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JFK’s niece sets Sarah Palin straight on his famous speech about religion

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When John F. Kennedy ran for president 50 years ago, one of the challenges he faced was a widespread fear that as a Catholic he would take his political marching orders from the Vatican.

Kennedy confronted the issue head-on with a now-famous speech before a group of Protestant clergymen at a meeting of the Greater Houston Ministerial Association (see photo) on Sept. 12, 1960.

Kennedy told the gathering:

“I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters — and the Church does not speak for me.”

He vowed to honor the constitutional principle of separation of church and state and not allow the Catholic hierarchy to dictate public policy to him.

But now, all these years later, putative presidential prospect Sarah Palin, writes in her new book that JFK’s speech was faulty in several respects. She thinks it was overly “defensive” and amounted to an effort to “run away from religion.”

In an OP-ED PIECE in The Washington Post, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest of JFK’s nieces, takes issue with Palin’s slant on the speech.

An excerpt:

Palin’s argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office. A careful reading of her book leads me to conclude that Palin wishes for precisely such a test. And she seems to think that she, and those who think like her, are qualified to judge who would pass and who would not.

If there is no religious test, then there is no need for a candidate’s religious affiliation to be “reconciled.” My uncle urged that religion be private, removed from politics, because he feared that making faith an arena for public contention would lead American politics into ill-disguised religious warfare, with candidates tempted to use faith to manipulate voters and demean their opponents.

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8 Comments

  1. John: Allow me to paraphrase your inane comment:

    Ah, yes, Who better to intrepret the philosophy of an infinitely brighter politician than a half-term governor who wasn’t even born yet when the speech at issue was delivered.

    Sorry, John, but JFK’s niece’s age is totally irrelevant. For what it’s worth, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is 13 years older than Sarah Palin. She’s also better educated, far more politically experienced and far wiser.

    Oh, and by the way, Johnny boy, who besides wingnuts like you has ever said that “liberals don’t need religion”? There are millions of liberals who are devoutly religious.

  2. I think I would trust Kathleen’s assessment of her Uncle’s words over Sarah’s. I’m sure from having lived with other Kennedy’s she has heard a lot about his personal thoughts and believes vs someone who saw a few movies or read a few books about him.

  3. a777pilot

    Yes, by all means live by the words of JFK on religion. As we all know JFK was a very religious man and a great family man. We should all emulate his life choices.

  4. a777pilot: JFK’s moral failings have nothing whatever to do with the validity of the points he made in his speech about religion and politics.

    Incidentally, have you ever noticed how many self-righteous, right-wing advocates of “family values” have been found to have had their own moral failings? Newt Gingrich, for example. David Vitter, for another. Mark Sanford, for another. John Ensign, for another. I could go on, but you get my drift. These are all people who, unlike JFK, were always shooting their mouths off about their dedication to biblical morals, family values and such.

    There’s a whole bunch of those hypocrites down there in Texas where you live, isn’t there?

  5. a777pilot, I think you hit the nail on the head. JFK’s message was just that, he didn’t want America to worry that they would have to live by his religious values. I ‘d rather rather get my religious views from the great teachers of morality that have a wide stance or maybe one that picks up drugs for a male hooker for a relaxing rubdown.

  6. a777pilot

    LOL!

    This is great.

  7. a777pilot

    Good. Why should the government take any more of anyone’s money?

    If you really think your taxes are too low, shut up about it and take out your check book. The IRS takes donations, ya know.

  8. R. Mack Reagan

    I have no problem paying what ever taxes the government sees fit. When I filed my taxes incorrectly to the governments advantage they sent me the proper amount. I\’m lucky enough to live a good life and have no problem if my taxes go up, if it helps the great country that allowed me to excel.

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