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Freedom and faith

Obama urges nations to allow religious freedom and joins in giving a standing ovation to isle surfer Bethany Hamilton

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 01:58 a.m. HST, Feb 08, 2014

WASHINGTON » Hawaii surfer Bethany Hamilton got a standing ovation and President Barack Obama reaffirmed that freedom of religion is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.

Obama cast his message as an international call for human rights, singling out countries that he said have fallen short, particularly when it comes to extending protections and freedoms to all faiths.

Obama told the nondenominational gathering of political leaders that some of that diplomacy is not comfortable, especially when dealing with nations that are strategically and economically important to the United States, such as China.

When meeting with Chinese leaders, he said, "I stress that realizing China's potential rests on upholding universal rights, including for Christians and Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims." Obama also offered prayers for Kenneth Bae, a U.S. missionary being held in North Korea, and Saeed Abedini, an Idaho pastor who is in custody in Iran.

Bae was arrested in November 2012 in North Korea while leading a tour group and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for unspecified anti-government activity. Supporters say he did nothing wrong.

Abedini, who is of Iranian origin, has been held since September 2012 and is serving an eight-year sentence after being convicted of trying to establish a network of Christian churches in private homes.

In the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, he added, "we have made clear that lasting peace will require freedom of worship and access to holy sites for all faiths."

"More broadly I've made the case that no society can truly succeed unless it guarantees the rights of all of its peoples, including religious minorities, whether they are Ahmadia Muslims in Paki­stan or Bahais in Iran or Coptic Christians in Egypt," Obama said.

He and other attendees gave a standing ovation to Obama's fellow Hawaii native, pro surfer Bethany Hamilton, after she described how God transformed the loss of her arm from a shark attack into something "totally amazing" by giving her the ability to inspire others.

Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Janice Hahn, D-Calif., welcomed the packed ballroom with some bipartisan humor. Hahn said prayer helped her forgive Gohmert for criticizing food stamp recipients for buying king crab legs. "For all you know it was imitation crab," she deadpanned.

Gohmert said he was asked whether he really wanted to serve in a Congress with all its backstabbing meanness, but he was prepared. "I was the deacon of a Baptist church," he joked.

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st1d wrote:
sure took him a long time to reluctantly get up out of his chair. it was as if he was waiting for the applause and recognition to end, but, when the audience continued to honor bethany hamilton he stood up, the last person to do so.
on February 8,2014 | 05:59AM
JimLoomis wrote:
Oh, please! You Obama haters are really pathetic! How about saying that childish stuff using your real name? No?? I didn't think so!
on February 8,2014 | 06:07AM
st1d wrote:
what, no denial of what happened, just a lame name calling hissy fit. of course you don't think.
on February 8,2014 | 06:59AM
RetiredWorking wrote:
st1d, awesome that you presumed that by his late rise from his chair.
on February 8,2014 | 10:21AM
st1d wrote:
Rather presumptious of you to assume that. My conclusion is deduced from his body language, facial expressions and the fact that he was the last to honor bethany.
on February 8,2014 | 12:40PM
RetiredWorking wrote:
st1d, you're correct. I'm being presumptuous/deductive, as are you.
on February 8,2014 | 07:24PM
onevoice82 wrote:
I will believe Obama cares about religious rights when he fixes the Obama care bill!
on February 8,2014 | 06:30AM
AndrewWalden wrote:
Obama says ‘freedom of religion is under threat’ as Catholics sue administration http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/06/obama-says-freedom-of-religion-is-under-threat-as-catholics-sue-administration/
on February 8,2014 | 08:46AM
retire wrote:
shame she couldn't reciprocate with a round of applause;-)
on February 8,2014 | 01:18PM
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