WASHINGTON (BP)–John Kerry’s use of the Bible to criticize “our present national leadership” while speaking at a church March 28 brought a charge of “exploitation of Scripture” from a spokesman for President Bush.
In a speech at New Northside Missionary Baptist Church in St. Louis, the presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee referred to James 2:14, then to James 1:22 after saying there were too many hungry and homeless people in America.
“The scriptures say, ‘What does it profit my brethren if some say he has faith but does not have works?'” Kerry said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “When we look at what’s happening in America today, where are the works of compassion? Because it’s also written, ‘Be doers of the word and not hearers only.'”
Kerry did not refer to Bush by name during the 16-minute speech, only citing “our present national leadership,” The Times reported. A spokesman for the president’s re-election campaign made the connection, however.
Kerry’s comments “were beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse and a sad exploitation of Scripture for political attack,” Steve Schmidt of the Bush campaign said, according to The Times.
It was apparently not the first time Kerry has made such comments.
On March 7, Kerry said at a Mississippi church Bush does not practice the “compassionate conservatism” he preaches, Time magazine reported in an article on its website. The senator from Massachusetts cited James 2:14, according to Time, saying, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?”
It may be only the early stages of comments on faith and Scripture in an election campaign that still has more than seven months remaining.
Bush is a Methodist who has made public references to his conversion to Christ as an adult. He has cited the difference faith has made in his life while promoting his faith-based initiative. The program, one of his primary domestic efforts, is designed to grant access to federal funds to religious organizations seeking to do social service work.
Kerry is a Roman Catholic whose position on such issues as abortion is causing conflict with his church, according to the Time article. Kerry supports abortion rights, though the Catholic Church is strongly pro-life in its doctrine.
He voted March 25 against a bill recognizing an unborn child as a victim in federal crimes against a pregnant woman. He did so even though 13 of his fellow Democrats joined 48 Republicans in voting for it and polls show about 80 percent of Americans disagreed with him. Abortion-rights organizations opposed the measure, however.
“People in Rome are becoming more and more aware that there’s a problem with John Kerry, and a potential scandal with his apparent profession of his Catholic faith and some of his stances, particularly abortion,” a Vatican official said, according to Time.
Kerry told Time, “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.
“We have a separation of church and state in this country,” Kerry said. “As John Kennedy said very clearly, I will be a president who happens to be Catholic, not a Catholic president.”
Kerry appealed to religious faith at the close of his speech to the St. Louis church, according to The Times. He invoked the late civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. in saying, “We will join hands and hearts, and we will join in prayer, and together … we shall overcome.”