Presidential rivals openly discuss faith, moral missteps

U.S. presidental hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama were grilled on abortion, marriage and their Christian faith during a church forum in southern California on Saturday night.

In what sounded more like personal confessionals than campaign speeches, U.S. presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama took part in a forum on ethics and faith Saturday night as they courted evangelical Christian votes.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama shakes hands with supporters in Reno, Nev., on Sunday. ((Alex Brandon/Associated Press))

Meeting for the first time on stage in months, the two men answered the same questions at the Saddleback Community megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif. The Rev. Rick Warren queried each man for an hour before a crowd of 2,000 people.

When asked about their greatest moral failures, Democrat Obama cited his youthful experimentation with drugs, while his Republican rival noted his failed first marriage.

"I had a difficult youth," Obama said. "There were times when I experimented with drugs." He added that he had shown "fundamental selfishness" at times.

The men offered different views on abortion. Obama restated his support for legalized abortion, but added he wanted to see a reduction in the number of abortions.

McCain, on the other hand, bluntly expressed his anti-abortion stance, saying a baby's human rights begin "at conception."

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain in Long Beach, Calif., on Sunday ((Mary Altaffer/Associated Press))

Both men agreed that marriage should be defined as a union between a man and a woman, although Obama said he also supported civil unions for gay partners.

Explaining what it meant to him to be a Christian, Obama talked of "walking humbly with our God: I know that I don't walk alone, and I know that if I can get myself out of the way, that I can maybe carry out in some small way what he intends."

McCain was also asked what it meant to be a Christian, and said: "It means I'm saved and forgiven."

He also recalled how his religious faith sustained him in the face of torture as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "It took a lot of prayer," he said.