WEIRTON, W.Va. – John Edwards (search) says voters should know that religion is important to him and to presidential candidate John Kerry (search) but the issue shouldn't be used to divide people in the election.
"My faith is very important to me, and the same is true of John Kerry," the Democratic vice presidential candidate and son of a deacon said in a brief interview with The Associated Press after a campaign stop in West Virginia.
"The two of us talk about our faith — with each other," he said Wednesday. "Our faith is important to us and it's always been important to us, and people should know that."
Edwards, a Methodist, said most Americans want a good leader — a man who is a good husband and a good father — "and if they're a person of faith, that helps."
"I don't think that faith should be used to divide us," he said.
However, religion has emerged as an issue as both parties battle for West Virginia's five electoral votes.
President Bush, who has visited West Virginia nine times since April, has found staunch support among conservative Christians. At rallies across the state, dozens have cited his faith in God as the main reason for their support — more important than jobs, the economy and the war in Iraq.
On the Senate floor in Washington on Thursday, West Virginia Democrat Robert C. Byrd denounced Republican campaign literature sent out in his state featuring a picture of the Bible with the word "banned" stamped across its cover. He urged Bush to make the Republican National Committee apologize for the literature, which contends liberals want to ban the Bible.
"If ever there were one book that should never be used for political gain, if ever there were one book that should never be the subject of lies and deception, it is the Bible," Byrd said.
The mailing also shows a photo of a man on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word "ALLOWED," a reference to same-sex marriage.
"Senator Byrd is a respected member of Congress, and we expect him to speak his mind," said Mary Diamond, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee in West Virginia. "It was an issue that was already out there. It was obviously on the minds of voters."
Bush defeated Al Gore in West Virginia in 2000.