The Deacon's Bench

If anyone doubted that religion was going to play a big role in the 2008 presidential race, those doubts have been dispelled. More than ever, it seems, candidates from all sides of the political spectrum are talking about faith. And now it’s even making the papers:

All the Democratic and Republican presidential hopefuls have been grilled on their religious beliefs. Most seem eager to talk publicly about their faith as they actively court religious voters.

Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasizes her Methodist upbringing and says her faith helped her repair her marriage.

Chief rival Sen. Barack Obama frequently uses the language of religion and proclaims a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. The Democrat — whose middle name is Hussein — scoffs at suggestions of Muslim leanings because he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. He is a member of the United Church of Christ.

In the most recent Democratic debate, a pastor in a YouTube video asked Democrat John Edwards to defend his use of religion to deny gay marriage. The former North Carolina senator — a Methodist — talked about his faith and his “enormous conflict” over the issue

Republican Sen. John McCain, an Episcopalian, says, “I do believe that we are unique and that God loves us.” Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, emphasizes his belief that “God created the heavens and the earth. To me, it’s pretty simple.”

Unlike the others, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a divorced Roman Catholic who favors abortion rights, sidesteps such questions, claiming one’s relationship with God is a private matter. But he attended Catholic schools and at one point considered being a priest.

I remain suspicious of people who wear their religion on their sleeve (or pinned to their lapel). I think what my mother taught me 40 years ago remains true: actions speak louder than words.

Photo: Barack Obama by Scott Olson, Getty Images

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