For all practical purposes, it resembled an interfaith worship service. In a move designed to appeal to religious voters, the Democrats opened their convention in Denver last night with prayer, a gospel song, and a Torah recitation by a rabbi. A Catholic nun, Helen Prejean, author of Dead Men Walking discussed the death penalty, and Muslim women in headscarves also made appearances. (You may recall that Obama received some criticism when his staff asked two Muslim women wearing headscarves not to stand behind him at an appearance.)
Overall, it appears that the Democrats are reaching toward a religious audience, with the idea of inclusion rather than exclusion. However, they appear to be targeting the coveted evangelical constituency who is likely to vote for them.
There will also be four different “faith caucuses” held during the convention.
It is hard to think that solidly Republican evangelical voters will come out in favor of Obama, but this open embrace of faith may attract voters who are religious but concerned about the emergence of theocratic rhetoric on the right. It will also open doors for religious voters who lean toward the left on issues such as the death penalty, health care, and social welfare programs.
It will also be interesting to see how the Republicans plan to upstage this demonstration of faith next week in Minneapolis. One thing that is certain is that religion will continue to play a central role through the election in November.