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On Air: Does President Obama's faith matter?

Ben James Ben James | 17:56 UK time, Wednesday, 25 August 2010

President Barack Obama hosts an iftar dinner, the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, Friday, Aug. 13, 2010. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)There's still lots of heat in the columns and blogs after last week's poll by the Pew Research Center on President Obama's religion.

In case you missed it, 18% of Americans surveyed said they think President Obama is a Muslim.

While many are still arguing that he is, or he isn't, or he appears to be, some are also questioning the point of the debate in the first place; this from an LA Times editorial ...

... in protesting too much that he is a Christian -- and one, moreover, who prays daily -- the White House may be encouraging the impression that there is a religious test for the presidency and that a Muslim would fail it.

The same piece points to part of the US Constitution to argue that any American of any religion should be able to hold any office.

If the President didn't say he was a Christian, but instead said he followed some other religion - including Islam - would that be a problem?

Clearly, the thrust of many of the articles that claim he is indeed a Muslim is that that is inherently a bad thing for the United States.

Others are not so much concerned about his beliefs as about whether he is being straight about his beliefs (and their evolution).

This blogger isn't a fan of Obama, but says the religion debate isn't helpful in solving the country's wider problems:

while we are arguing over is-he-or-isn't-he, we are losing jobs, going deeper in debt, destroying our health care system, and running our economy into the ground. There are plenty of excellent reasons to oppose this President and his policies, his religious affiliation, or lack thereof, is not one of them.

Finally, what about the way in which the other politicians are getting involved in this discussion?

Much has been made of leading Republican Senator Mitch McConnell's answer to the question of whether the President is a Muslim: "I take him at his word," said McConnell on MSNBC's Meet The Press on Sunday, which some interpreted as rather evasive.

Hillary Clinton once rebutted the same question about Obama with a similar caveat, "as far as I know".

Are politicians of all sides guilty of letting this linger for their own political ends? Or are journalists, bloggers and conspiracy theorists reading far too much into comments like these for their own ends?!

Tell us what you think - does President Obama's faith matter? Or are there more important discussions to be had in the United States?

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