CHICAGO, Aug. 28 (AP) - Again pushing the boundaries between the spiritual and secular, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman said Monday that "religion is a source of unity and strength in America."

"This is the most religious country in the world and sometimes, we try to stifle that fact or hide it," Lieberman told 150 religious leaders at an interfaith breakfast. "But the profound and ultimately, most important reality is that we are not only citizens of this blessed country, we are citizens of the same awesome God."

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush praised members of a Jewish group for performing "miracles of renewal" with faith-based community programs, which he supports.

"Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world of justice and inclusion and diversity without division. Jews and Christians and Muslims speak as one in their commitment to a kind, just tolerant society," Bush told B'nai B'rith, a Jewish service organization. Both candidates have embraced religion as a means of reaching voters.

Lieberman, warmly received by the spiritual leaders, said he was moved that the gathering crossed religious lines "because it makes real for me what I have believed with profound faith throughout my life, that religion is a source of unity and strength in America."

He met with pastors, priests and rabbis at the South Shore Cultural Center, a former country club that banned blacks and Jews. In greeting the group, Lieberman quoted a line from a Hebrew song, Hine Ma Tov, that calls for "brothers and sisters to dwell together in harmony."

A day earlier in Detroit, he told members of a black church that he hopes his candidacy as an Orthodox Jew will reinstate "a place for faith in America's public life." For all the billing aides give to issues like health insurance, Medicare and prescription drug coverage, Lieberman manages to bring the discussion back to God. Bush also talks about his faith.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who accompanied Lieberman around the city Monday, acknowledged the power of prayer in politics.

"We know there's a separation of church and state in America, but at the same time, elected officials realize that they're all citizens right here as well as religious leaders. They're congregations are citizens as well, and that's why you have to build this relationship up," Daley said.

Bush praised B'nai B'rith in a conference call from Austin, Texas, saying, "Your works have touched millions of hearts and are a testament to the power of faith."

"I want to rally the armies of compassion that exist in every community across America," Bush said. "A truly welcoming culture must recognize that every person is created in the image and likeness of God. We must appreciate the dignity...in all people."

Bush campaigns as a different kind of Republican, a "compassionate conservative" who welcomes help from faith-based groups on everything from education to fighting drugs.

Earlier in the day, Lieberman told Democratic activists he's "not asking

anybody to vote for me because of my religion."

"Hopefully, on Election Day that will be an irrelevant factor as I think it is today for most Americans. And Al Gore and I offer ourselves to America as the team that's best for America on the merits," he said.

Lieberman also told the activists he believes the campaign has experienced a transformation in the three weeks since Gore chose him as a running mate.

"I think the public finally opened up to Al," Lieberman said. "Of course these last three weeks have been wonderful in another more tangible way, which is that the polls have turned in our direction and we're on a roll."

Lieberman also attended a rally with about 1,200 supporters at the Plumber's Hall.

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