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July 5th, 2009
06:55 AM ET

Dear President Obama #167: Freedom of religion

Reporter's Note: I can’t imagine that President Obama has time to read letters from every Tom, Dick, and Harry…well, at least not Dick and Harry.  Nonetheless, he has asked American for input and I’m obliging with a letter a day.

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

You must be psychic! Or I’m clairvoyant! Or between us we could bend spoons with our minds. Or, considering the subject I’m about to raise, maybe a higher power is at work. Once again, just as I was thinking of writing to you about a particular subject, you took it on!

I was about to ask when you were finally going to select a church for your family (seeing as how you already said you wanted to) when holy cow you’ve done it. As I understand it, you are going with a non-denominational place up near Camp David, huh?

Good call. As much as I wish presidents could simply choose their churches like the rest of us do (meaning, based on family history, the comfort of the pews, and the distance from our homes) I’m not naïve enough to think that is easily done in this day and time. No matter where you go, people are going to scrutinize every sermon, every song, every prayer, every collection, every Sunday School lesson, to see if there is something not…well, in religious terms…kosher. And as sure as Sarah Palin is packing the moose heads from her office, given enough time people who want to find something bad about any place of worship will succeed.

I guess you could say that a lot of us are finding things we either don’t like, or are not comfortable with in religion. The most recent survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that about half of adults have changed their religious affiliation at least once, and the fastest growing group in the country is the people who are unaffiliated with any faith. I have read that the most common denomination for presidents has been Episcopalian, followed by Presbyterian, and the rest follow pretty far behind. Which is kind of funny, because those two denominations are not at all dominant in the population.

All of that said Christianity in general remains overwhelmingly the faith of choice for Americans, and I’m sure a great many of them will be pleased to know that you have settled on a religious home. Plenty of people get bent out of shape over religion, and especially when religion and politics mix, but I still think faith plays an important role in shaping who we are as people, even as we struggle to figure out how it does or doesn’t fit with our secular ideas.

Did you see any fireworks last night? We make our way down to the Mall pretty much every year, and it is spectacular of course. One year the fireworks debris was raining down upon us, and we walked back to our car smelling like we’d just been to a house fire. Ha! Call if you can. Relaxing today and eating the last of my wife’s American Flag cake she makes every year…strawberries, blueberries, pound cake, and whipped topping…sweet!

Regards,

Tom

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. J.V.Hodgson

    For a change a good one in principle.
    The only thing you left out is why, where, with whom or what religious denomination he and his family choose to worship is thier business only and nothing to do with any one else... the constitution even says so.
    I find an interesting dichotomy here. American politics has excessive interference on religious grounds ( compared with other western democracies) and yet has the temerity to deny ( almost) Islamic states the similar ( though for different reasons) inteference in thier political systems. Or did I miss something!?
    For me the fundamental morality of all religions is the same its the intepretation that causes problems and as you say, it is possible to find something bad about all of them, by any individual or group's perspective.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    July 6, 2009 at 1:08 am |
  2. Joanne Pacicca

    Once again, the President has chosen to include the fundamental belief of the majority of Americans in order to unite our purpose and faith.

    July 5, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  3. 1stboybandfan

    Sorry, my computer is hacked. I think their should be more freedom of religion and that the media should keep muslims in perspective. I work with them everyday at my job and of some of the new blossomings of Christianity, not the cults, but the more Buddhist philosphy- Christians and other smaller groups that are simply more philosphy based, I can understand. But I do think the media needs to keep it in perspective and show some good things from the more miscellanious communities if their leaders have it together or their too small to be any kind of threat or concern. I do understand what Barrack is going through and most of the people don’t care, as long as I don’t try to change their views on their beliefs as a Christian, and I don’t plan too. I have some people after me connected to the Paula Abdul fan last year and they keep harassing me online and off, all day, all night. Their rich and basically criminals, frauds, and insane. That is why I have a blog so no one will do their scam again not even them. Because after this week, they won't be anynomous and neither will the companies they lied to, including CNN. Sorry, I want them out of my life forever and my life back by the end of the year.

    July 5, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  4. 1stboybandfan

    I think their should be more freedom of religion and that the media should keep muslims in perspective. I work with them everyday at my job and of some of the new blossomings of Christianity, not the cults, but the more Buddhist philosphy- Christians amd other smaller groups that are simply more philosphy based, I can understand. But I do think the media needs to keep it in perspective and show some good things from the more miscellanious communities if their leaders have it together or their too small to be any kind of threat or concern. I do understand what Barrack is going through and most of the people don't care, as long as I don't try to change their views on their beliefs as a Christian, and I don't plan too.

