US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he was a Christian “by choice” in remarks lent added significance by recent surveys showing many Americans think mistakenly that he is a Muslim.
“I am a Christian by choice,” Obama said at a backyard conversation with voters in New Mexico, in response to a question from a woman who asked him why he followed the faith.
Obama said he was not raised by a family that frequently went to church, but said that he came to his Christianity late in life, saying it was the teachings of Jesus Christ that inspired “the kind of life I would want to lead.”
“I think, also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the kind of humility we all have to have as human beings.”
But Obama also said that the United States must stick by its constitutional requirements to allow freedom of all religions, as well as offering a home to atheists and agnostics.
A Time magazine poll in August found that 24 percent of respondents wrongly said Obama is a Muslim.
Some 18 percent said the same in a study from the non-partisan Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The surveys were taken at the height of a controversy over plans to build a Muslim cultural center near the Ground Zero site of the felled World Trade Center in New York.
Obama spoke out for the right of Muslims to build the center, despite its unpopularity so close to the epicenter of the September 11 attacks in 2001.