Monday, February 27, 2012

Senator John F. Kennedy: Church and State Speech (1960)

Source:Sohra Bah- U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy (Democrat, Massachusetts) speaking about his views of the separation of church and state, in 1960.

"Listen to JFK here give his speech in 1960 when he was a Senator running for the Presidency and was getting a lot of heat from people(like Romney now) because he was Catholic and the U.S. had never had a Catholic President before. People were worried that the Vatican was going to sway JFK's actions as President. The people were wrong as he explains here in this video of him talking before the Houston's Ministers Conference." 

From Sohra Bah 

"On Sept. 12, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave a major speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion. At the time, many Protestants questioned whether Kennedy's Roman Catholic faith would allow him to make important national decisions as president independent of the church. Kennedy addressed those concerns before a skeptical audience of Protestant clergy. The following is a transcript of Kennedy's speech:

Kennedy: Rev. Meza, Rev. Reck, I'm grateful for your generous invitation to speak my views.

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." 

Source:NPR News- "Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy addresses the great Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of religion, Sept. 12, 1960" From NPR News.

From NPR News

"One of the political positions that I'm particularly proud of as an Adventist is our advocacy for the separation of church and state around the world. Here is video of John F. Kennedy's famous speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on the issue of religion in public life (1960).

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 parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all." 

I can't really improve or add anything to what Senator John Kennedy said here. I would just say that he was arguing for the First Amendment, the U.S, Constitution, and liberal democracy all in the same speech. He was making the case for both the freedom of religion for all believers and nonbelievers, as well as Agnostics, and the separation of church and state, in the same speech.This is a speech this is a speech about both Communists and the Christian-Rightists could both hate. 

There was nothing in JFK's entire career in Congress that suggested that he was either a Catholic-Theocrat, or a State-Atheist. The opposites are true on both questions. He was simply be attacked by what's called the Christian-Right today, but back in 1960 that term wasn't around yet, but he was being attacked by Anglo-Protestants in America simply for being a Catholic and perhaps being an Irish-Catholic as well. 

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