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The candidates and their faithful

August 19, 2008

Re "Contrasting styles, views in sharp focus," Aug. 17

Even though I strongly believe in the separation of church and state, I listened with interest to the Saddleback forum on the radio. I was surprised to see how Barack Obama's and John McCain's answers were portrayed in the subhead of the article in The Times.

Instead of saying that Obama was open and thoughtful, it called him "analytical" and "nuanced." Instead of saying that McCain pandered, it said he answered "crisply" to "greater applause." In that forum, did anyone expect that McCain wouldn't get greater applause? I was pleasantly surprised at how much applause Obama did get, without obviously pandering to the audience.

Obama was clearly the more impressive candidate; but you'd never know from your subhead.

Morty Mittenthal

Pasadena

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The difference between McCain and Obama was glaringly apparent during their recent forum in Lake Forest.

Obama responded to the questions with statements that were measured and nuanced. I listened closely and did not hear many specific answers to what were clearly "yes" or "no" questions.

McCain answered succinctly and without equivocation. I may not agree with McCain on every issue, but I do sincerely believe that he means what he says. For a president of the United States, this is a critically important asset -- especially when dealing with potentially hostile nations that need to know, in no uncertain terms, where we stand.

Looks like the "Straight Talk Express" is back on track.

Neal Rein

Westlake Village

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If you're going to present the candidates before an evangelical crowd at a mega-church and ask them about abortion, will you also stage a debate at the National Resources Defense Council headquarters about climate change? Before a big image of an oil-fouled beach strewn with dead animals in Prince William Sound, will you discuss oil exploration and energy policies? Will you set up camp before an employment center in Detroit and ask about our economic future? Outside a children's hospital ICU, will you have the candidates address our nation's healthcare and health insurance industries?

I hold my nation's president accountable for obligations beyond his faith and, most important, I vote on it.

Melonie Magruder

West Hollywood

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I'm shocked that The Times didn't raise the issue of whether a religious official should inject himself into a political discussion. Rick Warren's questions frame the race in an evangelical Christian context -- to the detriment of citizens who don't share those beliefs. The founders separated government from religion not to persecute Christians but to ensure that all could believe, or not believe, as they desired.

As U.S. senators, neither Obama or McCain should be promoting any particular religion. And church officials should not attempt to influence the voting preferences of their flocks, regardless of which religion is doing the influencing. Citizens must be free to select candidates without interference from religion -- not to promote a secular society, but to protect freedom of belief for all.

Tom Rossi

Irvine

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Re "Character is key, Warren says," Aug. 18

That Warren won't vote for an atheist shows extreme prejudice -- much as a racist won't vote for Obama, but cites reasons other than prejudice to account for his mind-set.

A president does not act alone -- he has a Cabinet, advisors and the Constitution. Human advisors are more likely to give informed advice than the supernatural advisor(s) of the ultra-religious.

Barbara Rowland

Winnetka

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