Religion: JFK’s speech on religious freedom

Note: A quote from a speech that JFK gave on September 12, 1960, before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association.  My comment is that I would have liked to see other references to Muslims, Hindus, etc, as there were certainly non-Christians and Jews living at this time in the United States.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions or 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 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, as both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division.

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