Kennedy, Romney and the separation of state and religion

Interesting addendum to the story earlier in the week about Wallace Thompson’s honest and forthright discussions of his religious conviction on RTE recently, there’s this piece in the New York Review of Books. In it there is a discussion of John F Kennedy’s, and latterly, Mitt Romney’s dilemma over the US’s separation of state and religion.


  • wild turkey

    “It’s not the Pope I’m afraid of; it’s the pop.”
    Harry Truman commenting on Jack Kennedy’s presidential ambitions

    Separation of church and state is THE fundamental corner stone of the American constitution. The constitution makes no mention whatever of God. The omission was too obvious to have been anything but deliberate, in spite of Alexander Hamilton’s flippant responses when asked about it: According to one account, he said that the new nation was not in need of “foreign aid”; according to another, he simply said “we forgot.” But as Hamilton’s biographer Ron Chernow points out, Hamilton never forgot anything important.
    In the eighty-five essays that make up The Federalist, God is mentioned only twice (both times by Madison, who uses the word, as Gore Vidal has remarked, in the “only Heaven knows” sense). In the Declaration of Independence, He gets two brief nods: a reference to “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” and the famous line about men being “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”

    More blatant official references to a deity date from long after the founding period: “In God We Trust” did not appear on money until the Civil War, and “under God” was introduced into the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy hysteria in 1954.

    The Founding Fathers were not religious men. They fought hard to erect, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “a wall of separation between church and state.” John Adams opined that if they were not restrained by legal measures, Puritans–the fundamentalists of their day–would “whip and crop, and pillory and roast.”

    Of course the founders all knew, as all modern presidential candidates know, that to admit to theological skepticism is political suicide. During Jefferson’s presidency a friend observed him on his way to church, carrying a large prayer book. “You going to church, Mr. J,” remarked the friend. “You do not believe a word in it.” Jefferson didn’t exactly deny the charge. “Sir,” he replied, “no nation has ever yet existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I as chief Magistrate of this nation am bound to give it the sanction of my example. Good morning Sir.”
    Like Jefferson, every recent President has understood the necessity of at least paying lip service to the piety of most American voters. All of our leaders, Democrat and Republican, have attended church, and have made very sure they are seen to do so.
    But there is a big difference between offering this gesture of respect for majority beliefs and manipulating and pandering to the bigotry, prejudice and fantasies of Christian extremists. Though for public consumption the Founding Fathers identified themselves as Christians, they were, at least by today’s standards, remarkably honest about their misgivings when it came to theological doctrine.
    Religion in general came very low on the list of their concerns and priorities–always excepting, that is, their determination to keep the new nation free from bondage to its influence and prejudice.

  • BfB

    The New York Review of Books is a secular-liberal forum for atheist, abortionists, and anti intelligent design, hippies (aka Democrats). Willis is a lapsed conservative, and more Anglican than Catholic in his beliefs. This particular flow of thought is more anti-conservative than anything else. He is a liberal, elitist, incoherent, Christian socialist, who would like to see the whole Papal hierarchy dismantled. Not a Catholic at all, in my opinion. But just what the Democrats want, a vague, elitist, smoke screen, hit piece on Mitt Romney. The next POTUS.

  • lib2016

    Paisley’s decision to give up his leadership of his church in favour of leading his community through troubled times will be analysed in the light of history. It will be an interesting paradox if the man who does most to break the link between unionism and Protestant fundamentalism turns out to be not only a fundamentalist himself but a very political cleric as well. Could it be that he is the only man with the credibility to pull off such a somersault?

  • pauljames

    “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.”


    or as someone might have said, you Mr Romney, are no Jack Kennedy.

  • Wilde Rover

    Who cares what religion Romney is?

    “I am glad [detainees] are at Guantanamo. I don’t want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil. I don’t want them in our prisons, I want them there. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is we ought to double Guantanamo.”

    Mitt Romney.

    He is the same as John “100 year war” McCain.

  • BfB

    Mohamed Wilde Rover

    Easy to say on your side of the pond.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Who cares what religion Romney is?

    Quite a large percentage of ‘evangelical christians – a large number of catholics and probably every atheist/agnostic in the USA . Americans generally regard ‘Mormons’ as a hard working -ethical and family orientated minority. There are still however doubts about the factual as opposed to the legal absence of polygamy in rural areas of Utah/Nevada etc . Romney may become Republican Party nominee but he would have a much tougher time winning against the Democrats than McCain .

    ‘He is the same as John “100 year war” McCain.’

