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JFK address to Southern Baptists, 1960

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pinto Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 09:50 PM
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JFK address to Southern Baptists, 1960

I am grateful for your generous invitation to state 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 I believe that we have far more critical issues in the 1960 election: the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers only ninety 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's 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 barrier.

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. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again -- not what kind of church I believe in for that should be important only to me, but what kind of America I believe in.

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 a 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 accepts 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.

For, 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 led 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 apart at a time of great national peril.

Finally, 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 to 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, both the lay and the 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 be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it, its occupancy from the members of any religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

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 if they disagree with that safeguard, they should be openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all and obligated to none -- who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require him to fulfill -- and whose fulfillment of his Presidential office is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

This is the kind of America I believe in -- and this is the kind of America I fought for in the South Pacific and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we might 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 did die 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, 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 Fuentes and McCafferty and Bailey and Bedillio and Carey -- but no one knows whether they were Catholics or not. For there was no religious test there.

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition, to judge me on the basis of fourteen years in the Congress -- on my declared stands against an ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I attended myself) -- and instead of doing this do not judge me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we have all seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic Church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and rarely relevant to any situation here -- and always omitting of course, that statement of the American bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed church-state separation.

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts -- why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit or prosecute the free exercise of any other religion. And that goes for any persecution at any time, by anyone, in any country.

And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would also cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as France and Ireland -- and the independence of such statesmen as de Gaulle and Adenauer.

But let me stress again that these are my views -- for, contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic 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.

Whatever issue may come before me as President, if I should be elected -- on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject -- I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictate. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come -- and I do not concede any conflict to be remotely possible -- when my office would require me to either violate my conscience, or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office, and I hope any other conscientious public servant would do likewise.

But 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 tried my best and was fairly judged.

But if this election is decided on the basis that 40,000,000 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.

But if, on the other hand, I should win this election, I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the Presidency -- practically identical, I might add with the oath I have taken for fourteen years in the Congress. For, without reservation, I can, and I quote "solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution so help me God."

Source: New York Times, September 13, 1960
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yes2truth Donating Member (278 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 10:00 PM
Response to Original message
1. Eloquent, like no other since Lincoln.

In the 1960 campaign, JFK came to my school for a political rally and I remember going up to the Cadillac convertible he was riding in and shaking his hand. Then, after the rally, I chased the car and shook hands with him a second time!

Every time I see a photograph of him in the Dallas parade, even now, I can recall that he looked exactly the same as he did whenever I saw him three years prior. Same posture, the way he sat in the car, same smile, same handsome man dressed to the nines. It's still hard to believe what was done to him, harder still to accept what I believe is the truth: that elements in our own Gov't conspired to remove him from office by taking his life.
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jaysunb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 11:00 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Welcome to DU
Thanks for sharing those wonderful memories.....:hi:
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Maccagirl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 10:14 PM
Response to Original message
2. Principles, not idealogy drove JFK
Man, he had icewater running through his veins. He had a great sense of irony and humor in equal parts which served him well. I hate the way the neocons have either hijacked or rewritten his history.
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DeSwiss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 11:03 PM
Response to Original message
4. An eloquent speech...
...and so prophetic in many ways.

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jaysunb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 11:05 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. A direct contradiction to what we have now
in every way....:evilfrown:

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rasputin1952 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-30-07 11:43 PM
Response to Original message
6. Reading that, and recalling the speech, I am reminded of how we
Edited on Sat Jun-30-07 11:45 PM by rasputin1952
have removed ourselves from a future of education, enlightenment and honor. I can recall those heady days when the future looked bright, and so promising. It was a great time to be alive.

Sure, there were clouds on the horizon, there were times to come when we would stand at the brink of nuclear annihilation, get caught up in simmering wars and watch our nation be driven to the brink of bankruptcy because of failed policies that were based on military force.

Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy...they were men of vision that came through times when the times seemed the gloomiest we had ever seen. As they guided the country, the took us along with them, all in the hope that a finer day would come w/the next sunrise. Not one American thought of the horror of 23Nov63 nor think that act in Dallas would send this country into a spiral it has yet to recover from. Since that day, we have all been under a cloud, we have not yet realized that a man's hope could warm the world, and if not in deed, the expectations this man had for our nation were noble and worthy goals.

