Sunday, December 03, 2006

Democrats tap religious leader for radio talk

Democrats tap religious leader for radio talk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats turned to an evangelical Christian to give their weekly radio address on Saturday, citing a desire to avoid partisanship after last month's elections that gave them control of Congress.

"I want to be clear that I am not speaking for the Democratic Party, but as a person of faith who feels the hunger in America for a new vision of our life together, and sees the opportunity to apply our best moral values to the urgent problems we face," the Rev. Jim Wallis said in his remarks.

Wallis, author of 2005's "God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It," highlighted issues that he said required a new direction, including U.S. policy in Iraq. He also called for new efforts to combat poverty and protect the environment.

"We need serious solutions, not the scapegoating of others," Wallis said. "The path of partisan division is well worn, but the road of compassionate priorities and social justice will lead us to a new America."

In a statement, incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he chose Wallis to give the address, usually reserved for politicians, "in the spirit of bipartisanship."

Wallis heads a ministry in Washington called Sojourners and has been widely viewed as part of the religious left. He rejects that label and preaches the need to bring the nation to "a moral center."

Reid called Wallis nonpartisan.

In recent months, Democrats have been trying to reach out more to the religious community in an effort to build up public support for their priorities.

About a year ago, Wallis was one of more than 100 religious activists arrested on Capitol Hill during a peaceful demonstration against health care and social welfare cuts proposed by Republicans.