On the morning of April 19, 2011, President Obama hosted the second annual Easter Prayer Breakfast. “I wanted to host this [event] for a simple reason,” announced the president to a White House stocked with some of America’s most prominent Christian leaders. “During this season, we are reminded that there is something about the resurrection. Something about the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else in perspective.”
In this week’s episode of The God Vote, Sally Quinn and Jacques Berlinerblau discuss the significance of Obama’s remarks. Other topics of interest are the Obama administration’s position on the National Day of Prayer, the state of religion and secularism in America and the White House celebrations of Easter, Passover, and Iftar.
There is a clear distinction between the approach to religion of presidential hopeful Barack Obama of 2008 and the incumbent candidate of 2012. In the last presidential campaign, Obama tended to be pluralistic in his rhetoric and avoided talking about his personal religious beliefs in any significant depth. Since his inauguration, however, he has grown increasingly open about these views.His Easter prayer address is only the latest example of a trend toward publicly acknowledging the Christian faith.
Still, Obama’s talk about his Christianity has not excluded celebration of other faiths. On April 18, Obama celebrated a Passover seder in the White House, marking his third consecutive observance of the Jewish holiday. Last November, Obama traveled to India during the celebration of Diwali, an important festival in Hinduism, Sikhism, and Jainism. At a White House Iftar last August, Obama stressed the importance of religious freedom for all citizens.
While the president’s celebration of diversity is admirable, some say that he has marginalized minority beliefs. (Check out the God Vote for Berlinerblau’s take on this.) These include faiths from Mahayana Buddhism to Native American spiritual traditions. Others argue that state religious ceremonies also alienate those individuals who are non-believers or agnostics.
WATCH: This week’s edition of the God Vote and answer in the comments section below -- Do you want your president to make a profession of faith? What of minority traditions or secularists?
Benjamin Rosenblum is a sophomore in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He is majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs and serves as assistant producer for The God Vote.