Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Religion, Politics, and JFK

The Kennedy Momement:
Religion and the Race for the Presidency

16 January 2008, 6 – 8 pm

Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus
Pope Auditorium, 113 West 60th Street

Free and Open to the Public

RSVP: [email protected], 212.636.7347            

“Whatever issue may come before me as President . . . I will make my decision . . . in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be in the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressure or dictate.”
-- Senator John F. Kennedy, speaking to Houston ministers, Sept.12, 1960

For almost fifty years, President John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960 has been a key reference point for American debates about church-state relations and the place of religion in presidential campaigns. In January 2008, amid news about early primaries, a distinguished panel will reexamine the speech, its political and cultural context, its argument and rhetoric—and its relevance for the 2008 presidential election.

The Houston speech, a response of a Catholic presidential candidate to suspicions about his faith, has been widely praised as a brilliant defense of the separation of church and state and a careful delimiting of religion’s role in American politics. But the speech has been no less vigorously criticized as a politically expedient argument for quarantining personal religious and moral principles from public service and official responsibilities.  To read JFK's speech, click here.  To watch JFK's speech on C-Span, click here.

Both partisans and critics of the speech frequently quote it selectively or out of context. Bringing together publicly engaged scholars of different perspectives, this Headline Forum will explore what the Houston speech meant in 1960 and what it might mean today.


Peter Quinn, novelist essayist, author of Banished Children of Eve and Looking for Jimmy. He served as a speech writer for New York
governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo.


Shaun Casey, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C. He is completing a book on the role of
religion in the 1960 presidential election, including archival material on the Kennedy speech.

William Galston,
Professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland.  He served in the Clinton administration and as an advisor in the
presidential campaigns of Walter Mondale and Albert Gore, Jr.

Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program, Princeton University. A member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, he has advised the administration on abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.

J. Bryan Hehir, Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard. His research and writing focus on ethics and the role of religion in American society and world politics.


Perry, Michael | Permalink

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