The past few weeks have been disturbing ones — what with all the media furor surrounding the “ground zero mosque,” attacks and vandalism on other mosques across the country and the hateful proposal by the pastor of an obscure church in Florida to burn Korans.
In the midst of all this, I read an op-ed by Nancy Gibbs in TIME magazine
about a speech made by John F. Kennedy on September 12, 1960 — 50 years ago and before he was elected president. I found a copy of that speech
and it truly communicates what needs to be everyone’s position on Freedom of Religion. Here’s an excerpt:
“Because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured … 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 … 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 led 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 apart 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 equals, 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.”
This is the kind of statement that needs more publicity. That is the kind of America in which I believe.
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