Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who two days earlier attacked his Republican opponent in the Senate race over his Mormon religion, appeared to be backing off those earlier remarks after a barrage of press criticism. "I believe that religion should not be an issue in this campaign," Kennedy said in a statement. "The way to make that so is to stop talking about it and to focus on issues like jobs and health care, which is exactly what I intend to do." Kennedy's conciliatory statement came after both of Boston's main newspapers blasted him for telling reporters Monday that Mitt Romney, a multimillionaire and former Mormon leader, should be questioned about his church's policy of excluding blacks from the priesthood prior to 1978.