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Obama keeps his faith private

As he flew aboard Air Force One to Chicago on his 49th birthday earlier this month, President Barack Obama dialed three Christian pastors to pray with him.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2010 01:16 IST

As he flew aboard Air Force One to Chicago on his 49th birthday earlier this month, President Barack Obama dialed three Christian pastors to pray with him.

On an airborne conference call with religious leaders, he was in a reflective mood. He told them he wanted to pray.

The prayer session, which was not publicized and which neither the White House nor the ministers sought to bring to light, reflects Obama’s decision to keep his public expressions of religious faith to a minimum. Hunter said the president often reaches out to pastors for private spiritual conversation.

Hunter, who is the pastor, also advised Obama's predecessor. George W. Bush routinely invoked his own Christian faith in public. Hunter said that Obama's reluctance to do so may help explain the results of a Pew Research Center poll released this week that revealed a sizable increase in the number of people who falsely think that Obama is a Muslim.

Since October 2008, the percentage of Americans who say the president is a Muslim has risen from 12 per cent to 18 per cent. The percentage of people who think he is a Christian has fallen from 51 per cent to 34 per cent. The polling data indicated that those who identified themselves as conservative Republicans were most likely to say that he is a Muslim.

"That's the downside of not wanting to expose what is personal to the political arena," Hunter said. Obama tends to reserve religious expression for private moments.

White House faith adviser Joshua DuBois said the president does not intend to suddenly practice his faith in public in an effort to counter misperceptions.

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