2004 CAMPAIGN Pastor rebuffs criticism for welcoming Kerry



Springfield was just one of the Ohio stops Kerry made on his campaign trail.
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) -- A church pastor who invited Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry to speak during a Sunday service said he rebuffed criticism from others upset by Kerry's support of a woman's right to have an abortion.
The Rev. Ronald Logan, senior pastor of the Greater Grace Temple, didn't identify the source of the criticism, but the full house of 800 loudly cheered and applauded when the Rev. Mr. Logan said he welcomed Kerry and running mate John Edwards as fellow worshippers. They were joined by four Ohio congressional Democrats and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn, who sat in the front row.
Mr. Logan estimated that he and his family received 30 to 40 telephone calls at home and at church during the past week, protesting his decision to allow Kerry to visit.
"To all those Christian brothers and sisters who called me and [wife Monica] Logan with negative comments, I respect your right to do that. But you should respect my right to worship with anybody I want to worship with," he told his congregation during the Sunday service. "We are a church. I don't believe in abortion. I don't believe in gay marriage," Mr. Logan said. "But if two men are married to each other and they come in here, I will minister to them." His comments were met with a deafening roar of approval.
Kerry, in brief remarks, said, "We're not running to be religious leaders, we're running to be lay leaders. But there's no way you can be separated from your fundamental beliefs that bring you to the table."
Kerry is Roman Catholic and has been criticized by some church leaders for supporting abortion rights.
In Bowling Green
Later, in northwest Ohio's Bowling Green, Kerry told a crowd packed into a block of Main Street that he would fight to prevent a flood of steel imports from taking more American jobs.
"I promise you you're going to have a president and vice president that will fight harder for your jobs than we do for our own," he said.
While in Springfield, Kerry lingered in the church lobby after the service, signed autographs on church bulletins and notebook paper and had his picture taken with numerous churchgoers.
Kenneth Brown, 43, of Springfield, said he liked what he heard from Kerry during the service. Brown said he already planned to vote for Kerry this November.
Brown, a mechanic in the Army's 101 Airborne Division from 1984-98, said he supported President Ronald Reagan during that time.
But now he thinks Kerry is the right person to lead the country.
"The main thing about Bush, it's not the war. It's more about the economy for me -- which one can jump-start the economy," Brown said.
Protesters' signs
Across the street from the church, about 50 abortion protesters held signs reading "Kerry is not pro-life." Another sign displayed a photo of a fetus with the words "Kerry is responsible for this." Police kept watch over the demonstration, which remained peaceful.
Protester Cecilia Ollhoff, 20, of Springfield, said she plans to vote for Bush in the next election.
"He's against abortion," she said of Bush. "That's a big issue with me."
Another big issue in the area is jobs.
Springfield is in Clark County, which used to claim International Truck & amp; Engine as its top employer. The company has reduced its work force from 4,700 jobs in 1999 to 1,500 today.
In 2000, Democratic Al Gore edged Bush by 324 votes out of more than 55,000 cast in the county.
But, Bush carried both Miami and Greene counties, which border Dayton and boast communities of upscale suburbs and workers with good-paying jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services estimates that the state has lost more than 200,000 jobs since Bush took office.
Cities covered
Kerry, who has thus far concentrated on campaigning in Ohio's largest cities, also included Zanesville and Bowling Green on the 21-state trip he is making after accepting his party's presidential nomination at the Democratic convention last week. Bush, meanwhile, campaigned in Canton and Cambridge on Saturday as he began a bus tour.
After the Bowling Green rally, Steve Riderman, a firefighter from Sandusky, said Kerry's pledge to improve health care resonated with him.
"It's time we take care of the elderly," Riderman said. "In our line of work, we've seen a lot of elderly people go without their medication because they can't afford it."
Bowling Green, a Republican-leaning college town, is in Wood County, near Toledo. Voters in the northwest Ohio county have backed the winner in the last six presidential elections, starting in 1980. And two out of three registered voters in Wood County are independents, a valuable commodity in an election that both parties say they consider a close contest.
Gore lost Ohio by 3.6 percentage points in 2000.

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