I don’t know if you heard Mitt Romney’s speech earlier today. I did. And at first it made me a bit queasy. But in the end, it just left me wistful for a bygone era and for a man who was killed before I was born: John Kennedy. While running for president, Kennedy addressed his Catholicism with a courageous defense of pluralism. Romney, by contrast, dragged his self-proclaimed devotion to Jesus Christ into the public square, suggesting that such behavior is not only appropriate but also that there’s no room for other faiths there.
If you have a minute, read Kennedy’s whole speech, delivered, on September 12, 1960, to the Greater Houston Minesterial Association. Or, if you’re too busy, here are a few highlights.
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.
All of that’s pretty good, huh? Well, check this out.
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.
Did you catch that? My how times have changed.
Update: And, once again, I seem to have a mind-meld with Ezra Klein. Here he is on Romney’s speech. It’s a thoughtful post, well worth a look.
Update II: And here’s Matthew Yglesias, wondering if candidate Romney may have vaulted himself to the top spot in the likely-to-be-the-worst-president sweepstakes.