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Candidate Clinton goes public with her private faith

She doesn't cede religious turf to conservatives but dismays some liberals.

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She quoted one of her favorite passages in Scripture – where it says in the Epistle of James that "faith without works is dead." She spoke of "the sustaining power of prayer," and how her own faith journey is approaching the half-century mark. She applauded the work of churches in ministering to the sick, as Jesus did.

"For many of us the golden rule calls on us to act," she said.

And when Hillary Rodham Clinton had finished her address to the annual Global Summit on AIDS, the full house of 1,700 people at Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., rose in a standing ovation.

In the course of the New York senator's 11-month-old presidential campaign, her appearance last month at the Rev. Rick "Purpose Driven Life" Warren's megachurch represented a rare, bold foray into the predominantly conservative world of evangelical Christianity. Whether the warm reception translates into votes remains to be seen, but at the very least, Ms. Clinton signaled that she's not writing anybody off. Nor is she ceding any religious turf to her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who addressed the AIDS summit at Saddleback last year.

While the former first lady has said that speaking publicly about her Methodist faith does not come naturally to her, the language of religion has in fact become a key element of her campaign. Typically, she has chosen like-minded audiences – from First Baptist Church in Selma, Ala., for a major civil rights commemoration last March, to a faith forum organized by the progressive group Sojourners last June, to countless other church appearances and meetings (and sometimes prayers) with religious leaders.

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