John F. Kennedy: On the Separation of Church and State

There has been a great deal of talk and concern recently about the viewpoints of the Republican presidential candidates regarding the separation of church and state. One candidate — former Sen. Rick Santorum — said that while listening to presidential candidate John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on the separation of church and state, Santorum wanted to “throw up”. Rick Santorum is an ultra-conservative Catholic Republican, and Kennedy was a liberal Democrat who was also a Catholic. Kennedy went on to become the first Catholic  president of the U.S. His speech on the necessity of preserving the separation of church and state was historic.

I have linked to Santorum’s comments in a previous blog post, and now I would like to post a link to the text and a video of candidate John Kennedy’s speech from 1960. You can read the text, listen to an MP3 file of the audio, or watch an abbreviated version of the speech at the link below. You can also watch a video of the speech in its entirety from YouTube at the end of this post:

John F. Kennedy: Address To the Greater Houston Ministerial Association

Here are a few excerpts from the speech that make JFK’s points quite clear:

“While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 campaign … the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctors bills, the families forced to give up their farms — an America with too many slums, with too few schools … 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 barrier.

“But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured.”

“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 … “

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish … where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials … “

“I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty … 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 contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President.

“I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic.

“I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me … “

This was an amazing speech by a truly remarkable man.


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About At Random

I am (Ms.) Jay White Feather, a lifelong New York City resident, born and raised on the mean streets of Manhattan back in the day. I am of Native American heritage -- a native New Yorker who grew up back when it meant something to be a New Yorker. And to me, it still does mean something.
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