"But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.
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 these
views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the
national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or
dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide
But if the time should ever come — and I do not
concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office
would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national
interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious
public servant would do the same.
But I do not intend to
apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant
faith, nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order
to win this election.
If I should lose on the real
issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had
tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on
the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president
on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be
the loser — in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the
world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people."
— John F. Kennedy, in a speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960