Bankers are asked to help answer many questions every day. "Is there a God?" is usually not one of them.

Yet, Cosmopolitan Bank and Trust lent resources to help answer that question and others on Friday and Saturday when it sponsored the Newberry Library's Bughouse Square Debates in Washington Square Park in downtown Chicago.

The headquarters of the $265 million-asset company is two blocks south of the park, which has a long history of soapbox orators such as Clarence Darrow.

On Friday some of those were reincarnated as actors playing roles and delivering speeches.

"I had to continually remind myself that they're just actors," said Cosmopolitan's president, Gary Pett, who was there both days.

On Saturday contemporary speakers addressed topics such as health care, telephone rates, and the drug war. The main debate, between the Rev. Eugene Walker of the Chicago Temple/First United Methodist Church and author Kenan Heise - who studied to be a priest before becoming an atheist - tried to answer the question, "Is there a God?"

The Newberry Library hosts the Bughouse Square Debates every year. This is the first time Cosmopolitan has sponsored the event, but Mr. Pett said it has quarterly receptions and lectures at its headquarters to attract new customers - "the kind of intellectually interesting people we're looking for," said Mr. Pett, who added that he believes in God.

He noted that the receptions usually cost between $1,000 and $2,000 and that sponsoring the debates was "not inexpensive," but he said they create interest in Cosmopolitan.

"If we can get a hundred new names, that's great," Mr. Pett said.

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