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John McCain's victory in the Republican presidential primary may have signaled the declining influence of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, who vowed not to vote for the Arizona senator. Then again, Dobson just made front-page news by commenting on a speech delivered two years ago.

Oddly enough, it is the Democratic candidate's willingness to talk theology that keeps Dobson relevant in this election. Speaking in 2006 before the Call to Renewal conference, Sen. Barack Obama explained with some depth his views on the relationship between faith and public policy. The speech drew widespread praise as a long-awaited Democratic affirmation of religion's contributions to American society.

"Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King — indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history — were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause," Obama said. "To say that men and women should not inject their 'personal morality' into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

Obama was not without his critics, however. A Christianity Today editorial, "God's Will in the Public Square," said Obama "gets it mostly right." The editorial expressed concern with one passage that Obama acknowledged "is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do." He said, "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. ...

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June 2008

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