On September 12th, 1960, Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy addressed a group of Protestant ministers at the Rice Hotel in Houston, Texas. Many Protestants in the United States (particularly in the South) had expressed concern that a Roman Catholic President would be a mere puppet of the Vatican. Senator Kennedy went into the lions’ den to address the issue directly.
Here is a short excerpt.
I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end – where all men and all churches are treated as equal – where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice – where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind – and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
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 believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
This speech is getting some attention once again in the 2012 Presidential campaign, as Republican contender Rick Santorum (also a Catholic) has condemned the sentiment in some very strong terms.
Thank you, Rick, but I hold with JFK.
You can watch a video of the entire speech at the following link.
Address of Senator John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, September 12, 1960. [John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum]