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Sharp Dissonance Between Obama’s Actions, Words at National Prayer Breakfast

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Peter Souza

Brantly Millegan - published on 02/12/14

Does he understand what he is saying?

Earlier this month, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C.. In what was a surprise to many, he used his speech to defend the importance of religious liberty and the human dignity of all human life. Here are a few key excerpts from his remarks:

"Now, here, as Americans, we affirm the freedoms endowed by our Creator, among them freedom of religion. And, yes, this freedom safeguards religion, allowing us to flourish as one of the most religious countries on Earth, but it works the other way, too — because religion strengthens America. Brave men and women of faith have challenged our conscience and brought us closer to our founding ideals, from the abolition of slavery to civil rights, workers’ rights. […]

"We believe that each of us is “wonderfully made” in the image of God. We, therefore, believe in the inherent dignity of every human being — dignity that no earthly power can take away. And central to that dignity is freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith how they choose, to change their faith if they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do this free from persecution and fear."

Many are wondering how President Obama could have said those things in light all that he has done in his political career, particularly as President. A piece at the Weekly Standard sums up the problem:

"Now pause for a second and reflect that those words were uttered by a man who twice voted against the Infants Born Alive Act, capped off a speech to Planned Parenthood with the words “God bless you,” and is currently bringing the full force of the federal government down on religious employers who don’t think abortion should be covered by the company health plan."

The Weekly Standard also points to how he's managed the International Religious Freedom Office of the federal government. Though he took office in January of 2009, he apparently didn't name anyone to head the department until 2010. When he did, he appointed Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, an author of popular books on spirituality with ties to the Clinton administration. "Cook did not surpass expectations," the Weekly Standard article says.

"When she recently stepped down, she did so “amid criticism that she failed to stand up for some of the world’s most persecuted victims of religious oppression,” according to Religion News Service. While Christians in Egypt, Syria, Afghanistan, and Nigeria were being massacred, the ambassador-at-large was nowhere to be found. Nina Shea, an international human rights lawyer with the Hudson Institute, told Religion News Service she was shocked Cook “would be utterly silent and not speak about the largest, single persecution of the largest single religious minority in the Near East in 1,300 years,” in reference to what happened to Egypt’s Copts."

The Rev. Dr. Cook resigned last fall, but the Obama administration hasn't set a timeline for when the position will be filled.

Brantly Millegan is an Assistant Editor for Aleteia. He is also Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Second Nature, Co-Director of the International Institute for the Study of Technology and Christianity, and is working on a M.A. in Theology at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. He lives with his wife and children in South St. Paul, MN. His personal website is

PoliticsPro-lifeReligious Freedom
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