WASHINGTON ― It was a yes-or-no question that shouldn’t have been hard to answer: Is President Barack Obama a Christian?
Donald Trump has fueled speculation that Obama might be Muslim since 2011, when he questioned whether the president was really born in Hawaii. Obama eventually released his birth certificate, but the GOP presidential nominee still refuses to disavow so-called “birthers.”
Still, the absurd conspiracy theory seemed to be an old story ― one that has been debunked so many times and that Obama himself has made fun of. But several people The Huffington Post asked Friday about Obama’s faith at the annual Values Voter Summit, a conference for religious conservatives, showed that Trump has very much succeeded in raising questions about the president’s religion.
“I do question it, I really do,” said Linda Roller, referring to Obama’s Christianity. “One of the latest things I saw was even a symbol with his hand that was similar to a Muslim saying Allah is the only God.”
Roller went on to say that she didn’t think Obama was Christian because he didn’t share her beliefs.
“I mean just the fact that he is very liberal and the fact that he believes in abortion for instance,” she said. “And that he believes in a lot things that I don’t believe in because I try to use the Bible as my guide.”
Several people echoed Roller. Many believed that even though Obama said he was Christian, his actions, particularly support for pro-abortion rights and for Planned Parenthood, suggested otherwise.
“He states he is, but we look at people by the fruit that they portray,” Heidi Pezdek said. “What I’m looking at is his stand for abortion and support for Planned Parenthood, which is murder, murder in the womb, and his strong support of the LGBT lifestyle community.”
Nancy Elliott said she didn’t believe he’s shown signs of Christianity. “He is so in the tank with Planned Parenthood that kills babies,” she said. “I don’t see the fruits of Christianity in him. He may be, I hope he is. I have no ill towards the man, but he doesn’t show the roots of a believer.” When asked whether she thought Obama was a Muslim, Elliott replied, “I don’t know. They say he was raised as a Muslim.”
A CNN/ORC poll from last September showed that just 39 percent of Americans think Obama is a Christian. Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed said they think he is a Muslim.
“I’m not too sure,” Values Voter Summit attendee Joseph Guagliardi said. “While he does claim to be a Christian, I’m not sure how you can be for abortion and be a Christian because as Christians we believe in pro-life.”
Joe Tegerdine said actions were more important than stated beliefs when it came to Christianity.
“If you look at somebody’s policies and the way they behave and the way they act, it speaks more about your Christianity than what you say. So I take what Obama says literally at face value, but I take what he does to heart,” he said. “I think he’s proven through his behavior that he may not be as Christian as he may claim.”
“For me, and I know for so many of you, faith is the great cure for fear,” he said at the National Prayer Breakfast this year. “Jesus is a good cure for fear. God gives believers the power, the love, the sound mind required to conquer any fear.”
The president said in 2006 that an attack suggesting he wasn’t a “true Christian” during his race for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois “nagged” at him. Obama has said that while he was not raised in a particularly religious household, he found the power of Christianity while working as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.
“Without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone,” he said in 2006. “It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany. I didn’t fall out in church. The questions I had didn’t magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.”
Obama left his church, Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, in 2008 after comments of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, criticizing the United States emerged.
Despite Obama’s references to his faith, Tristen Jimenez said he still hadn’t seen enough evidence that the president is a Christian.
“I don’t know enough facts to answer that yes or no, there’s a lot of public, media stuff that says he’s not. At the end of the day, I don’t know,” Jimenez said. “I want to say [he is] just because he is our president and you want to have trust and faith in that, but you know, I don’t know his heart; I don’t know what’s in his head.” Asked whether Obama is Muslim, Jimenez said “he could be anything.”
While attendees at the Values Voter Summit didn’t hesitate to question Obama’s faith, they seemed more than willing to take Trump at his word that he was a Christian, despite constant boasting from the GOP nominee about his sexual promiscuity, lies and other unchristian actions.
When Roller, the woman who questioned Obama’s faith because of something he did with his hands, noted that she didn’t know what church the president went to or who his pastor was, the HuffPost asked if she knew what church Trump attended.
“No I do not,” she said.