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The Real Problem With Obama's Religion

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At a September town hall meeting in New Mexico, a citizen asked President Obama the question "Why are you a Christian?"

Obama replied that he is "a Christian by choice," noting that his family didn't regularly attend church. He explained that he became a Christian later in life "because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead -- being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me." Etc.

Some might see this as a defense against all the hysterical right-wing assertions that Obama is a "secret Muslim". I see it as an honest and reasonable answer to a question. But I question the validity of the question.

As I see it, the real problem with Obama's religion is that it is an issue at all.

It shouldn't matter whether Obama is a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Scientologist, or a Zoroastrian. (Here come more rumors now.)

And, while I am not a constitutional attorney, it seems to me that to question his religion is unconstitutional.

Contrary to the claims of the religious right, the United States of America was not founded as a Christian nation. Many of our most influential Founding Fathers -- including Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Paine -- were not Christians. And they knew from their experiences in England what kinds of problems can arise when religion and government are too closely related.

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So they deliberately designed this nation to avoid the problems of theocracy. And here is why all the concerns about Obama's own religion are, in my view, unconstitutional: As most people are hopefully aware, the First Amendment contains a clause prohibiting Congress from making any law "respecting an establishment of religion." But, even more germane to the issue of religion and public office, our Founding Fathers wrote in Article 6, paragraph 3, of the U.S. Constitution that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

There it is in writing.

But it conveniently seems to escape so many on the right.

I suspect that much of the fuss about Obama's religion stems from fear which stems from ignorance. But we should not allow ourselves to be governed by fear and ignorance.

Sadly, however, as long as the media and the Powers That Be continue to allow religion to be a campaign issue, however unconstitutional that may be, we can only expect more of such scrutiny. And more intolerance. And more hate.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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To me, bringing religion into public view is as of... by Roger on Saturday, Oct 9, 2010 at 11:16:54 AM
This is a quote that is very relevant: Oh Say Can ... by Arthur Avalon on Saturday, Oct 9, 2010 at 12:03:44 PM
If Obama said that he was a member of the Church o... by Ken Scott on Saturday, Oct 9, 2010 at 2:43:41 PM
If someone is running for office - I want to know ... by Suzana Megles on Saturday, Oct 9, 2010 at 4:35:15 PM
The irony of this balony of an issue is that the v... by Bill Cain on Saturday, Oct 9, 2010 at 5:21:21 PM
It is about time people brought up Article 6. You ... by Kellia Ramares on Saturday, Oct 9, 2010 at 6:58:36 PM
I fear that you are reading too much into Article ... by Doc McCoy on Sunday, Oct 10, 2010 at 6:45:24 AM
It's about his ethics.If he were an ethical perso... by Miriam Callaghan on Sunday, Oct 10, 2010 at 11:15:26 AM
damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. No ma... by Doc McCoy on Sunday, Oct 10, 2010 at 12:07:01 PM
Personally, the president's religion is "his relig... by kanawah on Sunday, Oct 10, 2010 at 11:59:34 AM
Thanks to Mary Shaw for her article explaining tha... by Alfred P. Verhoeven on Sunday, Oct 10, 2010 at 4:32:44 PM