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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Santorum Smears Kennedy's Speech

Yes, I know I'm a little behind time on this point, which all my truckbuddies have heard about by now, but I wanted to give you guys the facts so that you can be informed, and be able to respond intelligently to anyone who might bring up the subject.

First, here from Santorum's own mouth is what he actually said about Kennedy's great speech invoking the separation of church and state, and his wilful, slimy misquoting and twisting of Kennedy's words:



Andrew Sullivan, gay, married, and a devout Catholic, has this to say about it:
What's fascinating to me about Santorum's outburst yesterday was not its content, but its candor. In fact, one of Santorum's advantages in this race, especially against Romney, is that we can see exactly where he stands. There can be no absolute separation of church and state, let alone a desire to keep it so; and in their necessary interactions, the church must always prevail, or it is a violation of the First Amendment, and an attack on religious freedom. The church's teachings are also, according to theoconservatism, integral to the founding of the United States. Since constitutional rights are endowed from the Creator, and the Creator is the Judeo-Christian one, the notion of a neutral public square, embraced by liberals and those once called conservatives, is an attack on America. America is a special nation because of this unique founding on the Judeo-Christian God. It must therefore always be guided by God's will, and that will is self-evident to anyone, Catholic or Protestant, atheist or Mormon, Jew or Muslim, from natural law. . . .

For Santorum, as for Ratzinger, if your conscience says one thing, and the Pope says another, you obey the Pope, not your conscience. And for the Christianists, if your conscience or intelligence says one thing, and the Bible says another, you obey the Bible, not your conscience, and certainly not your intelligence. Because beneath Christianism is a deep fear of the human mind - as if they actually believe that reason is stronger than religion and therefore must be restrained. As if the human mind can will God out of existence.

This is Santorum's fear-laden vision. Which is why he is not a man of questioning, sincere faith and should not be flattered as such. He is a man of the kind of fear that leads to fundamentalist faith, a faith without doubt and in complete subservience to external authority. There is a reason he doesn't want many kids to go to college. I mean: when we already know the truth, why bother to keep seeking it? And if we already know the truth, why are we not enforcing it as a matter of law in a country founded on Christian principles? It is not religious oppression if it is "the way things are supposed to be", by natural law. In fact, a neutral public square, in his mind, is itself religious oppression.

We can also see here the collision of the Second Vatican Council and the current hierarchy. Kennedy was a Catholic of another era, unafraid of modernity, interested in other paths to God, publicly humble and cheerful, privately devout and deeply connected to others of all faiths and none. Santorum is of a different kind: authoritarian, deeply suspicious of freedom when it leads to disobedience of the Papacy's diktats, and publicly embracing a religious identity as his core political one.

For the record, here is the film, in two parts, of Kennedy's 1960 speech to a convention of Baptist ministers in Houston. At the time, there was great anxiety among some Protestants that a Catholic president would be taking orders from the Vatican, so that the Pope would effectively rule the USA. There was even what we now call an urban legend going around - which your Head Trucker remembers hearing as a kid - that Catholics were filling their basements with guns and ammunition, ready to rise up and overthrow the government when the order came from Rome. I'm not making this up - people seriously believed that here in the Deep South.

But in a magnificent way, and faithful to the oldest traditions of the Republic, Kennedy allayed those fears with this speech, a fine summary of the secular principles of our government, and one which I earnestly urge my truckbuddies to read or listen to.

Part I:



Part II:




A transcript of the entire speech is on the NPR website. If you don't have time, here's an excerpt of the crucial points he made - and it's worth noting that no one accused Kennedy of being a disloyal Catholic, much less of making "war on religion," a canard being slung at our current President:
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.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; 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 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.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not 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 pastoral level, 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.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and 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 believe in, and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died."

And in fact ,this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died, when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches; when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom; and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey. But no one knows whether they were Catholic or not, for there was no religious test at the Alamo.
Yet Santorum and his ilk would gladly make a religious test for just about everything in this country; and in an historical irony, his supporters include many fanatical Protestants for whom the Catholic boogeyman has lost all dread.  Andrew Sullivan again:
American religion is splitting into two factions - most mainstream Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jews vs Theocon Catholics, Christianist evangelicals and Mormons. It's telling to me that this split is really about politics, not religion. The theological divisions are far less important to these groups than political rallying cries.

In other words, as I see it, it's not really about religion anymore, as was the case when Kennedy spoke: it's about control, control, control - and fear, not of the Vatican devil, but of everything that proceeds from the Enlightenment, fear of reason and science and equality and - though they will never admit it - of freedom.

Both the right and the left in this country love to mouth about freedom, freedom, freedom, from morning till night. Alas, what far too many people on both sides really mean when they say the word freedom is - obey me, bitch.

Or else.

I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

--Thomas Jefferson

5 comments:

Nikolaos said...

An excellent piece.

And how impressive is Kennedy's speech! Eloquent, articulate, thoughtful, wise, embracing, profound.

How much we have lost over the last 60 years!

Frank said...

Kennedy had a gift for speaking clearly and unambiguously in terms that anyone could understand. His explanation of the separation of church and state is so on the mark - and does not "favor" one over the other.

Current Republican candidates clearly are confused. Or maybe not confused, just knowingly subversive.

Russ Manley said...

I'm glad you guys appreciate the speech, I hope a lot of people will read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it - as we say in the Episcopal Church.

Frank said...

Russ, I'm sure you won't mind my passing on a link to this post...already done. Thanks.

Russ Manley said...

Sure buddy, don't mind a bit.

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