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Page last updated at 22:51 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 23:51 UK

Obama backs faith in public life

By James Coomarasamy
BBC News, Washington

Barack Obama speaks in Zanesville, Ohio, on 1 July 2008
Some voters are said to be unsure of Barack Obama's religious background

US presidential hopeful Barack Obama has said he would expand George W Bush's programme of involving religious groups in government initiatives.

The Democratic Party candidate unveiled plans for a council of faith-based and neighbourhood partnerships in Ohio.

He said challenges from saving the planet to ending poverty were too big for the government to solve on its own.

A council involving religious groups would help to set the national agenda, Senator Obama said in his speech.

"We know that faith and values can be a source of strength in our own lives," said Mr Obama.

"That's what it has been to me and that's what it has been to so many Americans. It can also be something more.

"It can be the foundation of a new project of American renewal and that's the kind of effort I intend to lead as president of the United States."

Unease

The Illinois senator was speaking in the key battleground state of Ohio as part of a series of speeches he is giving this week with an eye to voters in middle America who remain unsure about his patriotism and religious background.

Yet even as he was stressing his belief in the separation of church and state, the senator's plan was provoking unease amongst some groups who see it as a continuation of the faith-based programme of President Bush.

Former White House officials have claimed that was hi-jacked to promote partisan interests.

Yet paradoxically it is some of these ex-Bush administration insiders who are embracing Mr Obama's plans most enthusiastically.

It remains to be seen whether the voters will share that opinion.




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Winning post 270
Obama - Democrat
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McCain - Republican
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