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Democrats Begin Convention in Prayer Service

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For most of the delegates attending this week's Democratic National Convention in Denver, politics is like a religion. Religion of the more traditional sort took its place front and center Sunday afternoon. But KPCC's Special Correspondent Kitty Felde reports it was hard to keep the political hot button issues out of the interfaith service.

[Church music plays]

Kitty Felde: It sounded like Sunday morning in any of dozens of African-American churches in Los Angeles. Women wore fancy hats – a lime green pillbox with sequins and a big net bow, and one the color of a Tequila Sunrise.

There was even preaching by Bishop Charles E. Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ on Crenshaw Boulevard. But the prayers and sermons had a definite political edge, like the one from a Catholic nun known for her work against the death penalty, Sister Helen Prejean.

Helen Prejean: Is it not time for us as a nation to be converted from our pursuit of violence to become a nation that embraces dialogue, diplomacy with our adversaries, which is the way of respect? Are we ready to build a peace academy alongside our military academies?

Wouldn't it be life giving if every school child in America would learn non-violent conflict resolution? And wouldn't it be downright exciting if Congress would offer to be first to pilot the program?

Felde: Outside the convention center where the Faith in Action interfaith service was held, a handful of anarchists challenged police. And anti-abortion activists challenged Democrats on an issue has been at the center of political action by evangelical Christians.

Anti-abortion activist: Those of you who've come from the interfaith gathering, wake up. Do you really think God wants us to kill our own children?

Felde: There were also a few Democrats uncomfortable with the religious service. They wore t-shirts reading "secular values voter." But others, like Pat Sanders of the L.A. County Democratic Central Committee, appreciated the opportunity to worship with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians.

Pat Sanders: You know, we've always been people of faith. We just never acknowledged that, and I'm glad to see that happen.

Felde: Also at the interfaith service was Elizabeth Johnson, an alternate delegate from Los Angeles.

Elizabeth Johnson: I wanted to come because I thought it would be something different, and I thought it would be representative of all the faiths, and because I feel the Republicans are trying to use religion as a wedge issue, and I thought this was a perfect way to bring the Democrats together around faith, and not particular religions.

Singer: If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then I shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

Felde: Tonight, another man of religion addresses the opening session of the convention: Sunday school teacher, and former president, Jimmy Carter.