Obama on Sunday confronted one of the persistent
falsehoods circulating about him on the Internet.
He went to
His attendance at
the First Congregational United Church of Christ in
Mason City, Iowa, with the news media in tow, was as much an
observation of faith as it was a rejoinder to baseless
e-mailed rumors that he is a Muslim and poses a threat
to the security of the United States.
Obama did not
address the rumors but described how he joined Trinity
United Church of Christ in Chicago two decades ago while
working as a community organizer.
''What I found
during the course of this work was, one, that ordinary
people can do extraordinary things when they come together
and find common ground,'' he told the congregation.
''The other thing I discovered was that values of
honesty, hard work, empathy, compassion were values
that were spoken about in church.... I realized that
Scripture and the words of God fit into the values I
was raised in.''
attends church while on the campaign trail, but seldom
with reporters watching. He is known to invoke religious
references in his speeches and has said he has a
''personal relationship'' with Jesus Christ. He often
has said that religion has a place in public life and
that faith and politics are not exclusively the domain of
holiday season and during this political season I'm
continually reminded that the values that I learned at
Trinity and as part of the UCC community are values
that can't just stay in church but have to be applied
outside of church,'' he said.
and volunteers say they periodically encounter voters who
say they cannot support Obama because they've heard he is
Muslim, a claim that has been making its way through
Internet sites and blogs since he announced his
candidacy for president.
The issue gained
prominence earlier this month when Hillary Rodham
Clinton's campaign forced the resignation of two Iowa
volunteer coordinators who had forwarded e-mails that
falsely tried to tie him to Islamic jihadists.
Democrat -- whose middle name is ''Hussein'' -- was
born in Hawaii and moved to Indonesia at age 6 to live with
his mother and stepfather, who was Muslim. He left
Indonesia when he was 10 and returned to Hawaii to
live with his mother's parents.
The subject of
Obama's background reemerged Sunday when former Nebraska
senator Bob Kerrey, who had just endorsed Clinton, referred
to Obama's Muslim side of the family in an interview
with The Washington Post. The remarks were part of a
generally complimentary assessment of Obama.
not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact
that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father
was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a
Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that
are Muslims and I think that experience is a big
deal.'' Kerrey added, ''He's got a whale of a lot more
intellectual talent than I've got as well.''
At the church on
Sunday, Obama shared a pew with Joann Hardy, one of his
Mason City precinct captains, and her husband, Russ, and
participated in a church tradition of tossing mittens onto a
bare Christmas tree. He joked that as a basketball
player, the toss should not pose much of a challenge.
underhand throw hit mid-tree. His second was close to the
top and elicited a cheer. But his mitten was quickly
overwhelmed by colorful hats, scarves, and gloves
tossed onto the tree by the other congregants.
At a later stop
in Algona, he was asked whether he would convene a
council of spiritual and ethics advisers to guide him as
''It is important
for me to have people that I trust, that I can talk
to,'' he replied. ''Obviously, part of that is my religious
life, my spiritual life as a Christian, a member of
the Trinity United Church of Christ. Part of that is
being surrounded by people who are not a bunch of
has made a point of reaching out to religious voters. It
has held 16 meetings in Iowa as part of a faith outreach
program it is undertaking in all primary states. Aides
stressed that those efforts are unrelated to the false
The last time
Obama addressed a church gathering was December 2 in Des
across northern Iowa were part of a six-day tour with 23
events in 22 counties. (Jim Kuhnhenn, AP)