So when he rode to the U.S. Capitol Saturday (Jan. 20) to become thenation's 43rd president, many were waiting to see whether Bush would usehis inaugural speech to provide any details on the next four years offaith in the White House.
While the details were few, his vision was crystal clear andundeniably inclusive.
"Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communitiestheir humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and inour laws," Bush said.
Saying that "America, at its best, is compassionate," Bush ralliedthe nation to seek a "common good beyond your comfort" and "communitiesof service and a nation of character."
"When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we willnot pass to the other side," Bush said, referring to the biblicalparable of the good Samaritan.
So what do the next four years look like for the murky intersectionof private faith and public policy? It depends on whom you ask.
The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council ofChurches, watched Bush's speech from an airport terminal in DaytonaBeach, Fla. He said he welcomed Bush's call for inclusive faith-basedaction, but said churches and other groups cannot shoulder the burdenalone.
"It is simply a recognition of the kind of culture we live in,"Edgar said. "Clearly he believes in the separation of church and state,but not the separation of people of faith and the government."
"There were times in this address when it appeared Bush had not onlybeen elected president, but also elected national pastor," said Lynn."His suggestion that churches would play an honored role in his plansand laws demonstrates his deep misunderstanding of the constitutionalseparation of church and state."
Bush's inaugural words portend a shaky future for church-stateissues under the Bush administration, Lynn said, particularly given thenew president's interest in establishing a White House office forfaith-based programs.
A more conservative leader, however, said there should be littlesurprise at Bush's emphasis on faith and values. Richard Land, presidentof the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, saidBush's was the most "overtly religious" inaugural speech he can recall-- something that would be troubling for Lynn, but welcomed by Land.
"As much as Barry is perturbed by this, we are not a secularnation," Land said. "We have a secular government, but we are not asecular nation."
With just one word -- "mosque" -- Bush opened the door for anincreased role for American Muslims, a growing community in both sizeand influence that solidly backed Bush in his quest for the White House.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-IslamicRelations, said Bush's speech signaled a "growing recognition of theMuslim community in the United States" that bodes well for Musliminfluence, adding later that "We'll just have to wait and see whatdevelops."
Bush's recognition of Muslims in his speech reflected a commendable"spirit of inclusion," said Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director ofThe Interfaith Alliance, a watchdog of the religious right.
But he cautioned that the Bush administration must walk a fine linebetween honoring the Constitution and according faith an honoredposition in government.
"I think one of the great challenges of his vision of compassionateconservativism is defining the place of church, mosque and synagogue inthose plans for the nation in a manner that protects the integrity ofreligion and the principles of the Constitution," Gaddy said.
The boundaries of Bush's inclusive spirit will be put to the testsoon since Bush must "work on healing among people who are opposed tohim," Gaddy noted.