SOUTHAVEN, MS (abc24.com) – During the 1960 presidential election, John F. Kennedy was widely criticized for his Catholicism. More recently, despite declaring that he is a Christian, President Barack Obama has drawn criticism for his alleged ties to Islam. That criticism seems to be resonating in Mississippi.
As Mississippians prepared to pick their Republican presidential candidate on Tuesday March 13, a new survey showed a majority in the Magnolia State remained uncertain about President Obama’s religious affiliation.
Many people abc24.com spoke with in Mississippi were disturbed by those results.
“It’s weird, but I’m not surprised,” said Mississippian Nikita Taylor, “because I feel like President Obama gets the short end of the stick down here, down south.”
When it comes to Mr. Obama’s religion that feeling apparently is not restricted to the south; in a clip of a cable news show on YouTube, a woman confronts former Senator and Presidential candidate John McCain saying, “I can’t trust Obama, I have read about him and he’s an Arab.”
On that nationally televised confrontation, McCain denounced that description, saying Mr. Obama is a decent person; still, the ties to Islam persisted.
On another cable news clip from YouTube, a host questioned a woman in the audience on the President's religious beliefs. “I believe that he is a Muslim,” responded the woman.
Mississippi apparently feels the same way. On the verge of that state’s GOP Primary, a survey of Mississippi voters by Public Policy Polling showed that only 12 percent believed the President is Christian, 52 percent classified him as Muslim, and 36 percent were not sure.
“That tells you about politics in Mississippi,” Mardis Jones told abc24.com.
“I’m a preacher myself,” said Jonathan Ferguson, “so it is a big thing for me. Now, I wouldn’t say he’s a Muslim, but the Christian thing, I don’t know.”
Many Mississippians didn’t seem to care if Mr. Obama was Muslim or Christian.
“I don’t see that it really matters,” said Mississippian Scott McCreary, “as long as we have a president that is doing his job.”
But some other Mississippi residents took a differing view.
“I’m a Christian myself,” said Preacher Ferguson’s wife, “and so the person I want to follow, I want him to be a Christian.”
The President of course, steadfastly remains that is exactly what he is, but the survey shows Mississippi voters don’t quite believe it.
“I don’t think they’re ignorant,” Jones said, “I just think it’s their choice to be that way.”
On Feb. 18 in Columbus, Ohio, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum took another swipe at Mr. Obama’s alleged ties to Islam.
Santorum said White House decisions are driven by “a different theology; some phony theology not based on the Bible.”
A majority of those surveyed in Mississippi seemed to agree.