In a post over at Outside the Beltway, Doug Mataconis nods approvingly at John Kennedy’s speech in Houston in 1960 in which he spoke about his religion as an issue in his presidential campaign. Here’s the speech and here’s the section most frequently quoted:
For contrary to common newspaper usage, 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, if I should be elected, 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 in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.
As a contrast I want to draw your attention to Hilaire Belloc’s response to a similar question when he was running for Parliament. Belloc said:
Gentlemen, I am a Catholic. As far as possible, I go to Mass every day. This [taking a rosary out of his pocket] is a rosary. As far as possible, I kneel down and tell these beads every day. If you reject me on account of my religion, I shall thank God that he has spared me the indignity of being your representative.
Although Belloc’s response may strike one as being impolitic he was twice elected to parliament after giving that speech.