Staff WriterPresident Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle attended the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, where he discussed the importance of freedom of religion, and the role it can play in national security. According to VOA News, Obama, a self identified Christian, stated “Around the world, freedom of religion is under threat, and that is what I want to reflect on this morning… We see governments engaging in discriminating and violence against the faith.” He specifically mentioned the cases of Kenneth Bae and Saeed Abedini. Kenneth Bae is a Christian missionary who has been held in North Korea for over a year and has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for "unspecified 'hostile acts'". Saeed Abedini is a Christian pastor in Iran who has been sentenced to 8 years in prison for attempting to spread his faith. The President and the White House are hard at work attempting to free the two men. Speaking of the role of religious freedom in terms of national security, the President said, “Nations that do not uphold these rights sow the bitter seeds of instability and violence and extremism. So freedom of religion matters to our national security.” Advocate.com stated that Obama discussed the unacceptable use of religion as a justification for hate: “We sometimes see religion twisted in an attempt to justify hatred and persecution against other people just because of who they are, or how they pray or who they love.” Although it was not explicitly stated, it has been speculated that he was referring to the churches that have been refusing to provide wedding services to same-sex couples. Obama also referenced those who “practice no faith at all”, saying that they should always be able to “do this free of persecution and fear”. The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual fixture that, according to the White House, has been attended by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.
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