CAIRO - A self-described right-wing Texas church has stirred fresh debate about the faith of US President Barack Obama after putting a sign calling him as a Muslim and a Communist, adding more fuel to the fiery the American presidential election.
"It is my opinion that Church in the Valley's sign has accomplished its intended purpose, namely to draw attention to itself and to provoke and incite," Rev. Sam Hunnicut, pastor at nearby Hunt United Methodist Church, told The Christian Post.
"Further it is my opinion that a sign of this nature, and the underlying theology which motivates it is perhaps not that dissimilar from Westboro Baptist; or any of a number of fundamentalist groups who have chosen to identify themselves as 'Christian.'"
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The uproar erupted after Church in the Valley, a congregation situated in Leakey, Texas, posted a message on their marquee sign reading: "Vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim! The capitalist, not the communist!"
According to local media, members of the church self-described themselves as "right-wing" and "conservative," and say that the sign has gotten mostly positive feedback.
Obama's religious beliefs have often been raised ahead of election campaigns in the US.
Since his presidential election campaign in 2008, Obama had to put up with rumors, news reports and rival remarks of being a Muslim in disguise.
Fringe groups and a smattering of opponents have espoused rumors that he is secretly a Muslim, similar to persistent but unfounded assertions by some political foes that he was born outside the United States.
Obama, who is seeking re-election in November, 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.
As the church sign stirred uproar, Pastor Hunnicut said churches should not tell surrounding community who they should vote for.
"I believe strongly in their Constitutional right as individuals to freely express their ideas, views and opinions, no matter how much I may disagree with them," Pastor Hunnicut told Christian Post.
"It is also my opinion that, as the state has no business meddling in the affairs of the Church.
Hunnicut attacked the church, saying it had fulfilled a negative purpose.
The Church as an entity or organization violates that same line of separation when it begins to dictate to its constituency, or to presume to tell a community how they should or must vote, added Hunnicut, whose church's marquee sign presently reads "Study! Pray! Vote!"
The sign about Obama was not the first time Church in the Valley has gotten attention beyond their doors with the messages they promote.
In the past, one posted message read "Claim crack heads, welfare cases, illegal immigrants and Congress as dependents on your tax form."
Last September, American pop star Madonna has invoked rumors about Obama's religion weeks before the November election after referring to him as a black Muslim.
According to a poll released in July by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 17 percent of Americans believe that President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Only 49 percent knew that the President was Christian.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net