This JFK speech makes Rick Santorum want to hurl

It’s a remarkable reaction, to a remarkable speech.

What Rick Santorum said:

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum said today that watching John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 made him want to “throw up.”

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?” Santorum said.

“That makes me throw up and it should make every American who is seen from the president, someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you, not that you can’t come to the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith, which of course is the next logical step when people of faith, at least according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square,” he said.

Santorum also said he does not believe in an America where the separation of church and state is “absolute.”

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country,” said Santorum. “This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion. That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, no, ‘faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was foreign at the time of 1960,” he said. …

Of course, Kennedy never said people of faith should “not be allowed in the public square.” And to prove the point, he worked rather closely with the foremost religious person in the country at the time, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the civil rights leaders drawn from such organizations as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to work through the most contentious social issue on the public docket at the time, segregation and voting rights for African-Americans. Kennedy never said that King and other religious leaders were illegitimate players in the civil rights effort. And in his speech in Houston during the 1960 campaign, to which Santorum was referring, Kennedy said simply that he believes in an America where a person’s faith should not be a barrier to their election or appointment to public office, and that no public official should take instruction from a bishop, pastor or pope, and that no bishop, pastor or pope should be funded by the government. Kennedy’s words were as follows:

“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 parishoners 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 helped lead 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 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 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.”

Santorum not only takes Kennedy out of context, he is advocating something far different than what the constitution calls for. He not only wants religion “in the public square,” he wants its tenets to rule the lives of fellow Americans, provided that the religious principles used to rule over us are Rick Santorum’s

Here’s the JFK speech in its entirety, with an interesting opener from the announcer, about who was commenting on then candidate Kennedy’s remarks.

And here’s a complete transcript.

This entry was posted in 2012, Religion, Rick Santorum, The Christian Right, U.S. History and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to This JFK speech makes Rick Santorum want to hurl

  1. Rupert says:

    Santorum has said this before, but now he’s getting headlines for it– things blow back when you become the frontrunner. The more he talks, the more people realize that he would (if he could) appoint as his cabinet the Catholic bishops; and maybe Rick Perry for diversity. Not that he will ever have the chance.

  2. Beauzeaux says:

    I’m actually old enough to have seen the speech on the teevee machine. Kennedy was popular but there was widespread reluctance to support a roman catholic for president. (Al Smith in 1928 was the last major party candidate to be catholic.)
    The purpose of the speech was to reassure (majority protestant) voters that he would not be influenced by the church in matters of state. In that way it resembles candidate Obama’s speech on racism. Both speeches did their part to reassure voters and both speeches were picked apart by political opponents. Hearing the Kennedy speech again reminds me of how relatively civilized politics were even a few decades ago.

  3. Pingback: Balloon Juice » Blog Archive » Rick Santorum’s Views on Church and State Make My Brain Vomit

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