A Southern Baptist megachurch pastor appeared on a Fox News program last month and used falsehoods and innuendo to challenge the president's faith.
No president has issued an official proclamation to recognize Easter, yet Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, criticized President Obama for "refusing to acknowledge" the holiday. (Photo: First Dallas.org)
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, appeared on the program "Fox and Friends" just two days after Easter to try to link Obama to Islam.
When host Steve Doocy asked Jeffress what he thought about Obama not issuing a proclamation recognizing Easter, Jeffress began questioning Obama's faith.
"Steve, let's look at what's really going on here," Jeffress replied. "On the one hand, we have a president who never met a Muslim holiday he didn't like, or at least wasn't willing to issue a proclamation for, and on the other hand, here he is refusing to acknowledge publicly the most important event in Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and yet the White House is wondering why do 20 percent of Americans believe the president is a Muslim? Well, as my kids would say, 'Duh.' I mean, it's actions like these that really make people wonder what it is the president really believes."
Neither Doocy nor Jeffress pointed out that no president has issued an official proclamation recognizing Easter. Obama was merely following precedent.
Additionally, Obama has not issued official proclamations for Muslim holidays as both Doocy and Jeffress asserted, but instead released less formal statements. (Click here to see the official list of the Obama White House's proclamations.)
Contrary to Jeffress' claim, Obama had recognized Easter with a special prayer breakfast just one week before Jeffress' attack. During the gathering with numerous Christian leaders, Obama spoke openly about his Christian faith.
"I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason," Obama said, "because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there's something about the resurrection – something about the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective."
"This magnificent grace, this expansive grace, this 'Amazing Grace' calls me to reflect," Obama added. "And it calls me to pray. It calls me to ask God for forgiveness for the times that I've not shown grace to others, those times that I've fallen short. It calls me to praise God for the gift of … his Son and our Savior."
Obama also recognized Easter in his weekly address the day before Easter.
Jeffress said some Americans believe Obama is a Muslim, but numerous independent fact-checkers, including Politifact.com and Factcheck.org, have dismissed the claim as false. These sites also showed that Obama was born in the United States while his detractors insisted he wasn't.
Jeffress did not respond to EthicsDaily.com's request for comment.
After Jeffress' statement about Obama and Easter, Doocy asked him why he thought Obama had not issued an Easter proclamation. Jeffress answered by repeating falsehoods and questioning Obama's faith.
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"I really think, Steve, there's only one of two explanations," Jeffress responded. "Either he has advisers who are telling him that it's politically expedient to ignore Christianity and elevate other world religions like Islam and if that's the case, Republicans need to pray that those advisers stay in place through the 2012 election cycle."
"The only other explanation is that there's something deep within the president himself that will not allow him to issue these public proclamations about Christianity," Jeffress continued, "when he on Easter will issue a proclamation about Earth Day or he will recognize Muslim holidays. I think either explanation is deeply troubling for Christians."
"I really think the president has demonstrated a tin ear when it comes to the Christian faith," Jeffress added. "This is part of a continuing pattern, Steve."
The Earth Day proclamation was actually released on Earth Day, which coincided this year with "Good Friday," not Easter.
In addition to hosting an Easter prayer breakfast, Obama and his family also attended Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., on Easter morning. However, Fox News quickly attacked the church and its pastor, which led to numerous racist threats that were emailed, faxed or phoned into the church. Several prominent Baptist leaders quickly defended the pastor and his congregation.
After evangelist Franklin Graham recently questioned if Obama was a Christian, megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes urged Graham to apologize.
"I wish [Franklin Graham] had the diplomacy of his father, who brought the gospel to people without being nuanced by politics because when you do those things you offend people that you are actually called to save and to serve," Jakes said.
"And I would hope that he would see the rationale in apologizing for such statements – because if the president's faith is suspect, then all of our faiths are suspect, because the Bible is quite clear about what it takes to be saved and the president has been quite open about his accepting Christ and him openly confessing it before men," said Jakes. "And if it's good enough for the Bible, it ought to be good enough for the rest of us."
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.