Many Evangelical Christians in the U.S. say they are outraged over President George Bush’s statement that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

The statement was made Thursday, during the joint press conference in England with Prime Minister Tony Blair. A reporter noted Bush has frequently expressed the view that freedom is a gift from “the Almighty,” but questioned whether Bush believes “Muslims worship the same Almighty” as the president and other Christians do.

“I do say that freedom is the Almighty’s gift to every person. I also condition it by saying freedom is not America’s gift to the world,” Bush replied. “It’s much greater than that, of course. And I believe we worship the same god,” reported the London Telegraph.

Bush’s equivalence of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim gods brought reactions of shock and dismay from Christians in the U.S. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, was quoted in the Baptist Press as saying the president “is simply mistaken.”

According to a Washington Post account, Land said in an interview: “We should always remember that he is commander in chief, not theologian in chief. The Bible is clear on this: The one and true god is Jehovah, and his only begotten son is Jesus Christ.”

Blair avoided answering the same question, replying with a general statement about freedom.

Bush, a practicing Christian who frequently talks publicly about the importance to him of his faith, nevertheless has repeatedly defended Islam as a religion of peace, ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack on the U.S. by 19 Islamist radicals.

The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, also contradicted the president in a press statement, reported the Post. “The Christian God encourages freedom, love, forgiveness, prosperity and health,” said Haggard. “The Muslim god appears to value the opposite. The personalities of each god are evident in the cultures, civilizations and dispositions of the peoples that serve them. Muhammad’s central message was submission; Jesus’ central message was love. They seem to be very different personalities.”

Despite their strenuous objections, neither Land nor Haggard thinks the president’s statement will cost him votes: “This president has earned a lot of wiggle room among evangelicals,” said Land, according to the Post. “If he had said that Islam is on a par with Christianity, it would be a more serious case of heartburn. This is just indigestion.”

But according to Gary Bauer, former presidential candidate and president of American Values, Bush’s comment is “not helpful to the president. Since everybody agrees he’s not a theologian, he would be much better advised to punt when he gets that kind of question.”

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