Democrats really should remember JFK

 

Fifty-seven years ago this week, the Democratic nominee for president - John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts - felt compelled to deliver a major address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, a group of Protestant ministers, on the issue of his religion.

Kennedy decided he could no longer remain silent over the innuendo - and sometimes outright accusation - that as a Roman Catholic he would be obliged to follow the pope's orders on how to run the country.

In language that echoed the nativist movements of the 19th century, Kennedy was called a "papist." It harked back to the days when the Ku Klux Klan targeted not just blacks but Jews and Catholics as well.

Kennedy's brilliant speech put the issue to rest.

Now, in 2017, the innuendo is much more subtle, but nonetheless anti-Catholic. There is not supposed to be a religious litmus test for serving in government; someone needs to tell the Democrats.

Evidently, they have forgotten JFK.

Last week, in the Senate confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame whom President Trump has nominated to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Democrats grilled the nominee over her Catholic beliefs.

Questioning by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, was the most disturbing. "Dogma and law are two different things," she lectured. "And I think whatever a religion is, it has its own dogma. The law is totally different. And I think in your case, professor, when you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you, and that's of concern."

In other words, no Catholics need apply. Unless they don't really believe in their religion.

Feinstein, perhaps following the lead of left-wing activists, suggested that Barrett placed religion ahead of the law. But it is a distortion of Barrett's views.

In a 1998 essay she co-authored, the nominee stated that a Catholic judge who found herself unable to go against her church's opposition to capital punishment could recuse herself.

She never said a judge could ignore the law or go against the Constitution because of personal beliefs, be they rooted in religion or otherwise.

In fact, the essay concluded: "Judges cannot - nor should they try to - align our legal system with the Church's moral teaching whenever the two diverge."

So what's the problem?

Feinstein came in for criticism even from the loyally liberal New York Times and Los Angeles Times, which published pieces arguing that she went too far.

There is no religious test in this country, and Feinstein should go back and read JFK's Houston speech, and then apologize to Barrett.

"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 Jew - or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist," Kennedy said.

"It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you - until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril."

Dare we say it? Amen.

 

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