President George W. Bush has peeved some of his Religious Right allies by telling a British reporter that he believes Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
During a press briefing with Prime Minister Tony Blair in late November, a reporter noted Bush's frequent claim that freedom is a gift from "the Almighty" and asked the president if "Muslims worship the same Almighty."
Bush acknowledged his oft-repeated platitude, noting, however, that he also adds that "freedom is not America's gift to the world." The president then said that he believed "we worship the same God" as Muslims.
Religious Right leaders have fawned over Bush's public religiosity in the past, but this time they weren't pleased. Richard Land, president of the public policy division of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the president was "simply mistaken."
"We should always remember that he is commander in chief, not theologian in chief," Land told The Washington Post. "The Bible is clear on this: The one and true God is Jehovah, and his only begotten son is Jesus Christ."
Land also said Bush had "earned a lot of wiggle room among evangelicals," but if Bush would have said that "Islam is on par with Christianity, it would be a more serious case of heartburn."
The Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, also contradicted Bush.
"The Christian God encourages freedom, love, forgiveness, prosperity and health. The Muslim god appears to value the opposite. The personalities of each god are evident in the cultures, civilizations and dispositions of the peoples that serve them. Muhammad's central message was submission; Jesus' central message was love. They seem to be very different personalities," Haggard said.
Gary Bauer, president of American Values, said Bush would be better off "to punt when he gets that kind of question."