Kennedy’s Stand On Church, State Texas Papers And Church Issue AUSTIN A major element in the religious debate this fall is, of course, Senator John Kennedy’s position, which he stated definitely before the Greater Houston Ministerial Assn. Sept. 12. While these views have been widely publicized, for reference in this issue we excerpt the most important parts of them. From Kennedy’s opening statement: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolutewhere no Catholic Sen. John Kennedy prelate would tell the President act, and no Protestant minister would to his parishioners for whom to votewhere no church or church school is granted, any public funds or political preferenceand 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. . . . where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all . . . where all men and all churches are treated as equalswhere every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice … “I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all and obligated to none who can attend any ceremony, service, or dinner his office may appropriately require him to fulfilland 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 fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we might have a ‘divided loyalty’ . . . “I ask you . . . to judge me .. . on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools stead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publica “Well, I hope it doesn’t .bother any. We’re gonna be under communism if we keep on electin’ these Republicans. “I don’t think this should be a religious issue. I think it’s hurtin’ the Baptists more than anybody else. That big Baptist in Dallas keeps comin’ out on the radio on this thing. They oughta be tryin’ to save sinners instead of saying who to vote for. “I’m one of those suckers who voted against a Catholic in 1928,” he said. “They made me believe the Pope was gonna rule if we elected Al Smith. I was just ig THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 12 Sept. 30, 1960 tions 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 rarely relevant to any situation hereand 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 revery American Catholic. I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public actswhy should you? . . . “I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or prosecute” \(his advance text said “persecute,” but he said “prosecute” in of any other religionand that goes for any persecution by anyone at any time in any country. “Whatever issue may come before me if I am President if I should be electedon birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subjectI will make my decision in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. “But if the time should ever omeand 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 …” During the question period with ministers, Kennedy ampliried his positions by saying: 0 He could and would attend Protestant church services “connected with my position of office.” As for the charge he backed out of an inter-faith dinner on pressure from Cardinal Dougherty, “I never discussed the matter with the Cardinal in my life.” 0 He hopes the U.S. will stand for “the right of free religious practice” around the world. , 0 If his church sought to influ ence him in a way he thought improper, “I would reply to them that this was an improper action on their part.” 0 He rejects any doctrine “that it is proper for you to lie” \(which a minister had maintained he had read in the Catholic Encyclo0 With respect , to Osservatore Romano’s May, 1960, statement asserting the Church’s political power, “the Osservatore Romano has no standing, so far as binding me.” 0 The Pope could not “guide me in fulfilling my public duty.” norant. But there’s still a lot of people who believe that.” Grady Walker, a bookkeeper, said “I’m afraid to vote for him because he’s a Catholic. From what I’ve read in the newspapers and seen on TV’s and things like that, I’m not gonna vote for him.” C. E. Dool, a press operator, said “I’m gonna vote the Democratic ticket. This is a free country, and a man has a right to his religion. I don’t agree with all Baptists on all their viewpoints. I think any denomination should stand up for what they believe for. “Our constitution by-laws say a man can get elected to office regardless of a man’s religion. If people voted against a man just Houston Event Described by Englishman \(Cyril Dunn, Washington correspondent of the London Observer, wrote a piece responding to Sen. Kennedy’s historic session with the Houston ministers. Here excerpted; it provides a fresh perHOUSTON Houston is not by moral stand ards an immaculate city. Here resolute men and women have lately made a last-ditch stand to keep black children out of white public schools. It is also a rallying-point for those Christian fundamentalists now campaigning with great fervoropenly disregarding what it says in the Constitutionagainst Senator Kennedy on religious grounds. Their strength in this region is great. Qn the fabulous South Plains of Texas, where cities fertilized by oil and gas are expanding sensa tionally, churches occur almost as often as filling stations, and most of them are rigidly opposed to Catholicism. The Rice Hotel . . . stands on the site of the capitol of the old Republic of Texas and so deserves a continuing role in the maturing history of the state. But the Crystal Ballroom was a mistake. It takes its name from two enormous chandeliers which, by straining too hard towards splendor, have achieved a kind of idiocy. Under this Texan glory, television cameras swung their noses everywhere, typewriters chattered continuously ‘at the press tables, and at least one photographer fell with a clatter from his platform. The ministers themselves were grave enough. They all wore business suits and had about them the solid normalcy of .Rotarians. IT WOULD BE UNFAIR to supI pose that most of them were anything but sincere in what they had set out to do, and . politically innocent. Nobody raised among Primitive Methodists in Yorkshire could doubt the entirely genuine uneasiness excited! by “Popery” in