Barack Obama, the president of the United States, is a Protestant — just like all of those who preceded him in office, with the sole exception of John F. Kennedy, who was Catholic. And Obama is the kind of Protestant who is not from the line which is relatively condescending toward Rome — like Lutheranism or Anglicism — but the one with Puritan roots and the strongly anti-papal sector, which does not mean that the president is a fanatic.

The levels of disinformation of the U.S. electorate are huge. In a recent survey, almost a fifth of those surveyed were said to believe that Obama was Muslim, and among Republicans this number was almost doubled. Obama’s birth father from Kenya was indeed a Muslim, and during some time his son helped out at a Muslim school in Indonesia. But that is as far as it goes.

And the mistake about the theological affinities of the democratic president, whose middle name is Hussein — which is indeed common amongst Muslims — lacks political consequences when Barack Obama tries to mediate, certainly with limited success, between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the Middle East conflict.

The election of a black president has the more nationalist fringe, which is profoundly unaware of the world outside of North American opinion, up in arms. The success of nativist movements and xenophobes like the tea party must be attributed to Obama’s presence in the White House. The tea party is already ominously becoming part of the most conservative wing of the Republican Party and the one with which Sarah Palin has flirted. The tea party members are the same people who deny that the president was born in the United States, and they argue that for that reason his victory was not legal and less than legitimate.

Of course, it is irrelevant if the president were Muslim — a creed that is no better or worse than that of Rome or of Calvin. The use of faith by the U.S. media, however, is not irrelevant. The White House has opposed this notion by saying that Obama prays daily. And he shaves.