The accompanying photo was attached to an e-mail, in general circulation, with this anonymous text referring to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president:

"I know some of you are intrigued with this guy and he sure is bright and poised but there are definitely things about him that trouble me - not least of which is the Muslim connection. I can hear some groans now about the 'selective photo op' - can't verify it but read the caption."

The caption reads: "Remember, when a president is sworn in, he must put his hand on the Bible!!! I now wonder how he ever got sworn in as a U.S. senator??"

After Terry McGinnity II, a Havertown lawyer, received the photo and caption in an e-mail from an acquaintance on Oct. 31, he replied, with a copy to the senator:

There is no significant Muslim connection. I read the autobiography he [Obama] published in 1995, just after graduating from Harvard Law School as president of its Law Review, and before he had gotten into state or national politics. (Title: "Dreams from My Father." A good read, by the way.) Yes, there was a short period when his mother was married to a Muslim - after being divorced from Barack's biological father - and moved with him for a couple of years to Indonesia, where Barack went to school. But she wanted Barack to be educated in the United States and sent him back to live with his grandparents and go to a private school founded by missionaries in Hawaii. When he started that school he was 10 years old. His time in the Indonesian school made no significant impression on him, from what is said in that 1995 autobiography. His mother was not Muslim but a non-religious American, as were her parents. His father, a non-practicing Muslim, was absent from his life, living in Africa, except for a very short period. When Barack, in his late 20s, made a trip to Africa to visit relatives after his father's death, he was asked by someone he met there if he was Muslim. He replied: "My grandfather (his father's father) was."

I believe he is now affiliated with a black Protestant church in Chicago, and his emotional connection with it may be more cultural (identification with his African and African-American heritage) than religious. Those who try to denigrate him by saying he is a closet Muslim are, I believe, either malicious or simply misinformed.

I am not pleased with what is shown in the attached photograph - but it may have been a distracted moment rather than a deliberate refusal to place his hand on his heart or recite the pledge. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a picture can also convey a misleading impression, if an inadvertent failure to raise one's hand is seen as a subversive act of defiance that was not intended. It may have been deliberate and calculated, but the same antagonists who are claiming a Muslim affiliation that isn't there would be capable of using a momentary lapse of attention during pledge recital as proof that he does not love or feel loyalty to America. I believe he is a loyal American and that he has no hidden sympathy for Islamic terrorists.

Though I have not decided whom I'll vote for, Barack Obama seems to me one of the three or four most qualified candidates - and I've been a registered Republican all my adult life.

Terry

Obama then responded to McGinnity:

Dear Terry,

Thank you for inquiring about the false accusations that I have refused to sing the National Anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance. I knew when I decided to run for President that I would not be immune from the "anything goes" form of attack politics that has been so prominent in our elections in recent years. And this outrageous charge is just another example of the kind of mean spirited, "shock" politics I will move beyond as President.

There is a photo of me taken during the singing of our National Anthem with a false caption stating that it was taken during the Pledge, and that I refused to put my hand over my heart. I am honored to lead a life of public service, and it is inconceivable that I would ever refuse to say the Pledge or sing the National Anthem. My grandfather served in World War II and helped raise me. He was a great patriot, and he taught me that you put your hand over your heart during the Pledge, and you sing during the Anthem. That's what I did that day, as I have done countless times before.

In fact, as a U.S. senator, I am sometimes called upon to preside over the opening of the Senate in the morning, at which time I am proud to lead my colleagues in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, with my right hand over my heart. Anybody who doesn't believe in the Pledge shouldn't be running for President. To learn the facts and see video of me reciting the Pledge in the Senate, please visit here:

Every time I have been elected or reelected to the Illinois Senate and the United States Senate, I have proudly raised my right hand, placed my left hand on the Bible and sworn to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." And I will be proud to take the Presidential Oath of office on January 20, 2009.

Thank you again for contacting me. Please share this message with anyone you know who has been misled by this baseless and particularly hurtful political attack.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama