With a large part of the populace in thrall to the pope and giddy over his visit here, it's a good time to recall John F. Kennedy's religion speech. Considering where we are today, it's probably difficult for anyone who didn't live through those times to understand just what a big deal JFK's Catholicism was. No Catholic had ever been elected president, and a large part of the Protestant population questioned whether Kennedy's faith would allow him to govern independent of the church. A lot of people actually said he would be taking his orders in the Oval Office straight from Rome. It became such an issue that candidate Kennedy decided he had to address it, which he did in a major speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on Sept. 12, 1960:
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.It's one of his better speeches, quite eloquent in its lucid analysis of the religious freedom so crucial to the understanding of our founding and our history. So the whole thing is worth your time to read.
And what did we learn from this episode?
1. There can be no religious test for office — it says so right in the Constitution.2. But people have their own internal tests. If a candidate's religion is important enough to a voter, that voter will take the candidate's religion into account in the voting booth.
3. If enough voters voice concerns, a smart candidate will feel compelled to address the issue.
4. We are then free to take what the candidate says about his religion and decide what we think about it and vote accordingly, as it should be.
And something like that is what Ben Carson should have said in answer to Chuck Todd's question instead of "I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of the nation." (Either that or "That's a stupid hypothetical question that has no relevance to the current presidential campaign, so buzz off.") And, yes, Donald Trump is right that he is under no obligation to defend or explain the president's faith. But it is boorish to let an ignorant statement stand on the record with no correction. And guess what? Trump knows that, and he doesn't care.
If a Muslim ran for president, there are a couple of things I would like that candidate to address. 1. Where do you stand regarding Sharia law, and how would that affect your interpretation of your presidential duties? 2. Separation of church and state is kind of a big deal in this country, but in the Muslim worldview the two are intertwined; in which camp are you? My support for the candidate would depend on what he said about those two areas and whether I believed him.
Or is that as wrong as wondering whether JFK would be taking orders from the pope?
ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS
Adieu, Scott Walker, who joins Rick Perry on the GOP candidate dropout list. I don't think Perry ever had a chance, but Scott Walker did before Trump came on the scene and he floundered in trying to find the right response to him. Given the troubles he had on the campaign trail, alas, he probably was not as ready for the White House as I originally thought he might be.
The Obama administration has decided not to provide federal protection under the Endangered Species Act for the greater sage grouse, a bird whose population has fallen sharply for decades in the West, apparently because of a successful and unprecedented conservation effort by several states. Wow, the federal government backing off because state efforts are working. Sure wouldn't mind seeing more of that attitude.
No, Hillary, the debate over the Affordable Care Act is not over. The debate over a law is never over, and never should be. "The law" evolves as we evolve. Why do liberals always insist that laws, which should be open to change, are set in stone, and science, which should change as more facts emerge, is settled, yet insist that the Constitution, which should be our bedrock principles for all time, is a "living document"?
This is an excellent question: Why aren't the GOP presidential candidates discussing spending cuts more?
It’s very true that entitlement reform and budget cuts are extremely
unpopular with voters. People like airy promises of "Don’t worry it’ll
be there for you," without actually hearing whether the system needs to
be there in the first place or "we need to protect you from [[ insert
alleged danger ]]." Candidates are going to have to discuss why cuts
need to happen and then explain it in a way which appeals to voters in
an emotional way. It’s the messaging part which is the hardest, which is
probably why no candidate appears willing to do this. But they’re going
to have to at some point. If not, then they’re just sticking their
heads in the sand until the entire system falls apart.
Amen. Spending cuts are hard, because we see spending on other people as wasteful but spending on us as our rightful due. We have to face that hard truth, and it's the duty of good presidential candidates to make us face it.
Finally, a new study says there have now been more deaths this year from selfies than there have been from shark attacks.The score is selfies 12, sharks 8. It's time to get over ourselves, don't you think?
WORD OF THE DAY
apostate (uh-POS-teyt), n. — a person who forsakes his religion, cause, party, etc., as in: "The pope should be wary of apostates who seem to adore him but can't stand his religion."