(Photo: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, who was campaigning in Louisiana ahead of Saturday's primary, told reporters he believes President Barack Obama is a Christian but his behavior is causing many Americans to think he is a Muslim.
Former House Speaker Gingrich said Friday, the day before Louisiana will hold its primary, that perceptions over Obama's faith were not baseless. "It should bother the president. Why does the president behave the way that people would think that?" Gingrich said after a speech on Louisiana's Gulf Coast when reporters asked about polls indicating many Americans think Obama is a Muslim. "You have to ask why would they believe that? It's not because they're stupid. It's because they watch the kind of things I just described to you."
Public Policy Polling recently found that 52 percent of the GOP primary voters in Mississippi and 45 percent in Alabama thought Obama was a Muslim.
Gingrich referred to the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate which requires all employer-based health plans to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs for employees; and the president's apology last month over an accidental burning of the Quran in Afghanistan by U.S. troops which led to attacks on Americans stationed in that country.
Gingrich, who is a Catholic convert, clarified, "I have said publicly several times that I believe Obama is a Christian. He went to a Christian church for over 20 years. He was listening to the sermons." However, he added, "I think it is very bizarre that he is desperately concerned to apologize to Muslim religious fanatics while they are killing young Americans while at the same time going to war against the Catholic Church and against every right-to-live Protestant organization in the country. I just think it's a very strange value system."
Before he became president, Obama attended a United Church of Christ congregation in Chicago. After taking office, he has only occasionally attended churches in the Washington area.
Gingrich raised the issue several times earlier this week in Louisiana. "First, look you need to understand the elite media is in the tank for Obama. They're going to do anything that helps re-elect Obama. They're totally committed to Obama. It is just astonishing to me how pro-Obama they are," he told the Sandy Rios in the Morning radio show Thursday. "You think you're going to see two pages on Obama's Muslim friends? Or two pages on the degree to which Obama's persistently apologizing to Islam while attacking the Catholic Church? Do you see anybody in the elite media prepared to see say, 'Gee, you know this is kind of odd that we really worry a lot about the Quran and nothing about the Bible?'"
On Wednesday, Gingrich said at a stop in Pineville, "They're anti-religious unless it's Islam. This is the heart of the Obama problem, the dilemma he has." He also told Fox News, "Why is it he's more sensitive to radical Islamists who are killing young Americans than he is to the Catholic Church, to Baptists, to fundamentalists. I mean, the fact is, this is a very strange presidency."
GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who is leading in polls in Louisiana, also spoke Friday about Obama's pro-Muslim "bias." "You know, it's not surprising this president will go down in history here as the president who has embraced radical Islamic groups," he told the Sean Hannity radio show.
Amid doubts about his faith, Obama has reaffirmed his Christian beliefs. During a 2010 backyard discussion in New Mexico, he revealed that the "precepts of Jesus Christ" drew him to Christianity and affirmed that "we achieve salvation through the grace of God." He has also spoken about his faith during prayer breakfasts and holidays including Christmas.