    McCain is just stating the obvious for anyone who has their eyes open . Resurgent Islam fuelled by fanatical Wahhabists will be engaged in a war of ‘ideology’ against the largely secular West for the next century or more . Whether that war becomes a full scale ‘shooting war’ or a war of ideas or a series of proxy (oil) wars is the question . As Britain,Germany and France face up to growing ‘sharia’ demands from growing islamic minorities you can discern the probable future . Throw in xenophobic nationalists in all the above countries, the deteriorating economic prospects for the younger population , the emisseration of the USA’s middle class and you have a potent brew which could foment immense political and economic instabilty in the second and third decade of this century . Bush’s ill considered foreign policy ‘initiatives’ have weakened the West . The next leader of the USA should be somebody who knows more about the planet that we are all forced to share than the present incumbent . In that respect both John McCain and Hilary Clinton are better placed than any of the others IMO.

    ‘My view is we ought to double Guantanamo.”’

    So ‘doubling ‘ Long Kesh or the Maze would have led to a ‘faster ‘ NI political solution ? It’s only since they have been closed that the ‘half solution’ hat was achieved became even been possible .

    Senator McCain to his credit has condemned publicly the ‘water boarding torture’ used on Guantanamo prisoners . Romney refused to condemn it in what can only be described as ‘weasel ‘ words . McCain will get the Cuban American vote in South Florida now that Senator Martinez has endorsed him and also the backing of many of the 1.7 million veterans who live in Florida . McCain will not be able to count on his 2 to 1 support among independents due to the their being unable to vote in the Florida Primary.

    Romney’s hopes rely on the disillusioned Republican party conservatives and those earning over 100,000 Dollars per annum.

    I’ll stick my neck out and forcast a narrow McCain win.

  • Wilde Rover


    “Mohamed Wilde Rover
    Easy to say on your side of the pond.”

    I see you are of the “if you’re not with us you’re with the terrorists” school of thought. Yes, it is easier to say things with the benefit of distance.

    The US has earmarked $1.1 trillion for war for 2008, this while the US is hemorrhaging industry and federal debts are mounting, individuals are maxed out on credit and living in homes they can no longer afford, and the dollar is on the brink of freefall.

    Where is all this new money going to come from? Is Dan “helicopter” Bernanke going to pull it out of thin air?

    Romney would be just as happy to spend the US into oblivion as McCain seemingly is, and why wouldn’t he? It’s not as if someone with his personal fortune is going to suffer.

    The only person addressing the grave problems facing the US is Ron Paul. If he doesn’t get elected president then the Republic of the United States of America will enter the pages of history.

    Or don’t you love your Republic BfB?


    “Senator McCain to his credit has condemned publicly the ‘water boarding torture’ used on Guantanamo prisoners “.

    Big deal. The guy’s a war monger, and even his hallowed POW hero status has been called into question by fellow POWs.

    “McCain is just stating the obvious for anyone who has their eyes open . Resurgent Islam fuelled by fanatical Wahhabists will be engaged in a war of ‘ideology’ against the largely secular West for the next century or more”

    Greenflag, it looks like you have swallowed the entire neo-con propaganda book. “fanatical Wahhabists” are the Count Dooku’s of the neo-con game. It’s the old good guy bad guy routine, with both sides believing they are the good guy.

    And the masters of eternal war snigger in the shadows.

    Open your mind.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Greenflag, it looks like you have swallowed the entire neo-con propaganda book.’

    Greenflag doesn’t swallow anything bar a decent rare steak on occasion and a glass of cabernet sauvignon . McCain is close to Clinton (Hilary and Bill ) politically and has just now got the endorement of Governor Crist (the liberal republican Governor of Florida) and Senator Martinez .

    ‘And the masters of eternal war snigger in the shadows. ‘

    Nothing like homo conspiratorus to emerge when
    the time appears right 🙁

    Your quip is reminiscent of the paranoia of another buffoon

    ‘I have evidence that the government is planning to have me certified by psychiatrists’

    Ian Paisley

  • Greenflag

    ‘If he(Ron Paul) doesn’t get elected president then the Republic of the United States of America will enter the pages of history. ‘

    Eh ?The USA is already in the pages of history . I presume you infer that the USA will no longer be top dog without the USA returning to the Gold Standard . I accept that many of Ron Pauls individual policies are not without merit but realpolitik tells us that in order for the world not to descend to utter chaos it is necessary for there to be a balance of power or either one superpower . For now the USA fulfills the latter function in perhaps not the way most non Americans (And even now Americans ) would have hoped . Still until the Middle Kingdom and it’s 1.3 billion people achieve the economic status as the average American of say 1970 then we are stuck with Uncle Sam . Hey it could be worse.

