- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2004

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Sen. John Kerry, speaking yesterday to churchgoers on the city’s north side, rejected President Bush’s claim to be a compassionate conservative and said the administration was neglecting the less-fortunate.

“Today we are told that, after 3 million lost jobs and so many lost hopes, America is now turning a corner,” the presumed Democratic presidential nominee said.

“But those who say that, they’re not standing on the corner of Highland Street, where two 15-year-old teenagers were hit in a drive-by shooting last week,” he said.

Mr. Kerry never mentioned Mr. Bush by name, instead he aimed his criticism at “our present national leadership.” In appealing to worshippers to oppose the born-again Christian president, Mr. Kerry cited Scripture and an African proverb: “When you pray, move your feet.”

“The Scriptures say, ‘What does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?’” Mr. Kerry told the congregation at New North Side Baptist Church. “When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?”

Mr. Kerry is Roman Catholic, and his support for legal abortion is contrary to church teaching.

“I don’t tell church officials what to do, and church officials shouldn’t tell American politicians what to do in the context of our public life,” Mr. Kerry said in an interview with Time posted on the magazine’s Web site yesterday.

Mr. Kerry spent the weekend campaigning in Missouri, a state he hopes to take from Mr. Bush’s win column in the November election. In 2000, Mr. Bush defeated incumbent Vice President Al Gore by 50 percent to 47 percent in the state.

Before church, Mr. Kerry stopped at Chris’ Pancakes & Dining, where his physical appearance seemed to be the top concern among diners who agreed that he looked better in person than on television.

“That’s the third time this morning I’ve heard that,” Mr. Kerry said after being complimented by diner Eda Grassi. He replied that he’d have to start working on his camera angles.

“You look like a good Italian in this neighborhood,” said Caesar Valli. Then, taking a glance over Mr. Kerry’s thin 6-foot-4 physique he said, “You need a little flesh on.”

The Massachusetts senator agreed.

“I know. I’m working on it,” he said.

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