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The words that made Santorum vomit

February 27, 2012

This weekend Rick Santorum said that he threw up when he heard John Kennedy’s speech on why Catholics should allowed to be a president of the United States.

Here is the speech that made Santorum vomit:


When Kennedy says

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.

I think he is being quite reasonable.


When Kennedy says

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.

I want to cheer.


Is this really what makes Santorum vomit?  The idea that the Pope should not control American politics?  The idea that Christians and Jews should be equal?  The idea that every person has the same right to attend – or not attend – the church of his choice?

I want to write Santorum a letter explaining the beauty of Kennedy’s speech, but now I am afraid that it will only induce another vomiting incident.


Here is the transcript of Kennedy’s remarks:

Rev. Meza, Rev. Reck, I’m grateful for your generous invitation to speak my views.

While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election: the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida; the humiliating treatment of our president and vice president by those who no longer respect our power; the hungry children I saw in West Virginia; the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills; the families forced to give up their farms; an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

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 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 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.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

This is the kind of America I believe in, and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died."

And in fact ,this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died, when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches; when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom; and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey. But no one knows whether they were Catholic or not, for there was no religious test at the Alamo.

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition, to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress, on my declared stands against an ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)— instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948, which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts. Why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their presidency to Protestants, and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France, and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle.

But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith, nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser — in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

But if, on the other hand, I should win the election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the presidency — practically identical, I might add, to the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can "solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, so help me God.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Francesco permalink
    February 28, 2012 2:02 am

    Here’s what ABC news quotes Sen. Santorum as saying:

    “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.

    He’s reacting to something that many people read into JFK’s speech (but if you read the Dallas Speech carefully you won’t actually find): that pious people should keep their mouths shut when the grownups busy writing our laws.

  2. February 28, 2012 2:46 am

    Francesco:

    I found the paragraph you quoted at this site: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/02/rick-santorum-jfks-1960-speech-made-me-want-to-throw-up/

    You quoted the last paragraph of the article. Please note the first three paragraphs:

    Rick Santorum: JFK’s 1960 Speech Made Me Want to Throw Up

    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.

  3. Francesco permalink
    February 28, 2012 5:20 am

    Theophrastus,

    The larger quote makes it even clearer that its not so much the speech Kennedy gave (I mistakenly called it the “Dallas Speech” when it actually given in Houston) but later interpretations that turn Santorum’s stomach. Nowhere does JFK say that believers or religious beliefs have should have a reduced role in public life That is, however, “separation of Church and State” gets interpreted now.

    Santorum isn’t arguing that he should be allowed to outsource his duties as President to the Pope, or that the US should build ghettos for its religious minorities, or that Christian worship should be mandatory. He says that his problem with the speech is the “absolute” language (at 13:17 in the video embedded on the ABC page you link to). He goes on to reference the speech he gave in Houston 50 years after the JFK speech. In his own speech he says:

    Fifty years ago this Sunday JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the papacy might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let’s make no mistake about it — Kennedy was addressing a real issue at the time. Prejudice against Catholics threatened to cost him the election. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith. Let me quote from the beginning of Kennedy’s speech: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

    and later:

    Jefferson’s “wall of separation” was describing how the First Amendment was designed to protect churches from the government and nothing more. Note that the Sunday following the day he wrote the letter, Jefferson attended religious services in the Capitol building — so much for the founders’ hostility or indifference to religion. But Kennedy’s misuse of the phrase constructed a high barrier that ultimately would keep religious convictions out of politics in a place where our founders had intended just …

    the opposite.

    and later still:

    Kennedy took words written to protect religion from the government and used them to protect the government from religion. It worked — in the years following this speech the concept of an absolute “separation of church and state” gained wider and wider acceptance due to its inculcation in the academy. When I was in the senate I used to question student groups by asking them which phrase was in the constitution “separation of church and state” or “the free exercise of religion”? Separation always won usually by a wide margin.

    and even later:

    Mother Teresa’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, spoken with a humility that made her quiet voice a loud alarm in our hearts, moved me to take a leading role in an issue that pulled at the moral fabric of our country: partial birth abortion. And it was Pope John Paul II and other Christian leaders’ call for the … biblical concept of absolving debt at the Jubilee year of 2000 that motivated me to join Sen. Joe Biden to reduce third world debt. Should I have rejected the instructions from the clergy to relieve debt because it was inspired by the word of God? Did Kennedy reject desegregation because black ministers like the Rev. Martin Luther King arguing from a Biblical premise advocated it? Thank goodness he didn’t.

    Here’s the link to that speech: http://www.phlmetropolis.com/santorums-houston-speech.php

  4. February 28, 2012 10:09 am

    What Kennedy said may be good but what he meant is probably different from what he said. Because being a Democrat what he really meant was just “abortion for all.” Santorum isn’t responding to the actual words of the speech but to the subliminal Democrat message between the lines.

  5. February 28, 2012 11:27 am

    Francesco: well put. Separation of church and state by no means implies that people of faith are to be excluded from political dialogue; that is a point that Kennedy argues against. So why, I wonder, did Santorum choose the extreme words that he did?

    Reyjacobs: I am unaware of any claim that Kennedy was pro-choice. He appointed a pro-life judge to the Supreme Court, Byron White.

  6. Francesco permalink
    February 28, 2012 12:44 pm

    I assume he that extreme language because he either has a weak stomach or because Republican voters believe that mild opposition is closeted support.

  7. Francesco permalink
    February 28, 2012 12:44 pm

    “used that extreme…” I just can’t read without my glasses anymore!

  8. February 28, 2012 8:03 pm

    Francesco, it will be very interesting to see how the electorate (both the Republicans voting in primaries and caucuses, and if he advances, the full electorate in the general election) views Santorum’s recent statements.

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