Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – This is one of the great speeches ever recorded. This is how Kennedy dealt with this. Not only do I think he gets it right, he quotes James Madison, he knows the story about how the Baptists were persecuted in the State of Virginia back in the 1780s that caused Madison and Jefferson to write the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. It’s just a great speech. Here’s how Kennedy might have answered those Catholic presidents of those Catholic universities. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
The presidents of 93 Catholic colleges and universities are calling on Catholic members of the House of Representatives to pass immigration reform that would put most of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the country on a path to citizenship. “Catholic teaching values the human dignity and wroth of all immigrants, regardless of legal status,” the Catholic leaders say in a letter sent to all 163 Catholic members of Congress. “We remind you that no human being made in the image of God is illegal.”
“One thing immigrants do for the American Catholic Church is they enrich the church,” said John Garvey, president of the Catholic University of America. “They’re keeping the Catholic Church fresh and the churches full. More and more they’re the backbone of parish life.”
“It would be a failure if we miss the opportunity to make the nation more welcoming,” said Father John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame.
Mike: Remember, they’re asking members of the House of Representin’ to do Catholic bidding, because these presidents of these universities are saying this is the Catholic thing to do, which I would mightily protest against and say: Says who? Secondly, I would also say: You’re not supposed to be governing and legislating based on what your pope says, based on what your reverend says, or based on what the head of your Catholic university says. Catholic universities don’t even practice Catholicism, so why are they worried about importing new members into their churches? You know what they might try? They might actually try going back to the canon and the extraordinary mass and traditions of the church and actually stand for something the way they used to other than the things they claim they stand for today. That’s my humble criticism.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy put what I just said about you’re not supposed to be influenced by your religion. You’re supposed to get a tug from the Constitution if you’re in a federal office. What does your membership in the Catholic Church have to do with any of this? John Fitzgerald Kennedy was running for president in 1960. He was being hounded by the press because it was believed and a knock on him was [mocking] “He’s gonna get in there and he’s gonna do the bidding of the pope. We’re gonna have a theocracy. The Kennedys are gonna be running it.” I want you to listen to this. This is one of the great speeches ever recorded. This is how Kennedy dealt with this. Not only do I think he gets it right, he quotes James Madison, he knows the story about how the Baptists were persecuted in the State of Virginia back in the 1780s that caused Madison and Jefferson to write the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom. It’s just a great speech. Here’s how Kennedy might have answered those Catholic presidents of those Catholic universities….
For the rest of today’s transcript please sign up for a Founders Pass or if you’re already a member, make sure you are logged in!
[start audio clip]
John F. Kennedy: 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 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 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, at both the lay and the pastoral levels, 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 be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation, nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
[end audio clip]
Mike: We’re going to fast forward because it’s a rather long speech. We’re going to fast forward to the end. There’s more of this but it’s a little more specific. He actually gets into the nuts and bolts of, [mocking Kennedy] “If the pope called me and asked me withhold my vote or my signature on a piece of legislation that was in the national interest, I would not do so or I would resign my office.” Poor Kennedy impersonation. Let’s pick it up toward the end. I think you’re going to like this part of it as well.
[start audio clip]
Kennedy: 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 that goes for any persecution, at any time, by anyone, in any country. 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 also cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as France and Ireland, and the independence of such statesmen as De Gaulle and Adenauer.
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, if I should be elected — 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 in 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 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 other conscientious public servant would do likewise.
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 this 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.”
[end audio clip]
Mike: There you have it. I wonder what Kennedy would say if he got this letter from these Catholic universities demanding that he sign immigration reform because they thought it was a good idea for Catholics. Based on what I just heard, he would go, [mocking Kennedy] “Well, if there’s anything in here about that law that contravenes the First Amendment or any other part of the Constitution, then I’m going to have to reject it.”
AG: Is there any difference because you’re looking at immigration reform as non-religious in a sense? I guess there’s no overt religious tone or aspect to the bill. Can that argument be made that — I don’t know if you understand what I’m trying to get at —
Mike: I get it.
AG: — that there’s no overtly religious part of the bill, so it’s your conscience that’s driving you?
Mike: For whatever reason a member of the House may vote for this, he should vote for it, number one, because it is in keeping with the oath of office he/she took. Number two, that it passes the test that it is constitutional. Therefore, in the interest of the government that represents the states of the Union, that’s why he’d sign off on the bill, not because he/she was told to because they’re a Catholic and it would be good for the American Catholic Church. In other words, a Catholic is free to say yes to it, but not for the reasons these presidents of these colleges are citing.
AG: That would be the same thing that Kennedy says when he talked about birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, right?
Mike: Exactly. The audacity of these presidents of the Catholic universities — again, full disclosure, I am a practicing Catholic. It’s just amazing to me that the same universities that have basically kicked out the mass as part of the daily ritual of people that are going to Catholic school — most people don’t go to Catholic schools, don’t send their kids to Catholic universities today because they think they’re going to be taught the ways of the church or thought theology or what have you. The universities themselves have turned their back on their own faith and on the way the church used to treat education. After all, it was around the turn of the last millennia, the 10th century or so, it was those popes and bishops of the church that began what today is known as the practice of a classic liberal education. It was done under the direction of the church but not today. It’s very dubious. Again, I think Kennedy nailed it on that. You should hear the entire speech, folks. I’ll post it in today’s Pile of Prep so you can watch it for yourselves.
End Mike Church Show Transcript