Sarah Palin Has Found a New Opponent to Debate: John F. Kennedy.

Sarah Palin is wrong about John F. Kennedy, Religion and Politics

By Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

In her new book, “America by Heart,” Palin objects to my uncle’s famous 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, in which he challenged the ministers – and the country – to judge him, a Catholic presidential candidate, by his views rather than his faith. “Contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president,” Kennedy said. “I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic.”

Palin writes that when she was growing up, she was taught that Kennedy’s speech had “succeeded in the best possible way: It reconciled public service and religion without compromising either.” Now, however, she says she has revisited the speech and changed her mind. She finds it “defensive . . . in tone and content” and is upset that Kennedy, rather than presenting a reconciliation of his private faith and his public role, had instead offered an “unequivocal divorce of the two.”

Palin’s argument seems to challenge a great American tradition, enshrined in the Constitution, stipulating that there be no religious test for public office. A careful reading of her book leads me to conclude that Palin wishes for precisely such a test. And she seems to think that she, and those who think like her, are qualified to judge who would pass and who would not.

If there is no religious test, then there is no need for a candidate’s religious affiliation to be “reconciled.” My uncle urged that religion be private, removed from politics, because he feared that making faith an arena for public contention would lead American politics into ill-disguised religious warfare, with candidates tempted to use faith to manipulate voters and demean their opponents.

Kennedy cited Thomas Jefferson to argue that, as part of the American tradition, it was essential to keep any semblance of a religious test out of the political realm. Best to judge candidates on their public records, their positions on war and peace, jobs, poverty, and health care. No one, Kennedy pointed out, asked those who died at the Alamo which church they belonged to.

But Palin insists on evaluating and acting as an authority on candidates’ faith. She faults Kennedy for not “telling the country how his faith had enriched him.” With that line, she proceeds down a path fraught with danger – precisely the path my uncle warned against when he said that a president’s religious views should be “neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

After all, a candidate’s faith will matter most to those who believe that they have the right to serve as arbiters of that faith. Is it worthy? Is it deep? Is it reflected in a certain ideology?

Palin, for her part, argues that “morality itself cannot be sustained without the support of religious beliefs.” That statement amounts to a wholesale attack on countless Americans, and no study or reasonable argument I have seen or heard would support such a blanket condemnation. For a person who claims to admire Lincoln, Palin curiously ignores his injunction that Americans, even those engaged in a Civil War, show “malice toward none, with charity for all.”

Palin fails to understand the genius of our nation. The United States is one of the most vibrant religious countries on Earth precisely because of its religious freedom. When power and faith are entwined, faith loses. Power tends to obfuscate, corrupt and focus on temporal rather than eternal purposes.

Somehow Palin misses this. Perhaps she didn’t read the full Houston speech; she certainly doesn’t know it by heart. Or she may be appealing to a religious right that really seeks secular power. I don’t know.

I am certain, however, that no American political leader should cavalierly – or out of political calculation – dismiss the hard-won ideal of religious freedom that is among our country’s greatest gifts to the world. As John F. Kennedy said in Houston, that is the “kind of America I believe in.”

 

Continued

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. AFM
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 10:32:15

    Palin doesn’t realize allot of people would not vote for her just based on her religious beliefs. It is nice to have your beliefs on religion but I don’t want you to bring it into the work place or Government. Keep it in church, especially her private witch doctor.

    Reply

  2. Tewise
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 12:56:16

    Nicely worded article. But what I think some of us can’t understand that Palin does not care, she writes the rules as she goes or changes them to meet her needs. She cherry picks bits and pieces from works that she knows nothing about to try to trick folks into believing she is worldly. She fails miserably at doing so but it is so aggravating because some rather be blind then to actually try to learn and make an informed decision on the subjects.

    My religious beliefs are my own, to answer to no one other than me and my god. I hope others can believe in a higher being but if they choose not to so be it. Palin has gave me a very critical eye now towards organized religion to me she has almost made it dirty, I am not sure that it makes sense to anybody else but I guess it is kind of hard to explain. As soon as they let God roll out of their mouth my ears close, because they are just pandering to the masses.

    Thank you again for the article, sorry I wrote so much but this woman can make my blood boil and this is one of the areas and the other is I am Woman and I know best for all the other women.

    Reply

  3. Syrin
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 13:52:23

    “she finds it defensive . . . in tone and content”. Palin is upset that Kennedy, didn’t have reconciliation of his private faith and his public role? GOD help us, please….
    She certainly doesn’t cite any instance of what she meant. Aside from that, though, she is right that liberals want to restrict churches to “the private sector.” The opposite of “the private sector” is the government (public sector) and not only liberals but most conservatives don’t want churches to start making “public sector” decisions, for example in matters such as zoning laws, traffic laws, family law, etc.

    Besides what she spews Sarah has no working knowledge of how government or living a life guided by a faith in GOD..
    She would welcome upon becoming president to order all monies to be replaced with..

    In Sarah WE TRUST

    Reply

  4. Angelina
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 14:41:25

    Sarah does not write anything don’t people understand this? Sarah is the mouth piece for her her wacky religious cult, they control the message. Stop giving her credit and quoting her, she is not responsible for anything but allowing her name to be used and her scary face to be photographed. Sarah is a puppet….a well paid puppet. I am from the same state, there are no lights on upstairs, just whack jobs renting the basement!

    Reply

  5. WakeUpAmerica
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 14:56:38

    Religion belongs in the private sector where it can be practised or not practised without government molestation. Faith or sometimes lack thereof is what shapes human character. The populace then chooses the man or woman who is seen as having the right character for public service. Though my faith is strong, I would never assume that people of no faith are automatically lacking in character. I have known many truly good people of strong character who have no belief in a diety. That is important to remember. We should not be choosing our public servants based on their faith, but rather, we should be choosing them based on character and let faith be a private matter.

    Reply

  6. Cheryl
    Dec 04, 2010 @ 16:14:59

    OK, we’ve had 11 presidents since 1960 and she’s attacked 5 of them (that we know of); JFK, Reagan, Bush 1 & 2 and Obama. Who does this whack-a-doodle think she is? She was able to terrorize a small group of people up north, does she think she has that kind of power in the rest of the country?

    Reply

    • Syrin
      Dec 04, 2010 @ 16:32:33

      Lol My two new favorite names to call those who deserve it..
      whack- a- doodle and jack wagon..
      Palin is a whack a doodle, but wants to be the prez. What a jack wagon!

      Reply

  7. Trout
    Dec 05, 2010 @ 10:08:12

    Grand Inquisitor Palin 2013!

    Reply

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