Obama works to win religious voters

Barack Obama showed his religious audience he was comfortable talking their talk, calling his faith “a personal commitment to Christ.”

And then he promised that if elected president he'd use tax dollars to help them do “the Lord's work.”

His appeal Tuesday to the hearts and minds of religious voters was aimed at trying to persuade a group that makes up a quarter of the electorate and usually votes Republican to take a hard look at the Democratic presidential candidate.

After a tour of a Presbyterian Church-based social services facility, Obama said he would expand President Bush's program to steer more federal social service dollars to religious charities.

“We need an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said at Eastside Community Ministry.

Making it personal, he said it was partly his own faith, which he first embraced as a community organizer in devastated Chicago neighborhoods, which persuaded him that social action is necessary.

“While I could sit in church and pray all I want, I wouldn't be fulfilling God's will unless I went out and did the Lord's work,” Obama said.

The announcement of his social services plan was part of a series of events aimed at reassuring skeptical voters about his candidacy and shifting away from his image as part of the Democratic Party's most liberal wing.

He paired his talk about faith in the battleground state of Ohio with a speech on patriotism Monday in Missouri, another battleground for the November election.

Wednesday, he travels to Colorado Springs, Colo., a hub of conservative Christian organizations, for a speech on services.

All the while, he has been risking protests in his own party with his aggressive reach for voters who usually vote Republican.

Obama contended he is merely stating long-held positions – surprising to some, he said, after a primary campaign in which he was “tagged as being on the left.”