Reporting from Washington — President Obama, making a pointed appeal for "a spirit of civility" at the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, called on Americans to debate the most important issues without demonizing opponents.
Civility, the president suggested, is not a sign of weakness.
"Surely you can question my policies without questioning my faith -- or, for that matter, my citizenship," he said to laughter, alluding to the persistent claim of some critics that the Hawaiian-born president is not a natural-born American, as the Constitution requires.
The president said God's grace is expressed through U.S. military relief efforts in Haiti, through the military at large and through the actions of the government.
That grace is carried out "by Americans of every faith, and no faith, uniting around a common purpose -- a higher purpose," Obama said. "It's inspiring. This is what we do as Americans in times of trouble. We unite, recognizing that such crises call on all of us to act, recognizing that there but for the grace of God go I."