Catholic World News

Obama, at mosque, defends religious liberty

February 05, 2016

Speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, President Barack Obama defended religious liberty, compared anti-Muslim sentiments to anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism, and called on Muslim leaders to speak out against attacks on Christians in the Middle East.

“Our Founders, like Jefferson, knew that religious liberty is essential not only to protect religion but because religion helps strengthen our nation -- if it is free, if it is not an extension of the state,” he said. “Part of what’s happened in the Middle East and North Africa and other places where we see sectarian violence is religion being a tool for another agenda -- for power, for control. Freedom of religion helps prevent that, both ways -- protects religious faiths, protects the state from -- or those who want to take over the state from using religious animosity as a tool for their own ends.”

The president added:

Catholics, including, most prominently, JFK -- John F. Kennedy -- when he ran for President, was accused of being disloyal. There was a suggestion that he would be taking orders from the Pope as opposed to upholding his constitutional duties. Anti-Semitism in this country has a sad and long history, and Jews were excluded routinely from colleges and professions and from public office.

And so if we’re serious about freedom of religion -- and I’m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country -- we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths … And just as faith leaders, including Muslims, must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world -- or when anti-Semitism is on the rise -- because the fact is, is that there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault --sometimes by Muslims.

We have to be consistent in condemning hateful rhetoric and violence against everyone. And that includes against Muslims here in the United States of America.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Feb. 06, 2016 5:23 PM ET USA

    JFK, 12 Sep 1960: "Judge me on the basis of my record..., on my declared stands against an ambassador to the Vatican.... Whatever issue may come before me as president—-on birth control, divorce...or any other subject—-I will make my decision...in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise." These statements are problematic to me.

  • Posted by: bruno - Feb. 05, 2016 8:08 PM ET USA

    He made these remarks under a banner reading "Allah" in Arabic. Yet, when he went to Georgetown University three years ago, he made them cover up "IHS" above the stage. His actions speak differently than his words.

  • Posted by: mhains8491 - Feb. 05, 2016 6:04 PM ET USA

    President Obama taking about religious liberty? His regime is oppressive against the Christian faith, just ask the Little Sisters of the Poor, and many others.

  • Posted by: Daniel Conte - Feb. 05, 2016 8:15 AM ET USA

    Too bad he believes religious liberty only extends to what you do in church and not how you exercise your beliefs in your life. Too bad also, that he chose to make his comments at a mosque with a radical Islamist history.