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President Barack Obama waves after speaking during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, February 5, 2015. (PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama waves after speaking during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, February 5, 2015. (PHOTO: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Free from fear of political backlash from the Republican Party, President Barack Obama appears to be opening up more and more on what were once considered to be political taboo for him. On Thursday during a wide-ranging talk at the National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C., he pointed out how the U.S. justified slavery and Jim Crow in the name of Christ.

The remark came during a talk about religious freedom juxtaposed against the backdrop of violence in cities around the globe, including attacks by Muslim extremist group ISIS in Paris and the murder of Muslims and Christians by Boko Haram and in the religious war in the Central African Republic.

President Obama said:

So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities— the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history. And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. Michelle and I returned from India—an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity—but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other peoples of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs—acts of intolerance that would have shocked [Mahatma Gandhi], the person who helped to liberate that nation.

So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith. In today’s world, when hate groups have their own Twitter accounts and bigotry can fester in hidden places in cyberspace, it can be even harder to counteract such intolerance. But God compels us to try. And in this mission, I believe there are a few principles that can guide us, particularly those of us who profess to believe.

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