"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus -- and nonbelievers," Obama stated during his speech before a crowd estimated by security officials at about 1.8 million.
He continued: "We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."
Obama's statements about an inclusive country were strikingly similar to remarks he made twice in 2007 in which he went further and stated the U.S. is "no longer Christian." At that time, some took issue with his pronouncement, fearing the declarations indicated his intention to reorient the U.S. away from its traditional Judeo-Christian values.
In that speech, Obama took aim at the "Christian Right" for "hijacking" religion and using it to divide the nation:
"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been all too eager to exploit what divides us," he said.
Asked last year to clarify his remarks, Obama repeated them to the Christian Broadcast Network: "I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism. Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers," Obama wrote in an e-mail to CBN News senior national correspondent David Brody.
"We should acknowledge this and realize that when we're formulating policies from the statehouse to the Senate floor to the White House, we've got to work to translate our reasoning into values that are accessible to every one of our citizens, not just members of our own faith community," wrote Obama.
Obama clarified his statement about the "Christian Right."
"My intention was to contrast the heated partisan rhetoric of a distinct minority of Christian leaders with the vast majority of evangelical Christians – conservatives included – who believe that hate has no place in our politics.
"When you have pastors and television pundits who appear to explicitly coordinate with one political party; when you're implying that your fellow Americans are traitors, terrorist sympathizers or akin to the devil himself; then I think you're attempting to hijack the faith of those who follow you for your own personal or political ends," wrote Obama.
Obama's speech declaring the U.S. "no longer Christian" was originally met with little fanfare. But it was recirculated this summer during the presidential campaign.
A television commercial that aired in South Dakota by a group calling itself the Coalition Against Anti-Christian Rhetoric juxtaposed the audio of Obama's "no longer Christian" statement over images of the presidential candidate dressed in Somali garb and a picture of him with his hands rested below his waist while other politicians place their hands over their hearts during the Pledge of Allegiance.
"It's time for people to take a stand against Barack Hussein Obama," declares the voiceover on the commercial.
The Gateway Pundit blog took notice of Obama's speech 2007 about the U.S. being a nation also for Muslims and non-believers.
"This won't play well in the Bible Belt," commented the blog in a posting.
Obama's campaign had utilized faith as a central theme. The candidate's Christianity and his former membership in the controversial Trinity United Church of Christ led by Rev. Jeremiah Wright were much scrutinized.
His comment about the "Christian Right" echoed similar statements made by Merrill A. McPeak, Obama's military adviser and national campaign co-chairman. As WND reported, in a 2003 interview with The Oregonian newspaper, McPeak apparently compared evangelical Christians to the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Oregonian interviewer asked McPeak whether "there's an element within Hamas, Hezbollah, that doesn't want Israel to exist at all and always will be there?"
McPeak responded by comparing the two terror groups to "radical" Oregonians.
"There's an element in Oregon, you know, that's always going to be radical in some pernicious way, and likely to clothe it in religious garments, so it makes it harder to attack," he said. "So there's craziness all over the place."