  • BfB

    Oh, yes it could.
    Much worse.

  • BfB
  • Dread Cthulhu

    The Constitution outlines the relationship between the people and the three branches of government. The “seperation of Church and State” does not appear in the text as amended:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    The First Amendment was created as a brake on the Federal government, prohibiting it from making laws pertaining to:

    1) The establishment of religion (the original 13 colonies were religiously diverse, with some states with a “state religion. As such, the establishment of a state religion on a national level was seen as disruptive);

    2) the prohibition of the free excercise of one’s religion (see above); and

    3) the infringement of free speech, a free press, free peacable assembly and the right to petition the government for redress of grievences.

    Specifically, it was a red-lined “no-go” for the Federal government. This was subsequently expanded to include that states, but only with the acceptance of the 14th Amendment.

    The “Seperation of Church and State” is a legal doctrine, arising seperately, although was a hobby-horse of Madison’s and part of his intent in the Bill of Rights, but, obviously, did not make the final text.

    The earliest invoking that approaches the modern interpretation that I am aware of, iirc, was a school funding issue in NYC, where the court held that funding of parochial schools — in an era when Protestant religious classes were a de rigeur part of the school day (19th century, pre-civil war, iirc). Ironic, insofar as this was decade or two after the “official dis-establishment” of religion in the last state (Massachusetts in 1833, again, iirc.)

  • Greenflag

    The so called Evangelical Christians -moral majority have long been out of step with the Founding Fathers of the American Constitution .

    Although many believe that the ‘moral majority’ (the group of allied Protestants and Catholics ) started out opposing abortion the truth as always has long been ‘covered ‘ over .

    The first ‘awakening’ of the evangelicals goes back to none other than the infamous Bob Jones University . President Lyndon Johnson passed a law which disallowed the tax free charitable status on any institution which was seen to practice discrimination against any minority. Johnsons said that those who practised ‘racism’ could not claim ‘charitable’ status.

    As a result of the above the ‘evangelical movement’ was begun to protect ‘christianity’. Later it morphed into an anti abortion campaign until eventually as we have now seen it ended up with a President whose favourite philosopher was/is Jesus ?

    No one has yet asked him (Bush ) what Jesus would think about Bush & Cheney’s Iraq War? – Guantanamo- ? . IIRC correctly Jesus mentioned turning the other cheek .

    Best to keep religion out of politics and politics out of religion . For those who are ‘religious’ they should remember anyway that when ‘religion’ gets involved in politics it ends up ‘contaminated’ one way or the other -sooner or later !

  • BfB


    You omitted nazi in your last post.
    Keep up will you.
    And hold tight, wouldn’t want you to fall off that high horse you’re on.

  • Greenflag

    Keep waving your whiteflag . It suits losers :). BTW -how did your friend Mr Romney POTUS do ?

  • BfB


    McCain is the anti-conservative. A vile man imho. Open border grizzlie in wolf’s clothing. FL was a bastardized non event. Mitt is still the next POTUS.

  • Greenflag

    ‘McCain is the anti-conservative’

    Not according to the votes analysis.

    ‘A vile man imho’

    You’re entitled to your opinion . We know what it’s worth i.e < shite'FL was a bastardized non event.'Which explains why Romney spent 4 million dollars on TV advertising and McCain only 400,000 . It also explains why Giuliani spent months in Florida at the non event . For him it was a non event .'Mitt is still the next POTUS.'Brilliant analysis . You have to be in line for chief tosspot of this blog ye gobi shite !

  • Greenflag

    How to live in the world of Bushspeak 🙁

    Or how Bushspeak makes Attorney General Mukasey sound like a retard 🙁

    Sen. Edward Kennedy pointed out that — because the attorney general has acknowledged his opposition to torture — his refusal to pass judgment on waterboarding is “like saying you’re opposed to stealing but not quite sure that bank robbery qualifies.

    At one point the Massachusetts Democrat posed a blunt question to Mukasey: “Would waterboarding be torture if it was done to you?”

    The attorney general responded, “I would feel that it was.”

    Where does Bush find them :(?

  • BfB


    Hold on to yourself now!!! You BDS anti Americans get wound up, now don’t you.. Not even worth the effort at times. Oh, yes it is.
    It’ll be great fun when you spit your teeth on the floor, bleating election fraud and all that….
    But, in the end, there will be a winner.
    Back to your novel.

  • BfB