Casey, Santorum Talk About Faith in Pa.

The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; 10:13 PM

GRANTHAM, Pa. -- Democrat Bob Casey highlights his religious work while Republican Sen. Rick Santorum seeks out evangelical Christians, a reflection of the fierce fight for voters of faith.

Casey, who is a Catholic, has been talking openly about his religious upbringing and his work with the Jesuit Corps. He unveiled a 60-second television ad in the Philadelphia market Tuesday featuring a former student talking about Casey's mentoring from days in the corps' inner-city program.

Similar to a missionary assignment, Casey spent one year with the organization, which he described in a speech last week at Catholic University in Washington.

Religion "is something that a lot of us share, no matter what faith we are," Casey said in a recent interview.

The two-term Santorum, who also is Catholic, has been outspoken on issues consistent with the church's teachings such as opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. He wrote a book, "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good," in which he wrote, "Religious congregations are, by an overwhelming margin, the most important intermediate institution outside the family for the vast majority of Americans."

On Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, close to Santorum's hometown, James Dobson's Focus on the Family Action held a "Stand for the Family" rally in support of the religious right that drew about 3,000 people to Mellon Arena, according to arena security officials. Santorum, who has regular meetings with a religious working group, is slated to address the conservative Family Research Council's voter summit on Saturday.

At the Pittsburgh rally, Dobson expressed disappointment that Republicans did not, in his view, take stands on issues ranging from the military to the definition of marriage that were more in line with the so-called values voters who turned out two years ago. Despite that, Dobson urged his supporters to vote in larger numbers in November.

"Whether Republicans deserve the power they were given, the alternatives are downright frightening," Dobson said.

Religion has been at the forefront of the competitive Pennsylvania race pitting two somewhat similar candidates _ both Catholic, both opposed to abortion. It reflects a change from recent elections when many Democrats tended to avoid talking about their faith and essentially conceded religious voters to Republicans. It also highlights a new willingness by Democrats to discuss religion in personal terms.

On Monday, Democratic Sen. John Kerry, the party's 2004 presidential nominee, delivered a speech in California in which he talked of "godly tasks" and described his own journey of faith.

In a recent ad in the Tennessee Senate race, Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr., seated in a church, tells voters, "I started church the old-fashioned way. I was forced to and I'm better for it."

This spring, Santorum addressed via video a get-out-the-vote training session of the Pennsylvania Pastors Network. Once Casey heard about it, he asked to speak to the group and was given a chance. He did it in person.

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