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Obama would overhaul Bush's faith-based initiatives

But in supporting religious charities, he runs the risk of alienating some Democrats.

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In a campaign already strongly emphasizing faith, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama announced his intent to make federal funding of religiously based organizations a key part of his push to help the needy.

His plan would overhaul and expand the controversial faith-based initiative that was an early cornerstone of President Bush's domestic program, which Senator Obama said had "never fulfilled its promise."

Obama's proposals, announced Tuesday, are likely to appeal particularly to African- Americans, who already lean Democratic, and to Evangelicals of various political stripes who are increasingly concerned about issues of poverty. He has stepped up his religious outreach in recent weeks, including seeking inroads into the Republicans' Evangelical base. But his proposals also run the risk of alienating Democrats opposed to funding religious groups for any purpose.

Obama said America's problems were too big to solve through government alone. "I believe that change comes not from the top down but from the bottom up, and few are closer to the people than our churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques," he said, during a visit to Eastside Community Ministry in Zanesville, Ohio.

The senator was careful to highlight key areas of difference between that initiative and his own proposal for a Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

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