The Rev. Rick Warren organized the forum at the Saddleback Church, a Christian mega-church in Lake Forest, Calif., at which McCain and likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama answered questions on faith and values. Obama went first while McCain was sequestered and unable to hear Obama's responses.
Asked when "a baby is entitled to human rights," McCain said "at the moment of conception." He said he would be a pro-life president but reiterated support for stem-cell research, although he said technological progress would render the stem-cell debate moot.
McCain said marriage is a union between one man and one woman but the state "should make those decisions."
He said his greatest personal moral failure was the failure of his first marriage, while America's greatest moral failure "has been throughout our existence perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self interest, although we have been the best at it."
During his turn on stage, Obama said he is pro-choice, "not because I am pro-abortion but ultimately because I don't think women make these decisions casually," and said the abortion debate should focus on reducing the number of abortions. He said he favor limits on late-term abortion "if there is protection for the mother's health."
He said marriage is the union between and a man and a woman but opposed a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, saying that has traditionally been a state matter.
Obama said his greatest personal moral failure was his drug and alcohol abuse as a youth, which he called a sign of selfishness. He said America's greatest moral failure "in my lifetime has been that we still don't abide by that basic precept of (Gospel author) Matthew that 'whatever you do for the least of my brothers you do for me.'"