I agree with Tom Beaudoin that no one's faith can be captured by the sound bites that candidates are compelled to utter on the campaign trail ["Talk That Diminishes Faith," op-ed, Oct. 22].

Unfortunately, it isn't help- ful to urge that we not discuss what cannot be so expressed. After all, almost everything candidates say on the stump is inadequate to the phenomena they address, whether that is foreign policy dilemmas, the appropriate level of taxation or their faith. If the candidates were to follow Mr. Beaudoin's advice, they would be reduced to silence, a prospect some of us, of course, might joyously welcome.

If the character of a candidate matters, then the voters are entitled to all the clues, however problematically presented, that they can gather.

It matters to me, for example, that much of Sen. John F. Kerry's religious speech has been devoted to impugning President Bush's good faith in front of African American audiences.

It is difficult to derive immediate policy prescriptions from Scripture. And people of good faith can disagree about how best to resolve thorny moral and political problems. So I don't mind when either Mr. Kerry or Mr. Bush tries to show me what's in his heart.

I object when either one tries to tell me what's in the other's heart.


Dunwoody, Ga.