I was doing an interview with writer David Sedaris a few weeks ago when, after he complimented Charleston, I tried to goad him in to badmouthing Greenville. He was having none of it.

He loved the Upstate city’s downtown charm (which, I must say, they do right), but he obviously has never stood outside of Bob Jones University and had to listen to Christian nut-jobs screaming in bullhorns about how gays deserve AIDS.

But his pleasure with the city seems to be shared with politicos everywhere. Why, it wasn’t but months ago that Fred Thompson canceled a Charleston visit during his big announcement tour so that he could visit Greenville (well, OK, we didn’t miss anything there).

But now, there’s this really cool religious forum planned for Greenville where they appear to be looking beyond the bedroom to issues that people truly care about and, you know, things that really be called the business of the faithful.

A broad alliance of religious leaders, some of them also conservative Christians, is trying to persuade the candidates that the faith and values agenda is larger than those issues.

They are inviting Republican and Democratic candidates to speak at back-to-back “Compassion Forums” on Nov. 26 in Greenville, South Carolina, an early primary state.

They want to ask the candidates where they stand on climate change, torture, poverty in the United States and abroad, and genocide in Darfur – as well as abortion.

Who knows, maybe they think that we’ve got the compassion thing figured out down here in the Lowcountry. Sure, tell me that Charleston gets all the attention on TV and in tourist magazines, but that stuff doesn’t fill news pages, let me tell you that.