The following is cross-posted from the Washington Post/Newsweek On Faith forum:
I am delighted to hear President Obama speaking to the Muslim world in a part of the Muslim world and not just speaking about the Muslim world. The president’s message in Turkey was precisely the message appropriate for the President of the United States to deliver anywhere and everywhere.
Frankly, I find it disturbing, as well as a bit sad, that so many people feel it necessary to congratulate the president for understanding and speaking about basic concepts of religious freedom and pluralism. No president with a constitutional conscience should say less or more than President Obama said. A majority of United States citizens claiming Christianity as their religion does not make the United States a Christian nation. The Constitution reflects our people’s appreciation for religion while leaving no doubt that the government of the nation is secular in nature. Subsequently, never should the United States government go to war against any religion or on behalf of any religion. Any time the last option of war has to be chosen to resolve an international dilemma, the target of our nation’s military action should be a foreign government entity or rogue terrorists, not a religion.
The speech was brilliant. Now it is time for action. Speaking is not doing; words are not actions. The president has a civil and moral responsibility to see that this nation does not seek to promote or establish any one religion or religion itself and to assure that all citizens are beneficiaries of civil rights and liberties even if they are out of step with a popular, even majority, religious point of view among other citizens.
I applaud the president’s efforts to demonstrate to the international community his strong commitment to repairing relations with foreign governments generally and with the global Muslim community specifically. But there is also work to be done here at home. This work, too, will deliver an important message to the rest of the world.
Too many Muslims living in this country still feel like second class citizens. Too many non-Christians in this land continue to feel like our government favors one religion over another. I appeal to President Obama to find specific ways to make clear at home his commitment to religious pluralism and to religious freedom as promised by the Constitution.
No speech or act is as influential or transformational as are consistency and continuity between a person’s words and actions. In that regard, President Obama is off to a good start.