Long before Reagan stood before the Berlin Wall...Kennedy challenged Kruschev to tear done the wall, his famous, "Ich bein ein Berliner" has gone down in history as one of our finest moments. Kennedy stared own the Soviet Union, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into science programs, opened schools to larger and brighter futures, gave hope to minorities and the poor of all races. He planned on getting out of SE Asia and opening new and fruitful relationships w/many nations.

All three of our most eloquent presidents died from situations involving their heads, 2 from assassin's bullets, and one from a cerebral hemorrhage. if these men were to have been permitted to live just a little longer, they well could have changed the course of history.
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jaysunb Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-01-07 01:06 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. Great Post !
Even for African Americans, and the position we found ourselves in at that time, Kennedy was a powerful symbol of hope and promise. I still wonder, what could have been....
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rasputin1952 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-01-07 07:22 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. There was so much hope back then...and like an unfinished
symphony, we are left to wonder, what could have been? What were the notes never played?

Johnson pushed forth new and great legislation to right so many wrongs...Civil Rights, fighting poverty and illiteracy, rebuilding the infrastructure. Johnson was one of the rare politicians who had the fortitude and gumption to get things done, but Vietnam tore him apart, and his legacy was marred forever by that war. Few realize what good he did for the American people, as the 58,000+ deaths of our men and women in a conflict of dubious purpose wold forever shadow his presidency. The parallels of the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations should never be overlooked. In both cases a single shot was a defining moment in the course of our history.

With Lincoln, Reconstruction became a violent, vengeful system that gave us unheard of corruption and division. Booth doomed the South to decades of neglect and abuse. With Kennedy's death from the final shot, the nation, while in shock and disbelief, was torn into a direction that few at the time would realize that a national division would eventually tear the country apart, allow the likes of Nixon...which would set the foundation for Reagan, and both bush's...and another war that tears the nation apart and seems to be w/o end...and we have a new round of corruption of unheard of dimensions.

It will take a bold and inventive leader to repair the damage done by bush and his band of thieves. Worse yet, as we find ourselves in a state of Reconstruction, it will take at least a generation to bring us back to where we were before bush took us down path of national destruction.

Much to my chagrin, I do not see anything on the horizon that excites me as far as the D candidates go this election cycle. The election is ours to lose, and if we all don't come together on national issues, we will have a difficult row to hoe...:(
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pnorman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-01-07 11:05 AM
Response to Original message
9. I'm reading the book, "The Brothers", right now.
Reference was made to that speech, and I was planning on Googling it later for further details. I forgot, but most definitely will do so now.

That book is causing me to reevaluate my opinions of both JFK & RFK to a large degree, and both come out looking better than before. (I think I may be getting OLD).

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pnorman Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-01-07 04:32 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. That book "Brothers" is one I most heartily recommend.
Among other things, it convincingly demonstrates how many leading figures who had seemingly "endorsed" the Warren Commission findings, privately held diametrically CONTRARY beliefs. In the case of Bobby Kennedy, he apparently felt he needeed to be in a position of power (ie: President of the US), before he could play his hand. Here's the listing:

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pacalo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-01-07 11:15 AM
Response to Original message
10. An eloquent explanation of why there is separation of church & state.
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tomreedtoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-02-07 06:29 AM
Response to Original message
12. Well, I'm reading Gary Wills's "The Kennedy Imprisonment."
It is a lot less dreamy, and a lot more practical, guide to the Kennedy legacy. It points out that the Kennedy's didn't push ideology much, because their other driving impulses - sex, family, image, charisma and power - got in the way.

Wills produced the "Nixon Watch" books, where he dissected Richard Nixon's Presidency down to the last moments, if you need to see his liberal credentials. In The Kennedy Imprisonment he points out that only Robert Kennedy escaped, and only partially, from the terrible impulses of his family. And the last surviving Kennedy in power has been a prisoner of those impulses, and has had all the sins of his brothers dumped upon his head.

I thought of this with the Commie-baiting in the above address - something JFK pushed to show he was as "tough" as any Republican, which helped ease our way into the mess of Vietnam.
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