ST. LOUIS – John Kerry (search) cited a Bible verse Sunday to criticize leaders who have "faith but has no deeds," prompting President Bush's spokesman to accuse Kerry of exploiting Scripture for a political attack.
Kerry never mentioned Bush by name during his speech at New North Side Baptist Church (search), but aimed his criticism at "our present national leadership." Kerry cited Scripture in his appeal for the worshippers, including James 2:14, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?"
"The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?" Kerry said. "When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion?"
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's comment "was beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for a political attack."
Kerry told worshippers in the largely black congregation that the country's leadership has served the privileged while ignoring people across America who live in neighborhoods like theirs.
"Today we are told that, after 3 million lost jobs and so many lost hopes, America is now turning a corner," the pending 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."
Kerry is Roman Catholic, but his support for abortion rights is at odds with Vatican teachings.
"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," Kerry said in an interview with Time posted on the magazine's Web site Sunday.
Kerry spent the weekend campaigning in Missouri, a state he hopes to take from Bush's win column in the November election. Bush defeated Gore 50 percent to 47 percent in the state in 2000.
Before church, 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!" 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 Kerry's thin 6-foot-4 physique he said, "You need a little flesh on."
Kerry agreed. "I know. I'm working on it," he said.