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Politics and Pulpits Combine To Sway Swing-State Voters

At both of his stops in Philadelphia, Kennedy quoted the scriptures, choosing the chapter in Matthew that describes how Christ will hold men accountable for how they treated those most in need. "America will never truly be American if we keep ignoring these words. They are the basic rights of all our brothers and sisters," he said.

But for the most part Kennedy's comments were an indictment of Bush's record on education, health care, civil rights, the economy and the Iraq war.

President Bush speaks at a campaign rally in Alamogordo, N.M. He rarely speaks at churches, but others push his issues from the pulpit. (Kevin Lamarque -- Reuters)

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"We have only nine days left before the election. The issue is jobs. The issue is our schools. The issue is our health care and our hospitals. . . . The issue is our security and how to find our way back to a more peaceful world," Kennedy said. "We have an opportunity in this election -- and an obligation as well -- to choose a president who shares our commitment and our values. I know John Kerry and I know he will be there for all in need," he said. "As the Gospel teaches us, 'By their deeds, ye shall know them.' John Kerry's deeds show what kind of leader he is today and what kind of president he will be."

At Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, a large and lively congregation in a working-class section, ushers passed out Kerry-Edwards fans. The fans read "Hope is on the way" on one side and "Help is on the way" on the other.

Worshipers applauded and called out their approval when Kennedy criticized Bush's management of the Iraq war and his economic policies, particularly his opposition to increasing the minimum wage. "The minimum wage is a women's issue, too, because 61 percent of all the workers who would benefit are women," Kennedy said, prompting several women in the audience to respond, "That's right!"

Bishop Ernest C. Morris, the pastor, is head of Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, a group of religious leaders representing more than 400 churches that has endorsed Kerry. The city is overwhelmingly Democratic and African Americans are about half of the party's registered voters -- essential to Kerry's victory in the state. After Kennedy spoke, Morris told his congregation: "I cannot tell you who to vote for, but I can tell you that my mama always told me, 'Stay out of the bushes.' " The congregation laughed and applauded.

Kennedy also spoke at Zion Baptist Church, one of the city's oldest and most respected congregations.

Edwards told parishioners in Cincinnati that "the next president of the United States will very likely appoint at least one, two, maybe three justices to the United States Supreme Court, and we need to ensure that we have a president that will appoint justices to that court that allow us to continue the march toward equality and justice in America."

Edwards also quoted Martin Luther King Jr., as Kennedy had, and spoke of his upbringing as the son of a mill worker. "I come from a humble background, like many of you come from," Edwards said. "I've been very lucky and very blessed. And I didn't make this march alone. The Lord was with me every step of the way."

He was introduced by the Rev. Donald H. Jordan Sr., who urged the more than 500 present to vote for the Kerry-Edwards ticket, saying he did not care if doing so ran afoul of federal regulations that limit political speech from nonprofit religious institutions.

Williams reported from Philadelphia. Staff writer John Wagner, traveling with Edwards, contributed to this report.

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