LEBANON, Va. -- "Why don’t we join with the Republicans and agree that children, families of the candidates, religion of the candidates, is off limits," asked a Virginian tonight at a town meeting with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
"Let me be very clear about this, and if there are members of the media who are listening, I hope they hear me loud and clear," Obama said. "I have said already that people’s families are off limits. They are civilians and they didn’t choose to run for office, and how qualified we are for office … isn't determined by what our children do. And I’m very protective of my two kids. They’re 10 and 7 and at some point I expect they’re gonna make a mistake. They’re not perfect, although I think they are and I don’t want them, particularly if I’m successful and I end up being in the White House -- I don’t want them to not be able to make mistakes or live ... out their childhood without it being in the papers.
"So, family, particularly children, I believe are off limits," he said.
"Now the second thing," Obama added. "I’m a Christian and I believe deeply in my faith."
The crowd applauded.
"So, the fact that Gov. Palin is deeply religious, that’s a good thing," Obama said. "You know, I give her all the credit in the world for that, and for people to start poking around and trying to, you know, paint that as if it’s, as if it’s strange and wrong, I think that’s offensive. I don’t think we should be doing that.
"Now if she’s got positions or John McCain’s got positions or I’ve got positions or Joe Biden has positions, public policy positions, that ... are part of government’s function, then I think it’s legitimate to have a debate about those positions, but don’t give people some sort of religious litmus test," he continued, "because I don’t want somebody to question my faith and I’m certainly not gonna question somebody else’s.
"I feel very strongly about that," Obama said. "This is a nation of believers. This is a nation of believers, and I’m one of them, and we may not agree on every single aspect of our faith, but what we can agree to is that faith is important in our lives and it shapes our values, and we should be respectful of each other’s faiths."
-- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller