President promotes religious freedom
February 6th, 2014
10:32 AM ET
9 months ago

President promotes religious freedom

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama says that "around the world, freedom of religion is under threat."

And at the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday, the President also said he's looking forward to meeting Pope Francis.

"I'm especially looking forward to returning to the Vatican next month to meet his holiness, Pope Francis, whose message about caring for the least of these I hope all of us heed. Like (the Apostle) Matthew he has answered the call of Jesus, who said 'follow me' and he inspires us with his words and deeds, his humility and his mercy and his missionary impulses to serve the cause of social justice," Obama said.

The President touted the Pope's stance on inequality as he and congressional Democrats highlight the issue of income inequality. Obama met Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, in 2009. That meeting, which took place at the Vatican, was Obama's only meeting with a Pope.

Much of Obama's remarks focused on threats to religious freedom abroad, from China to Egypt to Sudan and Burma.

"We see governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful. We sometimes see religion twisted in attempt to justify hatred, persecution against other people just because of who they are and how they pray or who they love," said the President at the breakfast, which was held at the Washington Hilton hotel.

The President also called for the release of Americans imprisoned abroad for what many believe are religious issues: Kenneth Bae, who has been sentenced to 15 months of hard labor in North Korea, and Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who has been detained in Iran since 2012.

"I hope that somehow they hear our prayers for them," Obama said.

Obama did not address religious freedom in the United States, which some conservative groups say is under threat because of the controversial contraception mandate in the new health care law. Dozens of lawsuits, including two that have reached the Supreme Court, have been filed against the mandate on religious freedom grounds.

Presidents traditionally address the audience at the annual prayer breakfast, a six-decade-old event that brings together leaders of all faiths and political persuasions.

CNN Belief Blog Co-editor Daniel Burke and CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: Faith • President Obama
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Fair is Fair

    "Like (the Apostle) Matthew he has answered the call of Jesus, who said 'follow me' and he inspires us with his words and deeds, his humility and his mercy and his missionary impulses to serve the cause of social justice," Obama said."
    --------
    Jesus called 12, but it's not surprising he singles out Matthew – the tax collector.

    February 6, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Fair

    Not surprising you would use the teachings of Christ to attack the President.

    Not cool.

    February 6, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  3. rla

    If the Pope had said nothing about inequality of wealth - he would not have gottena sniff from Obama- Any political leverage in a storm for this Chicago Pol!

    February 6, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    "We sometimes see religion twisted in attempt to justify hatred"
    ----------------------------------
    Hey! That happens here. Westboro Baptist Church is a prime example.

    February 6, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. xray vision

    Let the hate begin: I'm certain not to be disapointed

    February 6, 2014 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. CB FL

    I know this is off topic. I would like for the President to offer the REPUGS the Keystone Pipeline in exchange for them to pass his jobs bill that he put on the table 2 years ago. Both sides win.

    February 6, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. xray vision

    That picture is sure to intice hate, if it makes you fell better, than hate . Never mind what that says about you, its his fault, seek help.

    February 6, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. J.C.Wilson

    Why should America support missionaries like Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae? Anybody that travels to a hostile country, and tells them that their religious beliefs are wrong, and ours are right, is going to stir up trouble... They both knew the risk they were taking. Now we're supposed to spend countless man-hours, and American tax dollars to bail them out?? I don't buy it........

    February 6, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  9. Silence DoGood

    "The President also called for the release of Americans imprisoned abroad for what many believe are religious issues: Kenneth Bae, who has been sentenced to 15 months of hard labor in North Korea, and Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who has been detained in Iran since 2012."

    Thank you Mr.President. Now these are people experiencing real religious oppression. Makes the Right Wing whining about religious freedom seem pretty weak. Thank God you live in a country with religious Freedom.

    February 6, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  10. Tampa Tim

    The Keystone Project will create 35 permanent jobs, and billions of dollars for the Kochs. That is why the bought and paid for republicans are pushing the brothers agenda.

    February 6, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  11. Malory Archer

    J.C.Wilson

    Why should America support missionaries like Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae? Anybody that travels to a hostile country, and tells them that their religious beliefs are wrong, and ours are right, is going to stir up trouble... They both knew the risk they were taking. Now we're supposed to spend countless man-hours, and American tax dollars to bail them out?? I don't buy it........

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    While I agree that Americans shouldn't proselytize in foreign nations, calling for their release if they're arrested for doing so is hardly spending man-hours or asking taxpayers to pony up $$$ to bail them out.

    February 6, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Fair

    Not surprising you would use the teachings of Christ to attack the President.

    Not cool.
    -------------------------------------------------
    As usual Lynda you took the words right out of my post.
    Co-signed.

    February 6, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  13. xray vision

    Keystone offers us nothing but disaster, research it, the reports are all lies, the Koch brothers will make $100,000,000,000 off this, that's enough to make it happen, there is no energy independence here. The jobs numbers are a crock, just like the rest of it, they won't take care of it.we shoulder All the risk for decades, their liability is limited to 2 billion, chump change when you just made 50 times that.

