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Opening ceremonies

At the DNC | The Democratic National Convention opens in Denver, as the party takes steps to reach out to religious voters

DENVER-When Donald Miller steps behind the massive podium at the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver Monday night to deliver the closing prayer on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, he'll carry a prayer that he banged out on his laptop last night in a Mexican restaurant near the Denver airport.

In the bustling lobby of the Crown Plaza in downtown Denver, the Christian author of the best-selling book Blue Like Jazz told WORLD that he originally wrote "a very idealistic Thomas Jefferson prayer that nobody would understand." Coming back to it later, "I realized it was goofy," he said. So last night Miller popped open his laptop and typed out "what I would pray if there were no microphones or cameras."

A few miles away, technicians were inspecting the 3,300 miles of fiber installed to connect telecommunications throughout the 20,000-seat Pepsi Center. They've already removed 5,000 seats to make room for the stage, podium, and camera stands, and some 15,000 journalists were pouring in to find their seats in the massive arena. Miller's private prayer was about to become very public.

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As Miller goes public, so does a key theme of this year's Democratic convention: reaching out to religious voters. The convention started with an interfaith prayer gathering (interrupted by abortion protesters from Operation Rescue). For the first time in its history, the party will host faith caucuses, alongside forums for African Americans, rural farmers, Hispanics, women, homosexuals, and other groups.

Miller-one of eight religious leaders invited to deliver opening or closing prayers at the nightly convention sessions-knows many evangelicals will be skeptical of his participation and his support for Sen. Barack Obama. "You can deny the Trinity and get less anger than if you support a Democrat," he said.

Lots of that anger centers on Obama's pro-abortion views. The candidate earned a 100 percent rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) for his pro-abortion voting record, and has pledged to Planned Parenthood-the nation's largest abortion provider-that he will not waver in his support for legalized abortion.

Miller says he opposes abortion, but believes Democrats will take steps to support women facing unplanned pregnancies. He says that's more effective than what he calls Republicans' "100-year" plan to outlaw abortion: "I simply can't ever see that working." Obama's campaign is determined to reach out to other evangelicals like Miller, and hopes to peel off at least a small number in this election cycle.

The evangelicals who gathered last night in Skyline Park in downtown Denver won't be part of that number. At the pro-life gathering led by Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition, a young woman in a "Choose Life" T-shirt told the small crowd that she survived a late-term abortion. She urged Obama to "humbly repent" for his pro-abortion position, and pledged to continue to speak out against the practice that nearly ended her life: "I believe God spared my life to be a voice for those who will never have one."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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