During his first overseas tour since being elected, President Barack Obama took time out to remind Americans and the rest of the world that the United States is not an officially Christian nation.
Speaking at a media event in Turkey April 6, Obama remarked, “I’ve said before that one of the great strengths of the United States is – although as I mentioned we have a very large Christian population – we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation, or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”
Not long after that, Obama went on to praise the concept of “a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom, upholding these values and being willing to stand up for them in the international stage.”
Obama noted that modern Turkey also honors secular values. The remarks were interpreted as a way to assure the Muslim world that the United States, while strongly opposing all forms of terrorism abroad, does not seek a confrontation with Islam.
Not surprisingly, Religious Right activists were outraged.
Gary Bauer sent a message to supporters of his group, American Values, asserting, “The last time I checked, the pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock were Christians, not Muslims. Our Founding Fathers were inspired by the Bible, not the Koran.”
Fox News Channel recruited two Republican leaders to blast Obama for the comments – and to significantly distort what he said.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been pandering to the Religious Right lately, appeared on Sean Hannity’s program and said, “[Obama] went to Turkey, and I think was fundamentally misleading about the nature of America. We are not a secular country.”
Later in the program, GOP operative Karl Rove spouted off, “Yeah, look, America is a nation built on faith.”