    February 6, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  14. Malory Archer

    rla

    If the Pope had said nothing about inequality of wealth – he would not have gottena sniff from Obama- Any political leverage in a storm for this Chicago Pol!

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    To borrow a quote from Lynda: Not surprising you would use the teachings of Christ to attack the President.

    Not cool.

    February 6, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    "Obama did not address religious freedom in the United States, which some conservative groups say is under threat because of the controversial contraception mandate in the new health care law."

    "Why should America support missionaries like Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae? Anybody that travels to a hostile country, and tells them that their religious beliefs are wrong, and ours are right, is going to stir up trouble... They both knew the risk they were taking. Now we're supposed to spend countless man-hours, and American tax dollars to bail them out?? I don't buy it........"
    -------------------------
    The only religious freedom that is "under attack" in the United States is the freedom to practice any religion not practiced by these false prophets who claim to be a "Christian Conservative."

    I've always felt that people should be responsible for the risks that they take. If you go to another country, then you should be aware of the laws of that country. Disregarging the foreign country's laws, either openly or in secret, is disrespectful to the hosts who had granted you entry under the agreement that your future actions would meet their definition of lawful behavior. Individuals who take dangerous risks should not expect others to bail you out. "Help me, Mr. Wizard. I'm falling."

    February 6, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. HenryMiller

    President Barack Obama says that "around the world, freedom of religion is under threat."

    And under Obama and the Democrats, economic freedom is under attack. What are taxes other than a loss of freedom to spend your own money your way–unless, of course, you want to be free to seize and spend other peoples' money.

    February 6, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. tom l

    @Malory, Lynda and DMFO,
    Remember the article the other day that talked about liberals not having a sense of humor? Case in point. It seems to me that was pretty funny and not an "attack". Thin skin, ladies. Very thin skin.

    February 6, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  18. Tampa Tim

    Did Jeb Bush ever figure out that the embassy to the Vatican was being moved, not closed? Maybe Jeb should also meet with the Pope, instead of repeating lies from Fox.

    February 6, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Lynda/Minnesota

    Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Fair

    Not surprising you would use the teachings of Christ to attack the President.

    Not cool.
    -------–
    You're kidding, right? "Using the teachings of Christ" to attack the president? By pointing out that Matthew was a tax collector? Okaaaayyyy....

    February 6, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  20. More bad news..

    I wonder what all the Liberal Atheists think of Obama when he discusses religion like this? They bash the GOP all the time about it, but never once mention it when Obama speaks about faith,.....why not?

    February 6, 2014 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  21. Rudy NYC

    xray vision

    Keystone offers us nothing but disaster, research it, the reports are all lies, the Koch brothers will make $100,000,000,000 off this, that's enough to make it happen, there is no energy independence here. The jobs numbers are a crock, just like the rest of it, they won't take care of it.we shoulder All the risk for decades, their liability is limited to 2 billion, chump change when you just made 50 times that.
    ----------------------------
    I agree. One by one, every claim that has been put forth in support of the pipeline has been refuted, most especially the ever shrinking number of jobs that would be created. The first claims were for over permanent 250,000 jobs created, with some hyperbolic claims even going as high as a million. Those figures have been quickly rolled back: to "nearly 100,000"; and then 25,000; and then 10,000; and then "several thousand"; and now that the pipeline is closer to reality the figure is less than a hundred permanent jobs would be created. In fact, the actual number is estimated to be well under 50.

    Claims have been made that pipeline would lower U.S. energy costs? How could that even be possible? Shipping the product to the Atlantic Ocean would mean that it could be sold on the open market for a higher price, instead of the discounted price that it now suffers because of transportation costs. It will only raise our cost to purchase the refined oil.

    The environmental issues are an entirely different argument, but I think the economic issues associated with the pipeline's construction are being overlooked. As far as the environment goes, there are risks with any oil pipeline. There are so many risks associated with this pipeline that proposals to construct a Canadian pipeline in Canadian territory to the west coast have been totally blocked or have completely stalled. Why else do you think they're pushing for the Keystone XL in the U.S. so hard? The pipeline has only one beneficiary, and that would be the oil company that it serves, a Canadian company.

    February 6, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. J.C.Wilson

    Malory.......Seriously? Do you really think President Obama's comment is the extent of America's efforts to get them released?

    February 6, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. Malory Archer

    J.C.Wilson

    Malory.......Seriously? Do you really think President Obama's comment is the extent of America's efforts to get them released?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Do you have something you wish to share with the readers of and posters on this thread?

    February 6, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. Malory Archer

    More bad news..

    I wonder what all the Liberal Atheists think of Obama when he discusses religion like this? They bash the GOP all the time about it, but never once mention it when Obama speaks about faith,.....why not?

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Straw man much?

    February 6, 2014 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  25. smith

    If the potus really wants promote religious freedoms then he should tell liberals to stop demonizing christians and the jewish faith.

    February 6, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
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