    July 5, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  5. heidi

    I get a kick out of your Letters, Tom! I have to say that I could care less whether he's Christian or not..(I'm not). I am a person of faith despite the fact that I am not affiliated with Christianity..nor am I Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist. I believe all the religions have their merits, but most of them are abused in some way. I think we should avoid discussing our President's religion really. Separation of Church and State is a very important part of our government. We believe God has it's place but that God belongs in the home and church, not in the Oval Office (at least overtly,). God of course has a lot to do with what people believe is right. However, I find it funny we decry the use of religion in other governments but are constantly trying to make our own President speak up about his faith. The problem with that is he is not a spokesperson for any faith. He is a President..therefore his opinion has influence. To duly influence people on religion while in Public Office would be wrong is my guess. However, I think Non-Denominational is probably best..as its' least controversial. Something Obama has made a point not to be. I think we should just let him go to church in peace..after all that's what most people go to church for..PEACE. Interesting one this..I think faith is important too but I don't ask people about it because its very personal.

    July 5, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  6. Mercurys Gem

    Well, to be honest, I was hoping for a more "freedom of religion" letter/post than what Tom submitted. He did make some great points on how religion and politics shouldn't mix, but ultimately do.
    I wonder what would happen if ever we were "blind" enough to elect someone without care of their religion. After all, we did it with skin color. And, just because I'm not a Christian or an Atheist or Jewish does not mean I would vote for someone because they had (or didn't have) the same beliefs and I (do). Would be fun to see a Druid running against a Muslim, though.

    July 5, 2009 at 3:09 pm |
  7. Davis Vickers

    Did ever occur to you that, maybe, he wanted to have a church that is close by Camp David?

    July 5, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  8. Esther Bensoua

    What a relief it is to have a president who is the president for ALL of us, not just for some of us. I take his choice to join a non denominational church as a gift to us as a people– that he will not alienate any of us.
    Our last president was so bizarre to the extreme with his religion that I literally felt he was not my president. As a Jewish American, I am tired of people blasting their personal religious beliefs onto me. I work at a public school in CA where the former principal pushed her strong religious agenda onto us. I always felt it was wrong of her, but felt powerless to change anything because I was, of course, the only Jewish person on staff, and the minority. Thank God, we have a leader who has a kind heart and fully understands that is wrong to alienate others. He is truly the president for all of us, including, me.

    July 5, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  9. allison

    Why are they not allowing Micheal's body to rest at Neverland, his spirit is already there. The state is in deficit and turning Neverland like Graceland can and will generate revenue. They change the law for gays, why not for this icon, this legend, the King of Pop.

    July 5, 2009 at 11:08 am |
  10. mary Frost

    I very much appreciate this forum, as it allows us to vent on our different issues. I've heard President Obama say that he wants our
    input, and so I assume it's both our critiicizm and praise(if any). There have been a few actions that he's taken, that I appreciate. One is: I believe that the bonuses of the CEO's, that received taxpayer money, should be limited. He said that we need to all cut back and stop our deficient spending-I sure agree with him on that, but I'd like to see some action on the government's part, in that regard, instead of just nice sounding words.. I agree with the President, that all of his legislation should be posted on the internet for 5 days-as he said he would-but Mr. President, I'm still waiting. You say that you want us to hold you accountable, and we're trying, but Mr. President Lend us your hear, hear us and follow thru, otherwise, we have no way of holding you accountable.

    July 5, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  11. Franky, Land of Lincon

    Wow...that was so awesome! Jesus is coming, right Tom? He is, he is...:)

    You know, our church over here rings the bell every time at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. That's from Monday-Friday, I know it does each certain time but 3 is the time I know cause that's usually when I'm either here or out and is very close by. Walking like 5-10 minutes, driving in less than 1.

    You know, that's how I believe, I truly believe as a religious person. I think it made me who I am and not to mention my parents as well, they contributed as well. Even when I write in blogs, I even show it. Is really what I believe and yes, I am very hesitant to go any farther than what I ought to be. Science teaches me that accuracy is important but religion teaches me that honesty is as well.

    I bet you had a good one, huh Tom? Must to been sweet, :). We had fun over here as well, crazy fireworks! But boy, strawberries, blueberries, etc, boy, that sounds good, :). LOL!!

    Nice one Tom! Enjoy your Sunday, I know I am, :).

    July 5, 2009 at 10:11 am |
  12. Judy Morgan

    Anderson Cooper is one of the best objective and charasmatic reporters that I've seen for a long time. He allows the interviewee who ever they're to relax in his company and I love watching him too. Over the last 5 years I have become very disappointed wth the level of journalism as a profession especially speculative reporting on rumours and not verifying facts before reporting on them in the media. In the main the general public are smarter than than the media gives us credit for and can see seek out fiction from fact. Recently, it has made me very angry on the negative focus by some secitons of the media on it's reporting on Michael Jackson – even in death he is persecuted – let him rest peace as the fans will not be swayed by this negative press. Anderson I don't know you personally, however I appreciate your level of objectivity. That is what we need in journalism not drip down rumours and speculative reporting!

    July 5, 2009 at 9:02 am |