New Mexico: US President Barack Obama
said on Wednesday 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
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
"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
A Time magazine poll in August found that 24
percent of respondents wrongly said Obama is a Muslim.
Some 18 per cent 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
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.