Monday, February 27, 2012

Selections from John F. Kennedy's Speech to the Protestant Ministers of Houston (TX) on Religious Freedom and the Eligibility of Catholics to Serve as President

In 1960, many Americans opposed the election of a Catholic as President of the United States.  Opposition was strongest from many conservative Protestant ministers.  JFK took this issue head on in a speech in Houston, declaring that it was unAmerican to vote against a candidate because of his denomination.

Recently, Rick Santorum said this speech made him want to "throw up."  (He said nothing about the attitude of the Protestant Ministers, a group he is now courting, who were divided between those who viewed Kennedy's speech favorably and those who thought he did not go far enough in assuring them he would respect Church-State separation.) Here are portions of the speech:

While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida -- the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power -- the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms -- an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues -- for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured -- perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this.

… I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote

while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew -- or a Quaker -- or a Unitarian -- or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you -- until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end

… That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe -- a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group.

… I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so -- and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test -- even by indirection -- for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.

This is the kind of America I believe in -- and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died."

And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died -- when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches -- when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom -- and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey -- but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo.

… instead of judging me on the basis of … pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith -- nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

You can watch the entire speech here:


Anonymous said...

google santorum

just jake said...

And the poor folk over at, American papists et. al., must be in a depressed tizzy what with their guy Rick Santorum losing the Michigan and Arizona primaries. And I was so hoping that Santorum would be carrying the GOP banner into the general election. Didn't this group of heretic hunters start out supporting Newt Gingrich and then switch to Santorum? What was it that made 'em drop their support of Gingrich? I thought for awhile there that they were pretty much on staff for Gingrich.

Katherine said...

Saying JFK made him want to vomit did not help Santorum with Michigan Catholic voters. My friends from Michigan tell me they were amazed when they learned that TVs did not come from the store with hinged pictures of JFK and the Sacred Heart already on them!

Kathy said...

JFK? You mean the panderer?

just jake said...

JFK? The WWII hero? The guy who did so much to bring about racial equality? The guy who presided over a tax system that didn't favor the rich at the expense of working people and the poor? The guy who made sure that Americans weren't falling behind in scientific advances? Yea, he had a lot of personal flaws. No doubt about it. I'm just wondering what your claim to fame is, Kathy, besides being morally perfect?

Kathy said...

Good one, Jake! Ha!

Max said...

President Kennedy cut the top marginal rate on individual income by 21 points, reduced corporate taxes, and lowered the cost of capital by creating an investment tax credit. As the Kennedy tax cuts were phased in from 1962 to 1965, not only did revenues grow by more than a five percent yearly average, GDP surged at a five and a half percent average annual rate.

When JFK ran for President he refered to a missile gap, the USA did not have enough in relationship to Russia. JFK also said a rising tide raises all boats.He wouldnt last a second in today's Democrat party.

just jake said...

It's ahistorical to straightout compare the 1960s to 2012.

First of all, JFL reduced the corporate tax rate from 52-48% back then and now in the 35% range. Not to mention all the other tax write-offs and breaks that now figure into the equation.

Kennedy did push tax cuts, and his plan, which passed in February 1964, three months after his death, did help spur economic growth. But, Max, you're wrong to see the tax reduction as a supply-side cut, like Reagan's and Bush's; it was a demand-side cut.

A demand-side cut rests on the Keynesian theory that public consumption spurs economic activity. Government puts money in people's hands, as a temporary measure, so that they'll spend it. A supply-side cut sees business investment as the key to growth. Government gives money to businesses and wealthy individuals to invest, ultimately benefiting all Americans. Back in the early 1960s, tax cutting was as contentious as it is today, but it was liberal Democrat demand-siders who were calling for the cuts and generating the controversy.

And you're right that if JFK was alive today and he wanted to increase the number of missiles to counter the Soviet threat, he wouldn't stand a chance, especially given that there is no longer a Soviet threat.

Katherine said...

Santorum has now done some big time backtracking from his first statement.

Max said...

just jake said...
It's ahistorical to straightout compare the 1960s to 2012

Why, you did in your previous post. I just pointed out his tax and defense policies would be considered pretty darn conservative.

Government when cutting taxes is not giving a business or an individual money, they are confiscating less of that business or individuals money.

The difference btwn us is you think all money belongs to the state, and they dole it out as they see fit, I think it belongs to the people who actually earned the money, and the state should confiscate the minimum amount needed to function.

BTW call it what you want but cutting marginal rates is cutting marginal rates.

No there isnt a Soviet threat, there is a Jihadist threat, an Iranian threat, North Korean threat and rapidly expanding Chinease military capabilities.

just jake said...


You made the comparison and I tried to show why you shouldn't do it.

The corporate tax rate now is lower than what it was during Kennedy's time. I don't see how that makes him so conservative.

You see all taxation as a matter of confiscation. I see the taxes I pay as a contribution that benefits society, my neighbors and me.

Nevertheless, I wish the tax rates were not so favorable to the rich at the expense of working families and the poor.

What would you propose to do so different than President Obama in relation to existing threats? Bombs away?