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Well, at least this time CNN didn't ask the presidential candidates to disclose the biggest sin they've committed.

But while Soledad O'Brien's infamous question from the June 2007 Sojourners Presidential Forum didn't make an appearance, much of tonight's "Compassion Forum" at Messiah College had the same vibe as that event: questions about policy and decision-making were overshadowed by the journalists' odd stabs at what they thought religious folks really wanted to know. As at the Sojourners event, for example, the moderator asked about literal seven-day creationism.

Faith in Public Life, the group that organized and sponsored the forum, had billed it as "probing discussions of policies related to pressing moral issues that are bridging ideological divides now more than ever, including poverty, global AIDS, climate change and human rights."

Discussions of policies weren't probed very far, however. Instead, on the Global Day for Darfur, co-moderator Jon Meacham asked Sen. Hillary Clinton, "Many people here are concerned about Darfur and a number of other humanitarian issues. Why do you think it is that a loving God allows innocent people to suffer?"

"You know, that is the subject of generations of commentary and debate," Clinton responded. "And I don't know. I can't wait to ask him. … [But] there is no doubt in my mind that God calls us to respond. … For whatever reason it exists, its very existence is a call to action."

Call to action: AIDS

While sparks flew between the two candidates over Obama's recent remarks about "bitter" Americans "clinging to guns and religion," both candidates somewhat surprisingly praised President Bush, particularly for his anti-AIDS program in Africa.

"I commend President Bush for his PEPFAR ...

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