At the National Prayer Breakfast this morning in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama condemned "twisted" interpretations of religion that harms gays and other minority groups.
"We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love," he said.
Speaking at the Washington Hilton this morning, the president focused on threats to religious liberty abroad. Obama called out "governments engaging in discrimination and violence against the faithful," noting that "promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy." He highlighted offenses in China, Burma, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, Egypt, Indonesia, and Syria, saying that "freedom of religion matters to our national security."
Obama steered clear of battles over religious liberty in the U.S., including lawsuits over the Affordable Care Act brought by a group of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and crafts-retailer Hobby Lobby. He did not explicitly mention same-sex marriage and the ongoing legal wrangling over businesses and individuals who provide services to the public, but refuse to provide same-sex couples wedding services, citing religious beliefs.
The president did give a nod to those who "practice no faith at all," saying that they must be able "to do this free of persecution and fear." According to the White House, since Dwight D. Eisenhower, every president has attended the National Prayer Breakfast since it began in 1953. This was Obama's sixth appearance.
Michael O'Loughlin is a writer based in Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in America, Religion News Service, and Religion & Politics. Find more of his work at mikeoloughlin.com, and follow him on Twitter at @MikeOLoughlin.