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Some time ago, a TIME poll reported that 24 percent of Americans “mistakenly believe the current occupant of the Oval Office is himself a Muslim.” According to the same poll “just 47 percent of respondents believe Obama is a Christian; 24 percent declined to respond to the question or said they were unsure, and 5 percent believe that he is neither Christian nor Muslim.”

On Tuesday of this week, in an apparently spontaneous response to a query about his faith at an event in Albuquerque, N.M., Obama declared himself “a Christian by choice.” On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh analyzed the remarks that accompanied Obama’s profession of faith, claiming, “There’s a lot of people who do not know details of their own religious belief.”

If I were looking for serious guidance about the tenets of Christianity, I’m certain I wouldn’t look to Obama, and I’m almost as certain Rush Limbaugh would not be my “go-to guy.” (With the Scripture at hand, it seems more sensible to give first consideration to the source.) Therefore, what I see as noteworthy in the reports about their views isn’t in what they have to say, but in the fact that the disagreement between them shifts the focus of public discussion away from the fact that a significant number of Americans are inclined to believe that Obama isn’t a Christian at all, but a Muslim.

The United States is still walking through the valley of the shadow cast by the threat and consequences of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims who profess to be inspired by their Islamic beliefs. The thought that someone who shares those beliefs may be occupying the office chiefly responsible for U.S. national security is not, on the face of it, very reassuring. Obama’s casualty-inflating policies in Afghanistan; his decisively flawed approach to Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons; his studied disregard for the maintenance and reliability of America’s ability to deter or respond to nuclear attack; his careless disregard for the lives of U.S. forces in Afghanistan; his casual contempt or shows of open hostility toward U.S. friends and allies; his groveling, demoralizing shows of submission to the opinion of the Islamic world, at the expense of America’s honor and decent pride; none of these things give Americans reason to rest easy while Obama commands the ramparts.

So it’s possible that all the blather about Obama’s professed Christianity is meant to distract us from his demonstrated sympathy for Islam. But what if the whole issue of Obama’s personal creed is itself a distraction from something else that’s also critical to the nation’s future – his evisceration of the creed on which the constitutional liberty of the American people depends?

In the past several weeks, Obama’s most significant act of faith came not in something he said, but something he omitted to say. It came as he “removed the reference to the ‘Creator’ from the Declaration of Independence when he quoted a portion at a meeting of the Congressional Hispanic Congress.”

This was not some minor lapse. It was the conscious culmination of an effort that has been going since long before Obama came on the scene. I noticed it over a decade ago when we took the family to Philadelphia to visit the sites associated with the Declaration of Independence. When referring to the words of the Declaration of Independence the official U.S. government employed tour guide said, “The Declaration told us then what it tells us today, that we are all equal and endowed with certain rights.” After I mentioned it on the radio show I hosted at that time, I received reports from listeners who had noticed similar omissions at other historic sites.

America began with a ringing acknowledgement of the existence and authority of God. It began with the assertion of unalienable rights derived from God’s authority. It began with an effort to respect that authority by establishing government based on the premise that all legitimate government aims to secure those God-given unalienable rights and must therefore derive its powers from the free and deliberate consent of the governed. Thus, without reference to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” the constitutional liberty of the American people cannot be understood or sustained.

The key issue for America’s future is not what Obama believes but what America believes. The key issue of public concern is not whether Obama is a Christian or a Muslim or a self-worshipping, Godless little demagogue acting whatever part he must to gain power and keep it. The key issue of public concern is whether the American people will allow Obama, or any of the treacherous elite schemers he represents, to deprive us and our posterity of the heritage of self-evident truth that makes us free.

In the Declaration of Independence, America’s founders invoked “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” After doing so, they acknowledged the Creator as the source of humankind’s unalienable rights. They appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world” as the arbiter of their intentions. They declared their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” By their example they passed to future generations of Americans tenets of faith that are among the greatest blessings God can bestow upon a nation. (I believe the only greater blessings come to a nation through the transformation of individual hearts as they receive the grace of God through Jesus Christ.)

American’s God-fearing beginning surely had much to do with its historic success, and including its progress toward liberty and justice for all. Would any sane people discard a heritage so blessed? Would any true Christian by word or deed, inveigle them into doing so? By his example in the high office he presently occupies, Obama invites this and future generations to forget the heritage that remembers God. By his example, he shows the fruit by which Christ says we are to know which are the “false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

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