President promotes religious freedom
February 6th, 2014
10:32 AM ET
8 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. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Fair

    Nope. Not kidding whatsoever.

    February 6, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  2. Silence DoGood

    @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?
    ---------
    Because when Obama speaks about it, he is talking about freedom and the Atheists are not offended by freedom, I would guess. When the GOP and especially the Tea Party speaks about it, they are talking about imposing and favoring a specific sect of a specific religion which is the opposite of religious freedom. Of course as a liberal believer in God, I am thrilled by Freedom Of Religion.

    February 6, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  3. Silence DoGood

    @smith
    If the potus really wants promote religious freedoms then he should tell liberals to stop demonizing christians and the jewish faith.
    -----------
    I cannot speak for all, but for me as a liberal religious person, I criticize Christians that want to make moral laws imposed on everyone, not Christianity itself. Liberals are not the ones with posters and rallies outside churches. Certain extreme churches are the one rallying and calling people demons!

    February 6, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  4. Robert Raulerson

    Now if the Religious believed in freedom – but that's asking too much.

    February 6, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  5. Marie MD

    Not religious here and as long as you don't try to shove your religion, beliefs and customs down my throat I am fine.
    Without religion I am more tolerant of others than the bible thumping so called christians.
    Jesus is probably weeping seeing his flock hate everyone.

    February 6, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  6. J.C.Wilson

    I'll share this: I am NOT an Atheist...........Meddling in the affairs of forgien countries is NOT religious freedom.

    February 6, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    It seems to me that was pretty funny and not an "attack".
    -------------------------------------------------
    It seems to me that what's "funny" to you is just that: funny to you.
    I have an excellent sense of humor...when something is funny, which her comment wasn't, just more snark.

    February 6, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  8. Harold Read

    However, if you are a nun, you have to use ObamaCare condoms and birth pills or you are traitor to the United States,

    February 6, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    More bad news.. wrote:

    I wonder what all the Liberal Atheists think of Obama when he discusses religion like this? ... ....
    ------------------------------–
    I think the you should be more concerned with what far more numerous liberal non-atheists think of you and all of the others who share your beliefs.

    February 6, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  10. Len

    @Silence DoGood

    You are spot on! 100% correct. Great post!

    February 6, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  11. Sniffit

    "Remember the article the other day that talked about liberals not having a sense of humor? Case in point."

    Oh please. I'm hilarious and you know it. And BTW, has anyone else seen the life-sized chocolate Pope Francis statue? Pretty cool.

    "Jesus called 12, but it's not surprising he singles out Matthew – the tax collector."

    Yawn.

    February 6, 2014 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  12. Sniffit

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

    Telling you that you're not allowed to tell the rest of how to live our lives is not "demonizing you." Grow up.

    February 6, 2014 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  13. PaulG

    A liberal democrat promoting belief in something other than himself, is that possible?

    February 6, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. just saying

    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.
    -–

    and yet the lefties in here constantly use religion to attack conservatives and republicans. your faux outrage is quite amusing.

    February 6, 2014 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. Silence DoGood

    @Harold Read
    However, if you are a nun, you have to use ObamaCare condoms and birth pills or you are traitor to the United States,
    -----------–
    If I am an astrologer and don't use prescription ObamaCare brand cold medication I am a traitor.
    If I am a Baptist minister and don't use ObamaCare brand band-aides then I am a traitor.
    If I practice Yoga and don't use ObamaCare brand aspirin then I am a traitor.
    See how foolish we sound?

    February 6, 2014 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  16. Donna

    President promotes religious freedom
    --

    Absolutely hilarious and disgusting coming from the person that has his AG fighting the Little Sisters of the Poor in the USSC to force them to violate their religious beliefs and force Obamacare mandates on them.

    One thing is always certain with Obama. He says one thing and then does the exact opposite. Everything about him is a lie.

    February 6, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. Wake up People!

    I concur DM. Nothing she ever says about this POTUS is funny and it's always meant to degradehim.

    February 6, 2014 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. smith

    @Sniffit- Not all christians and jews press their belief on others. Maybe you should consider that before treating them like crackpots.

    February 6, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "and yet the lefties in here constantly use religion to attack conservatives and republicans"

    Pointing out that you are trying to force your religious beliefs on everyone else is not "using religion to attack conservatives." Rather, it is simply pointing out that conservatives are using religion to attack everyone else.

    You guys seem to have this problem consistently and in a wide variety of areas. For example, someone pointing out that what you have said and done is racist or indicative of racist motives does not make that someone a racist.

    February 6, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. The Real Tom Paine

    -just saying

    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.
    -–

    and yet the lefties in here constantly use religion to attack conservatives and republicans. your faux outrage is quite amusing.
    *************
    its the Conservative abuse of religion, namely trying to combine it with the power of the state, that we find offensive. Contrary to what you think, God hears all prayers, from all people.

    February 6, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Silence DoGood

    @Donna "President promotes religious freedom.....Absolutely hilarious and disgusting"
    ---------
    Donna, you need to go out on your front lawn and put up a cross and see what happens to you, or more importantly what does not happen. Then you need to go to Iran or North Korea and put up a cross and see what happens there. If you come back, feel free to bloviate all about how sad and oppressed Christians seem to be in my country, America, with Freedom of Religious expression. Maybe you will come back a bit more thankful.

    February 6, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  22. The Real Tom Paine

    -Donna

    President promotes religious freedom
    -

    Absolutely hilarious and disgusting coming from the person that has his AG fighting the Little Sisters of the Poor in the USSC to force them to violate their religious beliefs and force Obamacare mandates on them.

    One thing is always certain with Obama. He says one thing and then does the exact opposite. Everything about him is a lie.

    *************
    that is a matter of secular law, and the Administration has been more than willing to work with religious groups to grant them exceptions, so spare us your fake outrage. If he were a Republican demanding adherence to a law, you would be the first one to scream in favor of it.

    February 6, 2014 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  23. Scott Sinnock

    “Let’s do more together to advance human rights, including religious freedom,” .... “In contrast to those who wield religion to divide us, lets do more to nurture the dialogue between faiths.” Human rights, freedom, and democracy are the modern religion. So if we include dialogue, how about including Nietzsche, Lao Tzu, Epicurus, and Hitler's value in a value-based curriculum, not as comparison to the "right" way of believing in human rights and dignity, but as alternative sets of values intended to enhance human achievement, dignity, and superiority for a select group of people (a nation in Hitler' case, anyone who listens in Epicurus and Lao Tzu's). Unfortunately, we get hung up on making sure our kids aren't misled by deceptive argument, i.e. by the wrong morality, say of Hitler. Democracy, human rights, especial women and gay rights now, freedom (undefined), and equality are the shibboleths of religion, not of impartial science or impartial America is trying to bring right thinking to the world (democracy, human rights, and freedom). Many wise people throughout history have said democracy is an abomination of justice and equality is the banner cry of victims and losers. Are we afraid to teach and respect those "religions" also, or only the good (God) ones.

    February 6, 2014 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  24. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Where's Our $24 Billion?

    Please Father, do not impose Sheikh Santorum on us.

    February 6, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. plain and simple

    "There are none so blind as those who will not see,none so deaf as those who will not hear." The far right fits this description to a tee! It's ALWAYS someone else who has the problem....so sad.

    February 6, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
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