Democrats strive to show they've got faith too

The Democratic National Convention looks different this year as Christian and other religious leaders take centre stage this week as part of the Democrats' effort to show a more faith-friendly image to American voters.

"Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith - and this convention will demonstrate that in an unprecedented way," Leah Daughtry, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee and a Pentecostal pastor, said in a written statement, according to Fox News.

"As convention CEO and a pastor myself, I am incredibly proud that so many esteemed leaders from the faith community will be with us to celebrate this historic occasion and honour the diverse faith traditions inside the Democratic party."

The convention, which officially opens Monday afternoon, will feature its first-ever faith caucus meetings led by prominent leaders to discuss topics important to religious voters.

Faith panel discussions include "Faith in 2009: How an Obama Administration will Engage People of Faith" and "New Faith Voters: What it Means for this Election and the Country".

Also, every night at the convention there will be an opening invocation and a closing benediction by religious leaders.

In Denver, "there's going to be a lot more" references to faith "than there ever have been", commented Eric Sapp, a consultant who advises the Democrats on reaching religious voters, according to the Wall Street Journal. For the Democratic party, "this is going to be historic," he enthused.

Evangelical megachurch pastor Joel C Hunter of NorthLand, a Church Distributed branch near Orlando, will deliver the benediction Thursday night when Senator Barack Obama will accept his party's nomination to run for president.

Hunter, along with fellow megachurch pastor Bishop Charles E Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, are both participating in the convention despite having made clear that they are against abortion, which the Democratic Party supports.

Instead of fighting pro-choice Democrats, the two anti-abortion Christian leaders are seeking to work with them to find ways to reduce the practice.

Other prominent Christians who will be involved in events at the Convention include progressive evangelical leader the Rev Jim Wallis of Sojourners and the Rev Otis Moss Jr of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.

This year, religion is playing a prominent role at the Democratic Convention largely in part because of Obama's own emphasis on reaching faith voters.

From Gospel concerts to meetings with some of the nation's top Christian leaders, the Obama campaign has made connecting with faith voters one of its top priorities.

"People of faith are being engaged in the convention in a new and robust way, and it's because of Senator Obama's acknowledgment that people of faith and values have an important place in American public life," said Joshua DuBois, the Obama campaign's religious affairs director, according to Fox News.

The Democratic Convention will end on Thursday, and will be followed by the Republican National Convention on September 1-4 in Minneapolis.