November 12, 2009
On September 12, 1960, presidential candidate John F. Kennedy gave a major speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of religion. At the time, many Americans questioned whether Kennedy's Roman Catholic faith would allow him to make important national decisions as president independent of the Catholic Church. Kennedy put those concerns to rest:
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. . . . I believe in an America . . . 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. . . . That is the kind of America in which I believe. . . . Whatever issue may come before me as president - on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject - I will make my decision in accordance with . . . what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. Photo Regent University
It was on this basis that the United States elected our first Catholic president. Sadly, a lot has changed in the almost fifty years since Kennedy delivered that historic address. According to the Washington Post, the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is threatening to abandon its social service programs if the District of Columbia Council enacts a pending same-sex marriage law...
...Freedom of religion in our nation means, first and foremost, the right of individuals to live their lives in accord with their most cherished religious beliefs, and free of government interference. It is not for our government to tell Muslims they must drink alcohol or eat pork, it is not for our government to tell Jews they must consume shrimp or work on Saturday, and it is not for our government to tell Catholics they must have abortions or marry persons of the same-sex.
At the same time, though, the reciprocal of that freedom is an equally fundamental responsibility. This is the responsibility not to use the authority of the government to compel individuals to live their lives in accord with our "religious dictates" that they do not share. Muslims have the right not to consume pork, but they should not use the power of the government to forbid others to eat pork. Jews have the right not to work on Saturday, but they should not use the power of the government to prohibit others from working on Saturday. And Catholics have the right not to marry people of the same sex, but they should not use the power of the government to forbid others from marrying the person they love...Related links:
there will exist a well-informed,
well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction
that the most deadly of all possible sins
mutilation of a child's spirit.