Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Marvellous Speech on Faith in Public Life

This is quite simply one of the most impressive speeches I have ever read from a politician in modern times. It is logical, informed, fearless and literate.

Rick Santorum, former US Senator from Pennsylvania and currently Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, recently gave this speech on the place of religion in public life and politics in Houston, TX, where 50 years ago John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech to reassure voters that he would not allow the Vatican to determine US policies. As Santorum shows, Kennedy opened the door to secularization and compromise by a generation of Catholic politicians who have failed to bear a faithful witness in the public arena.

Here is how it begins:

Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy and I remember them well -- Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy. The president was a source of great pride and a symbol to Catholics that all barriers had finally been broken. What my family and maybe even candidate Kennedy at the time didn't realize was that in a key moment in that election of 1960 right here in Houston, Kennedy began the construction of another, even more threatening wall for our society -- one that sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse.

Fifty years ago this Sunday JFK delivered a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association to dispel suspicions about the role the papacy might play in the government of this country under his administration. Let's make no mistake about it -- Kennedy was addressing a real issue at the time. Prejudice against Catholics threatened to cost him the election. But on that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith. Let me quote from the beginning of Kennedy's speech: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

The idea of strict or absolute separation of church and state is not and never was the American model. It was a model used in countries like France and until recently Turkey, but it found little support in America until it was introduced into the public discourse by Justice Hugo Black in the case of Everson v. The Board of Education in 1947. (Black, by the way, was a Catholic-hating former member of the KKK who ironically enough advocated this strict separation doctrine to keep public funds from Catholic schools.)

Read the rest here. If this man runs for president, the US would have to be crazy not to elect him.

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