people who prefer dogma of an austere simplicity. Yet the campaign against Senator Kennedy has already taken some sinister turns. And even in the Crystal Ballroom, before the eyes and ears of the nation, passion seems to have meant some backsliding from total integrity among the inquisitors. The senator may regret that he did not have the Catholic Encyclopedia with him. in Houston. But he seemed to manage well enough without one. It became steadily More apparent as the debate progressed that his opponents knew more about Ca because he’s a Catholic or somethin’, we’d be votin’ against our constitution and by-laws. The bylaws mean more to me than my religion on this. “I’m in the minority part” in the ,congregation, he said. “But I feel I have my rights to believe like I wanta believe.” Addison Skinner is a plumber. “I just don’t think I could spend my vote for him because he’s a Catholic,” he said. “That’s the only reason I won’t vote for him.” Most of his Baptist friends agree with him, he said. L. 0. Bowman, an insurance man, said “I’m a Baptist, and I don’t believe in state and church affairs together. I really don’t. “We know those Catholics, AUSTIN Most Texas daily newspapers have been editorially cautious or silent on the religious issue this fall. The Houston Post has editorialized that it should not be considered. The Houston Press says it is a potentially dangerous controversy, but honest questions must be answered. The Marshall News-Messenger condemned circulation of “a phony oath smearing Catholics,” which the Kilgore NewsHerald reprinted. The Jacksonville. Daily Progress has condemned “campaigns of hate.” In Austin, the American has contrasted religious persecution with “the gentle Christ who came to save that we should love one another” and defended “eminently respectable and greatly admired” Dr. Blake Smith, University Baptist Church, against attempts to “pillory” him for saying religion shouldn’t be an issue. Just where the Dallas News stands is difficult to say in a sentence, even though the News has explained copiously. Originally the News did not take a clear position. Jarred by a Time Magazine quote of one of its editorial staff people, “I guess we’re afraid that we’ll ruffle too many feelings,”. a quote which was denied, the News stated its ‘positions: “The position of The News is: tions of Texas it is a controlling The circulation of the bogus oath aration of church and state is men . . . in bitter political controversy is a disservice to . . . has a right to accept or reject a candidate on any basis whatsoever, but no man has a right to make group hatred a crusade The Dallas News is supporting Lynn Landrum, News columnist, has said he takes off his Nixon button before he goes to church”It seems more proper thataway” and says it makes him “sort of wince” to see preachers wade into the presidential campaign. “The laity need no exhortations from the clery to hate their fellow citizens,” he writes. Landrum believes . in Kennedy’s sincerity, he said, and is confident he would not violate his oath of office on Catholic orders. tholicism than he did. Even so, a mainly non-Catholic though not wholly impartial audience was joyfully convinced that he had won hands down; as people expressed it in the patois of Texas, “Brother, he ate ’em, but raw.” don’t we? We know what they mean to us. I feel toward the Catholics like I do toward the Communists. We wanta stay a free people we wanta keep our churches. “Well, it may not be the big decision, I don’t know. I think we should go to the Lord in prayer and take His guidance on it. He’ll guide us.” Mrs. Danny Welch, wife of a worker in a grocery store, is too young to vote, but she said she knew her husband “is not gonna vote for Kennedy for this reason. We’ve heard of several cases where the Pope’s told Kennedy what to do. We’re just afraid he’ll listen to the Pope instead of the people.” The dailies generally have played the religious issue straight and serious. The Fort Worth StarTelegram did banner an interpretive story on page one, “Baptists Believed Swing Texas to Nixon.” Bill Gardner of the Post has written a column assessing the issue’s magnitude in Texas. Walter Lippman’s column commending Sen. Kennedy’s “brave and truthful.” stands on the issue appeared in the Corpus CallerTimes. As for anti-Kennedy sermons, the dailies have reported some of them, but not most of them: that might require city room annexes in church lobbies. When Rev. W. A. Criswell, Dallas, delivered his first anti-Kennedy blast, the News played it on page one and the Times-Herald inside. Felix McKnight, Times-Herald managing editor, notes that Criswell is the Baptist leader and Dallas is Baptist country. The Houston Post scored an exclusive when it telephoned Billy Graham’ in Switzerland. Graham said he would “stay out of the political race in America” and would not raise the religious issue. The Fort Worth Press has stated flatly in news stories that religion is the No. 1 issue in Texas. Barnes Broiles, editor of the Jacksonville daily, said, “We play it downwe try to avoid strife.” While most East Texas dailies are going for Nixon, out.” The Houston Press screens letters to the editor fairly carefully, says editor George Carmack. “We limit very decidedly any outlandish religious statements,” he says. “We run the pro and con letters but not the vitriolic stuff,” McKnight says. “We print all the letters that come unless they’re just so scurrilous they can’t be used,” says James Williams of the News editorial page staff. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram regularly runs long letters on both sides of the issue. The Baptist Standard, voice of the Baptists in Texas, has conducted a vigorous anti-Catholic campaign for months \(separate Alamo Messenger, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Antonio, haS condemned “what is probably the most concerted and Vehement attack on Catholics in the nation’s history.” A column in the Messenger by Dick Meskill condemns “religious bigotry” and adds: “The Baptist Church is primarily responsible in this part of
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