- (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)
While hosting his fourth Iftar dinner Friday night at the White House, President Barack Obama reaffirmed the freedom of religion and the right to worship as the foremost freedom in America.
"It's enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution – the law of the land, always and forever. It beats in our heart – in the soul of the people who know that our liberty and our equality is endowed by our Creator," Obama said.
His speech comes just after the Mitt Romney presidential campaign released an ad saying that Obama is threatening religious freedom in the country.
"Who shares your values?" the ad asks. "President Obama used his health care plan to declare war on religion, forcing religious institutions to go against their faith. Mitt Romney believes that's wrong.
"When religious freedom is threatened, who do you want to stand with?"
The ad was attacking Obama over the Health and Human Services mandate that employers cover contraception, abortifacients and sterilization in their employees' health insurance. Religious institutions, such as hospitals and colleges, are not exempt from the mandate. Both Catholics and evangelicals are protesting the mandate for violating their religious freedom.
But while hosting Muslim Americans during Ramadan – the holiest month of the year for Muslims – Obama expressed his commitment to defending the freedom of religion.
Also mourning those who were "senselessly murdered and injured" at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, Obama stated to applause, "The attack on Americans of any faith is an attack on the freedom of all Americans."
"No American should ever have to fear for their safety in their place of worship. And every American has the right to practice their faith both openly and freely, and as they choose."
He continued, "That is not just an American right; it is a universal human right."
On another note, Obama also honored several guests attending the White House dinner, including Huma Abedin, an aide to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Abedin was mentioned in a June letter written by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and her colleagues for possible association with the Muslim Brotherhood.
The letter was denounced by several Republicans including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) who said "Huma represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies so fully."
Obama thanked Abedin for her tireless work and for representing the U.S. and its democratic values. "The American people owe her a debt of gratitude -- because Huma is an American patriot, and an example of what we need in this country -- more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace and her generosity of spirit. So, on behalf of all Americans, we thank you so much."
The Iftar is the meal that breaks the day of fasting during Ramadan, when Muslim families and communities eat together after sunset.