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The role of religion under Obama

Wednesday's National Prayer Service featured an array of faith leaders, as Democrats aim for inclusiveness and a fuller religious voice.

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Inaugural capstone: The Obamas, Bidens, and Clintons were at Washington National Cathedral Jan. 21 for a prayer service.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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After decades of ceding God to the GOP, at least in the public square, Democrats – with President Obama in the lead – are speaking with a fuller religious voice. The watchword? Inclusiveness.

It's a voice that signals openness at a time when diversity in American religious life is rising.

"We know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and nonbelievers," Mr. Obama said in Tuesday's inaugural address.

Wednesday's National Prayer Service, a tradition since George Washington's inauguration, featured faith leaders chosen "to symbolize America's traditions of religious tolerance and freedom," said the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee. It included, for the first time, a sermon delivered by a woman.

For Obama, the broad outreach into the faith community isn't confined to ceremonies but is emerging as a key element in his approach to coalition-building, say religious leaders who worked on the transition.

"Barack Obama is himself a person of faith, but he also believes that the faith community has a real role to play in creating the kind of social change we need now," says the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a network of Christian social activists.

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