John F. Kennedy was concerned about his Catholicism becoming a campaign issue. No Catholic before him had ever been elected president. Below is an excerpt from a speech he gave in which he attempted to assure the American people that his decisions as president would not be influenced by his religious beliefs or dictated by Rome.
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.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–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–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
I can’t imagine a current presidential candidate delivering a similar speech. The American body politic has drifted toward the dogmatic right and need to pull their collective head out of their proverbial ass. Tolerance, open mindedness, rational thinking, and morals are most certainly not the exclusive domain of the county’s religious sects. Why is it necessary for presidential candidates to declare their faith for them to be taken seriously?