In Campaign, Bush Moderates Faith Stance

Article excerpt

Even as the Democratic presidential candidate takes care not to wear religion on his sleeve, so too has President Bush struck moderate notes in speaking before the wider public.

At least in town hall style visits from Florida to Oregon in mid-August, the incumbent Republican--well known for his evangelical Christian views--tried to deflect questions that invited him to give his testimony of faith.

Typical of Bush's answers, reported the Los Angeles Times, was his response to a Beaverton, Oregon, woman who asked the president to take a moment "right now" to pray for Oregon, which is reputed to be one of the most unchurched states.

Responding only "I appreciate that," Bush went on--to the questioner's apparent surprise--to offer a defense of church-state separation: "I think the thing about our country that you must understand is that one of the most valuable aspects of America is that people can choose church or not church, and they're equally American. That is a vital part of our society."

Likewise, in Niceville, Florida, Bush evaded with a joke the comment of a 60-year-old man who said to him, "'This is the very first time that I have felt that God was in the White House."

After thanking the man, Bush switched the subject to his brother, the Florida governor: "Let me ask yon a question: Do you like Jeb? Jeb plants [this supporter] right here on the front row." Asked by another person in the audience if he was a Christian, Bush said yes, then added: "You have a right in this country, to worship freely.... You are equally American if you're a Christian, Jew, Muslim or Hindu."

In an interview on CNN's Larry King Live August 12, Bush defended his positions on embryonic stem cell research and same-sex marriage, but he also touched upon the importance of a multifaith nation and church-state boundaries. King noted that Democratic rival John Kerry, a Catholic, received applause at his party's convention when he said that he doesn't "wear my own faith on my sleeve."

Asking if his faith affects his con duct in office, Bush said in part, "I make decisions on what I think is best for the country, but my faith is important to me. …