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ABC "Good Morning America Interview with Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)

Interview

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ABC "GOOD MORNING AMERICA" INTERVIEW WITH SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D-IL) INTERVIEWER: ROBIN ROBERTS

MS. ROBERTS: And Illinois Senator Barack Obama joins us now from the nation's capital. Good to see you, Senator Obama. Thank you for joining us; we appreciate it.

SEN. OBAMA: Great to talk to you, Robin.

MS. ROBERTS: What do you believe is wrong with the way Democrats deal with religion and, in particular, religious voters?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, you know, the speech actually wasn't focused on Democrats solely. My point was, we have this split inside our politics in which the Democrats oftentimes are perceived as having been reluctant to talk about faith and religion, partly because of legitimate concerns about separation of church and state. And Republicans are often perceived as being heavy-handed with religion, when in fact most evangelicals, I think, are a lot more open-minded to a whole host of issues than people give them credit for.

So my point was that we need to have a more complex, more nuanced conversation about religion. And if we do that, then I think the whole country benefits.

MS. ROBERTS: You, by your own admission, you were very honest in your speech yesterday, where you say you too were reluctant to talk about religion. And one point, when you referred to your opponent in 2004, Alan Keyes, who challenged your Christianity, went as far as to say that Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama, and you admitted that you gave the typical liberal response that you couldn't impose your religious views. So, why are you changing now?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, I still think it's important in our campaigns to talk about the issues that matter to the people: health care, education, making sure that we're safe from terrorism. Those are still going to be the core issues of our politics. My point was that we should also be able to talk about the values that underlie those policies, and acknowledge that issues of moral concern, issues about how we raise our kids, issues about common good, that all those issues are legitimate parts of the public discourse as well.

MS. ROBERTS: We saw, of course, in the last presidential election moral values very much on the minds of voters who went to the polls. But it's also when evangelicals talk about the way Democrats traditionally vote, when it comes to gay rights and when it comes to also abortion, so it's not so much the family values that you talk about but how Democrats vote. So does there have to be a change there?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, there are going to be differences on issues, and not all these issues that touch on religious faith are easily resolved. I mean, the fact of the matter is is that there are going to be contentious debates around abortion and gay marriage, and that's part of our democratic process. My simple point is to make sure that we don't get so locked in to a particular perception about how one party or the other thinks that we miss the enormous complexity and diversity of religious views all across the country.

And, for example, there are evangelicals right now who are spending a lot of time thinking about how do we protect our environment and avoid global warming. There are folks who are working in Africa to make sure that the poor there are cared for. And those are potential bridges where we can at least start having a conversation, instead of the kind of, sort of back-and-forth sound- bite politics that we've gotten accustomed to.

MS. ROBERTS: Dialogue always so effective, and so helpful. You gave some big numbers yesterday, which is true; you said 90 percent of us Americans, 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion. So it's very important for Democrats and all politicians to consider that when they're asking for peoples' votes.

SEN. OBAMA: I -- look, just as a practical matter, if the Democrats were just being strategic, they'd obviously want to speak to those issues. But I want to make clear that I also spoke to conservatives to say that the history of the separation of church and state is what has allowed religious freedom to thrive in this country, and that when we talk about issues, it's also important for us to recognize that there are folks who are non-believers, who are of different faiths, and we've got to translate whatever moral concerns or religious concerns that we have in a universal language that all Americans can talk about.

MS. ROBERTS: Senator Barack Obama, we appreciate your time this morning very much. Take care.

SEN. OBAMA: It was my pleasure, Robin.

END.


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