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Latest update : 2008-08-17

Democrat Barack Obama and his Republican rival John McCain addressed a forum at a California evangelical megachurch on Saturday as the politics of faith take center stage in the White House campaign.

Presidential election rivals Barack Obama and John McCain met on the campaign trail for the first time here Saturday at a mega-church forum to examine their religious credentials.
Democratic candidate Obama and Republican hopeful McCain shook hands and hugged briefly at the mid-point of the two-hour discussion, which was moderated by prominent evangelical Rick Warren, pastor at the huge Saddleback Church.
Warren quizzed each of the candidates separately for an hour on election issues, with both Obama and McCain earning regular applause from a crowd of around 2,000 people at the church's auditorium.
Though presented as a forum on faith, the question and answer sessions were dominated by the familiar campaign issues of the Iraq war, national security energy and finance policy.
Asked by Warren to reveal the biggest moral failures of America and his life, Obama said he had been guilty of "fundamental selfishness" at times, also mentioning his experimental use of drugs in the past.
"I had a difficult youth," Obama said. "There were times when I experimented with drugs.
"Americans' greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we still don't abide by that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me," Obama said.
McCain later cited his unsuccessful first marriage as his biggest moral failure. "My greatest moral failing, and I have been a very imperfect person, is the failure of my first marriage," McCain said.
"America's greatest moral failure has been throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self interest."
Both candidates were quizzed for their views on same-sex marriage and abortion, Obama sidestepping when asked directly to give his view on when a baby began to enjoy human rights.
"I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade," Obama said.
McCain, who is opposed to abortion, replied bluntly to the same question. "From the moment of conception," McCain said. "I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies."

Date created : 2008-08-17