Obama to national prayer gathering: Religious freedom is a matter of national security

The Associated Press

President Barack Obama closes his eyes as a prayer is offered at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama tells a non-denominational gathering of political leaders that freedom of religion across the world is important to national security and is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy.

Obama says that message is not always easy to deliver. He says he has told leaders in China, Burma and Nigeria that they must do more to respect human rights, particularly religious freedom.

Obama spoke Thursday to the National Prayer Breakfast, a decades-old Washington tradition.

Obama says, quote, "to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God."

The bipartisan gathering was hosted by Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Janice Hahn, D-Calif.

Gohmert joked that he was prepared for the all backstabbing in Congress, saying, quote, "I was the deacon of a Baptist church."

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