Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy (191763)
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolutewhere 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 votewhere no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preferenceand 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 Jewishwhere no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical sourcewhere no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officialsand 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 Jewor a Quakeror a Unitarianor a Baptist. It was Virginias harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jeffersons statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victimbut tomorrow it may be youuntil 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 endwhere all men and all churches are treated as equalwhere every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choicewhere there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kindand 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 believea 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.
Senator JOHN F. KENNEDY, speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, Houston, Texas, September 12, 1960.Freedom of Communications, final report of the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, part 1, pp. 2089 (1961). Senate Rept. 87994.