Kennedy versus Romney

Here is a comparison of Romney’s cover of JFK’s religion speech.

Both men listed the issue other than religion facing America. Here’s what Kennedy listed:

the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida–the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power–the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms–an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

And Mr. Romney:

Radical violent Islam seeks to destroy us. An emerging China endeavors to surpass our economic leadership. And we are troubled at home by government overspending, overuse of foreign oil, and the breakdown of the family.

While Kennedy characterized these as “the real issues which should decide th[e] campaign” then went on to discuss his religion because he was “a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President,” Romney began with what he termed “a topic which I believe is fundamental to America’s greatness: our religious liberty.”

It turns out the take away moment from the Kennedy speech most reported by the media is what stuck out most for me:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote–where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference–and 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.

Romney said basically the same thing with this:

Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin.

But Romney focused on the role of religion in the foundation of the country:

We should acknowledge the Creator as did the Founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from ‘the God who gave us liberty.’

Kennedy chose to point out the danger of religion interfering with government:

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 helped lead 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 at a time of great national peril.

First off, it is remarkable how similar Romney’s speech was in structure to Kennedy’s. I started by calling it a parody, but I he was being serious, so I think calling it a cover is better.

The next thing is that Romney believes we need religion to have freedom. He says that judges need to respect the foundation of faith that underlies the constitution. So, what the heck does he mean by separation of church and state?

It’s fine that the Prophet will not have a direct line to the President, but if he is appointing judges who will consider the supposed religious underpinnings of the constitution, that’s a huge problem. This speech has enhanced my concerns about the impact of Romney’s religion on how he would behave as president.

2 replies on “Kennedy versus Romney”

The speeches were structured similarly, and served something of the same function — to make a voting public less nervous to vote for a political candidate for president based on his religion. But there is something fundamentally different about the two speeches, something that makes me very afraid:

Kennedy was telling us that he’d be a secular president despite his Catholicism. Romney is telling us he’d be a Christian president despite his Mormanism.

This should scare everyone — not that deeply religious people can be president these days, but that you can not be president these days without being deeply religious. We now have what our founding documents pledge we should not — we have a religious test that must be passed in order to become president. You must publicly declare that Jesus is your personal lord and savior.

we have a religious test that must be passed in order to become president. You must publicly declare that Jesus is your personal lord and savior.

And despite what should be fatique with Christianists, the candidates surging in both parties are the most comfortable vocalizing their faith. I understand your frustration.

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