WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama's faith has become a political issue again after a senior Christian evangelist said he could not know what the American leader actually believed.
"I have no idea what he really believes," evangelist Franklin Graham said on MSBC's Morning Joe program and cited by Reuters.
Graham, the leader of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said that he accepted Obama at his word that he was a Christian.
"I've told people this many times, I accept him at what he says, he said.
If he says he's a Christian, I accept that. I'm not going to say that he's not."
Obama, who seeks re-election in the November vote, emphasized his Christian faith at a National Prayer Breakfast.
He said that he prayed every morning and has crafted key elements of his economic policies in line with Biblical teachings.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, asked about Graham's comments on Tuesday, said Obama was more focused on policy issues than on commentary about his personal faith.
Obama's religious beliefs have often been raised ahead of election campaigns in the US.
Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said last week that Obama's policies were not based on Christianity.
Obama's agenda was "about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology." When asked about the statement later, Santorum said, "If the president says he's a Christian, he's a Christian," he said.
Graham said that he could not categorically say that Obama was not a Muslim because Islam has gotten a free pass under him.
The evangelist said that the Muslim world sees Obama as a "son of Islam," because the president's father and grandfather were Muslim.
"That's just the way it works. That's how they see him. Of course, he says he didn't grow up that. He didn't believe in that. He believes in Jesus Christ. So I accept that."
Questions about Obama's religion by political opponents have sometimes been intertwined with discredited claims that he was born outside the US and thus ineligible for the office. Graham has aligned himself with that movement in the past.
Since his presidential election campaign, Obama had to put up with rumors, news reports and rival remarks of being a Muslim in disguise.
Obama is the son of a Muslim-turned-atheist Kenyan father and a white American mother that did not practice religion.
But his middle name, Hussein, his childhood in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and a picture of him in a traditional garb during a visit to his father's homeland Kenya in 2006 stoke the "Obama is a Muslim" flames.Obama, a member of a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, repeatedly set the record straight asserting his Christian faith.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net