WASHINGTON (ABP) — More than 70 Christian leaders signed a letter Aug. 25 calling on "public officials, faith leaders, and the media to offer no further support or airtime to those who misrepresent and call into question" whether or not President Obama is a Christian.
Signers including Bishop T.D. Jakes, Ronald Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action and Jim Wallis of Sojourners said they were "deeply troubled by the recent questioning of President Obama's faith."
"We understand that these are contentious times, but the personal faith of our leaders should not be up for public debate," they said.
Several of the signers said they have personally prayed and worshipped with the president.
"President Obama has been unwavering in confessing Christ as Lord and has spoken often about the importance of his Christian faith," they said. "We believe that questioning, and especially misrepresenting, the faith of a confessing believer goes too far."
The letter was released through the Eleison Group, a consulting firm started by Burns Strider, a former adviser to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and faith outreach director during Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
The signers, however, said to them: "This is not a political issue." They said they represent a variety of political views, but: "As Christian pastors and leaders, we believe that fellow Christians need to be an encouragement to those who call Christ their savior, not question the veracity of their faith."
Baptist signers to the letter included David Gushee, a Mercer University professor and Associated Baptist Press columnist; William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention USA; and T. DeWitt Smith, former president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Other prominent signers included Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference; Joel Hunter, a Florida mega-church pastor who served on the president's council on faith-based initiatives; Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; and World Vision President Rich Stearns.
Other signers included authors Brian McLaren and Donald Miller, as well as Kirbyjon Caldwell, senior pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, who was a spiritual adviser to President George W. Bush.
A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly one American in five believed Obama is a Muslim and more than 40 percent said they didn't know what faith the president practiced.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.