? Did you publish an article each of the few times the Reagan's went to church?? Can't we all please let our President and his family have their own personal freedom of religion??

    September 19, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  7. NotALemming

    The act of attending church "publicly" does not make one a Christian. Attending Rev Wright's America-hating "church" for their entire adult life, and attending a Madrassa during one's childhood, however.... If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck....

    September 19, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • My Honest Opinion

      your tard comments have that unmistakable garbled sound to them that only comes from being tea-bagged by Rush.
      How does it feel to have that bloated sack of sht drop his shriveled nads into your mouth?
      You may not be a lemming, but you are surely a d-bag who deserves to have a live duck shoved up his ass for being a d-bag.
      Give my regards to your master, slave.

      September 20, 2010 at 4:27 am |
  8. iBlackberry

    I don't think Obama is a secret Muslim. I don't think he's a Christian either. I think he's a secret atheist and that's a good thing. It would be even better if he proclaimed his atheism publicly, but he knows that's not practical for his presidency.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  9. George Waugh

    President Hussein Obama told the Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit when he was in the US in May of 2010, that he is a Moslem, the son of a Moslem father and Moslem step-father and that his two half brothers in Kenya are Moslems. He also assured Gheit that he was loyal to the Moslem agenda and that he would deal with Israel as soon as he had things looked after in the US (health care) so Moslems be patient. Gheit described this on Egypt's Nile TV, 'Round Table Show'. Google 'Avi Lipkin' to confirm this info.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  10. Raj

    Bogus Photo Opt...he'll be Buddhist tomorrow if he finds out that he's losing in polls.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  11. Chad

    Thank you, American attention span. You made my BP stock buy during the spill SO worth it! Now, look at that shiny object and forget I ever existed!

    September 19, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  12. reason

    Apparently... Damned if you do, damned if you don't... Either way. It should not matter. The words separation between church and state comes to mind. Also... there is nothing in here that says that he did not attend church privately. What does it matter?!

    September 19, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
  13. rockon1986

    Attending Mass does not make you Christian.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  14. Artemus

    It's all over Mr amd Mrs Obama, trying to change Americas view of you and your family , will not work after you were members at the Chicago Church for 18-20 yrs, This makes you look evern worse by using a Church there to try and change your Idenity, you funny Mr. Obama, go see Mr. Wright, if you were honest you would. Again it is to late to snow, con,or sell Americans that you are going to change your membership to D.C. to the Presidents Church, that is what is on your mind, someone had to give you that idea anyway, cause you would not have thought of it. That would be like trying to sell an Eskimo two bathing suits, one for the summer and one for the winter. Artemus Tennessee P.S You may get impeach before your time is up anyway.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  15. doug a

    Hmm just how stupid are we? The rest of the world must pity us?

    September 19, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
    • dang

      pity me, I feel stupid for missing "talk like a pirate day".

      September 20, 2010 at 12:41 am |
  16. Blake

    Although Obama could be fairly labeled as a a nominal Christian, secular Marxist is probably the most accurate label for Obama.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  17. Mark from Middle River

    I think this was a severe bad move on obama's part. As we see it throws all of us radical militants into a hurricane of anger and distrust. I am talking about those on all side both of rabid athiest and rabid those of faith.

    One side will look down on him for acknowledging faith and the other will question any Christian who is not in church every Sunday. Better just to have snuck out to a small church requested no cameras.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  18. Cthulance

    Apparently this was a slow news day.

    September 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  19. Tony

    A PR stunt........Photo Op..........nothing more! This man is a fake and a fraud.

    September 19, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
    • Artemus

      Tony you said it in less words, but thanks for two agreeing on same o same o. He is a Blooming Idiot for a President, maybe a good man, I do not know, but he hasn't sense that God promise a knat. Artemus

      September 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  20. kitty hogan

    WHEN did the Obamas become Episcopalians? They marched up and took communion in a church they dont' belong to? What brass! This is nothing but a midterm election ploy. They must think we're really dumb...bet old Rev Wright was cackling up a storm

    September 19, 2010 at 10:54 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.