If It Isn't Obama's Race Being Attacked, Then It's His Religion

In the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll (.pdf), respondents were asked, “Do you know what Barack Obama’s religion is?” About 37% got it right, and said Obama’s a Protestant. The more discouraging news was that 13% said they know Obama’s faith, and identified him as a Muslim. (It was the second most common response to the poll question.) Even more discouraging still, the number of people who believe Obama’s a Muslim is going up — in a WSJ/NBC poll from December, only 8% of Americans made the same mistake.

I still hear this all the time from people, who presumably have received the lying chain email, who are convinced that Obama’s a Muslim — and they couldn’t possibly bring themselves to vote for someone who is. It’s a routine reminder that the Obama campaign has some educating to do.

The frustrating part, of course, is that while conservatives (and even a few liberals) are confused about Obama’s faith tradition, he’s actually getting hit on matters of religion from two directions. When he’s not falsely being accused of being a secret Muslim, Obama is also being accused of cozying up to an extremist Christian pastor.
Sen. Barack Obama’s pastor says blacks should not sing “God Bless America” but “God damn America.”
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor for the last 20 years at the Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s south side, has a long history of what even Obama’s campaign aides concede is “inflammatory rhetoric,” including the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.”
In a campaign appearance earlier this month, Sen. Obama said, “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” He said Rev. Wright “is like an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with,” telling a Jewish group that everyone has someone like that in their family.

There are plenty of disconcerting remarks included in Wright’s record, but I guess there’s a political upside for Obama: he can’t be a Muslim and a Christian with a radical pastor at the same time.
Not surprisingly, far-right blogs (and a couple of the more intense Democratic Obama detractors) are pretty worked up about Rev. Wright’s rhetoric, which, by any reasonable measure, is mostly on the fringe.

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