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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama told a nondenominational gathering of political leaders Thursday that freedom of religion across the world is important to national security and is a central tenet of U.S. diplomacy.

Obama said that message is not always easy to deliver. He said he has told leaders in China, Burma and Nigeria that they must do more to respect human rights, particularly religious freedom.

Obama spoke Thursday to the National Prayer Breakfast, a decades-old Washington tradition.

Obama said, "to harm anyone in the name of faith is to diminish our own relationship with God."

The bipartisan gathering was hosted by Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Janice Hahn, D-Calif.

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