WEIRTON, W. Va. -- John Edwards says voters should know that religion is important to him and to his Democratic presidential running mate, John F. Kerry, but says the issue should not be used to divide people in the election.
''My faith is very important to me, and the same is true of John Kerry," Edwards said in a brief interview 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."
Edwards, a Methodist son of a deacon, 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.
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 yesterday, Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, denounced GOP 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 says 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.