But according to a new poll, one in five Americans think that he is:
Americans increasingly are convinced — incorrectly — that President Barack Obama is a Muslim, and a growing number are thoroughly confused about his religion. Nearly one in five people, or 18 per cent, said they think Obama is Muslim, up from the 11 per cent who said so in March 2009, according to a poll released Thursday. The proportion who correctly say he is a Christian is down to just 34 per cent.
Some of this could be considered backlash for Obama’s apparent cardinal sin in promoting the principle of freedom of religion with respect to the plans to build a mosque in downtown NYC, near the World Trade Center site. Because everyone knows that the US is a Christian theocracy, and the Constitution be damned. And of course, freedom of religion simply means freedom to practice the “right” religion.
But between the conspiracy theorists who don’t believe Obama is American, the racists who question whether he’s black, white or purple, and now the growing segment of Americans who want to make an issue of his religion, you have to wonder where the percentage of Americans are who would honestly say that they do not care.
Why should Americans be so afraid of electing a non-Christian anyway?
It’s an obvious fallout of a culture that emphasizes that the personal is political, and that not only tolerates but expects its leaders to put personal religious conviction ahead of public interest when making decisions. The arguments haven’t changed much since Kennedy – a Catholic (gasp!) was elected in 1960. Separation of Church and State? Hogwash. They want a leader who is seen going to church and quoting the bible in speeches. Which is why any hint, suggestion or misconception about Obama is such a big story.
Us Canadians, in contrast, have a stronger tradition of making the distinction between the personal and the political. Jean Chrétien was a Catholic prime minister who refused to bow to religious pressure when passing legislation for same-sex marriage, for example. We expect our politicians to have personal lives that are just that – personal.
Barack Obama is Christian, not Muslim. But it would be nice to think that maybe one day, Americans would be happy to elect a Muslim president. Or a Jewish one. Or a Buddhist one. Or – imagine – an atheist one. Oh, the horror!