JFK and the separation of church and state

5 June 2004

A Hendrik Hertzberg piece in the New Yorker con­tains this quote from JFK (who was seeking to re­as­sure voters that as a Pres­i­dent who was also Catholic, he would not take in­struc­tion from the Vatican):

“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 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, at both the lay and the pas­toral levels, 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.”


Hertzberg piece fin­ishes with: “With a bit of spiff­ing up for gender-pronoun correctness, it is just barely pos­si­ble to imagine such a speech being de­liv­ered today by Senator Kerry. Could the same be said of Pres­i­dent Bush?”