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Picture of John Fitzgerald Kennedy
[Library of Congress]


35th President (1961-1963)

Biographical Data
Religious Views
References, Links, & Further Reading

Education: Harvard

Occupation: writer, reporter

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Religious Affiliation: Roman Catholic

Summary of Religious Views:

Views on Religion & Politics:

JFK, being Roman Catholic, was acutely aware of the dangers of mixing religious and political institutions, and so was a strong proponent of the separation of church and state.


"It is my firm belief that there should be separation of church and state as we understand it in the United States -- that is, that both church and state should be free to operate, without interference from each other in their respective areas of jurisdiction. We live in a liberal, democratic society which embraces wide varieties of belief and disbelief. There is no doubt in my mind that the pluralism which has developed under our Constitution, providing as it does a framework within which diverse opinions can exist side by side and by their interaction enrich the whole, is the most ideal system yet devised by man. I cannot conceive of a set of circumstances which would lead me to a different conclusion." -- letter to Glenn L. Archer, 23 February 1959

"Whatever one's religion in his private life may be, for the officeholder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Constitution and all its parts -- including the First Amendment and the strict separation of church and state." -- Interview, Look, 3 March 1959

"I believe the American people are more concerned with a man's views and abilities than with the church to which he belongs. I believe the founding fathers meant it when they provided in Article VI of the Constitution that there should be no religious test for public office. And I believe that the American people mean to adhere to those principles today." -- address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, 21 April 1960

"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.
"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. 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.
"Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.
"That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe--a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.
"I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so--and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it." -- address to the Ministerial Association of Greater Houston, 12 September 1960

"If my church attempted to influence me in a way which was improper or which affected adversely my responsibilities as a public servant sworn to uphold the Constitution, then I would reply to them that this was an improper action on their part. It was one to which I could not subscribe." -- press conference, Houston, Texas, 12 September 1960

"We do not want an official state church. If ninety-nine percent of the population were Catholics, I would still be opposed to it. I do not want civil power combined with religious power. I want to make it clear that I am committed as a matter of deep personal conviction to separation." -- interview, CBS-TV, Face the Nation, 30 October 1960

References, Links, & Further Reading: Books, Articles, Links


Works by John F. Kennedy,

ed. by Robert F. Kennedy, A Nation of Immigrants, 1959; Rev. and enlarged, Harper & Row, 1986
Prelude to Leadership: The European Diary of John F. Kennedy Summer 1945, Regnery Publishing, 1995
Profiles in Courage, 1956
Why England Slept, 1940
selected by Ted Widmer, Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy, Hyperion, 2012
Ed. Martin W. Sandler, The Letters of John F. Kennedy, Bloomsbury Press, 2013


Irving Bernstein, Promises Kept: John F. Kennedy's New Frontier , Oxford Univ. Press, 1991
Clay Blair, Jr. and Joan Blair, The Search for JFK, Berkley, 1976
Benjamin C. Bradlee, Conversations with Kennedy, Norton, 1975
Carl Brauer, John F. Kennedy and the Second Reconstruction (Contemporary American History Series), Columbia Univ. Press, 1977
James M. Burns, John Kennedy: A Political Profile, Harcourt, Brace and World, 1961
David Burner, John F. Kennedy and a New Generation (Library of American Biography), Little Brown, 1988
Shaun Casey, The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960, Oxford Univ. Press, 2009
James Tracy Crown, The Kennedy Literature: A Bibliographical Essay on John F. Kennedy, New York Univ. Press, 1968
Robert Dallek, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, Little, Brown, 2003
Robert J. Donovan, PT 109: John F. Kennedy in World War II, McGraw Hill, 1961
Lawrence Freedman, Kennedy's Wars: Berlin, Cuba, Laos, and Vietnam, Oxford Univ. Press, 2000
James Giglio, The Presidency of John F. Kennedy (American Presidency Series), Univ. Press of Kansas, 1991
ed. by Paul Harper & Joann P. Krieg, John F. Kennedy: The Promise Revisited (Contributions in Political Science), Greenwood Press, 1988
ed. by Steven R. Goldzwig & George N. Dionisopoulos, "In a Perilous Hour": The Public Address of John F. Kennedy (Great American Orators), Greenwood Press, 1995
Michael O'Brien, John F. Kennedy: A Biography, St. Martins, 2005
Lewis J. Paper, John F. Kennedy: The Promise and the Performance, Da Capo Press, 1980
Herbert S. Parmet, Jack: The Struggles of John F. Kennedy, Dial Press, 1980
Herbert S. Parmet, JFK: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy, Dial Press, 1983
Thomas Reeves, A Question of Character: A Life of John F. Kennedy, Macmillan, 1991
Richard Reeves, President Kennedy: Profile of Power, Simon and Schuster, 1993
Pierre Salinger, With Kennedy, Doubleday, 1966
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Houghton Mifflin 1965; reprint, Fawcett, 1977
Tazewell Taylor Shepard, John F. Kennedy, Man of the Sea, W. Morrow, 1965
Theodore C. Sorensen, Kennedy, Harper and Row, 1965
Theodore C. Sorensen, The Kennedy Legacy, Macmillan, 1969
Richard William Tregaskis, John F. Kennedy and PT-109, Random House, 1962
Richard William Tregaskis, John F. Kennedy: War Hero, Dell, 1962
Chandler Whipple, Lt. John F. Kennedy - Expendable!, Universal Publishing and Distributing, 1962
Theodore H. White, The Making of the President 1960, Atheneum, 1961
Tom Wicker, JFK and LBJ: The Influence of Personality Upon Politics, William Morrow Co., 1968


John Cottrell, Assassination: The world stood still (Four square books), English Library, 1964
House Select Committee on Assassinations, Final Report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, 1979
William Manchester, The Death of a President , Harper, 1967
Jim Moore, Ed. by Don Turner, Conspiracy of One: The Definitive Book on the Kennedy Assassination, Summit Pub., 1990
Warren Commission, The Official Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, USGPO, 1964


Denise Bostdorff & Steven Goldzwig, "Idealism and pragmatism in American foreign policy rhetoric: The case of John F. Kennedy and Vietnam," Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 24, Iss. 3, pp. 515-
Jean Edward Smith, "Kennedy and Defense: The formative years," Air University Review, March-April 1967


Works by John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Speeches (John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library)
John F. Kennedy: Historic Speeches (Presidential Rhetoric)
Document Library (TeachingAmericanHistory.org)
Inaugural Address (AMDOCS)
Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy (Avalon Project -- Yale Law School)
Inaugural Address (American Rhetoric)
Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association (American Rhetoric)
Greater Houston Ministerial Association Q & A (American Rhetoric)
Democratic National Convention Nomination Acceptance Address (American Rhetoric)
Opening Statement, First Presidential Candidate Debate (American Rhetoric)
Address to a Joint Convention of the General Court of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (American Rhetoric)
Address to the American Newspaper Publishers (American Rhetoric)
Address to the United Nations General Assembly (American Rhetoric)
Address at the Inaugural Anniversary Dinner (American Rhetoric)
Yale University Commencement Address (American Rhetoric)
Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Program (American Rhetoric)
Cuban Missile Crisis Address to the Nation (American Rhetoric)
Address to the Economic Club of New York (American Rhetoric)
Vanderbilt University 90th Anniversary Convocation Address (American Rhetoric)
American University Commencement Address (American Rhetoric)
Civil Rights Address (American Rhetoric)
Ich bin ein Berliner ("I am a 'Berliner'") (American Rhetoric)
Address Before the Irish Parliament (American Rhetoric)
Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Address to the Nation (American Rhetoric)
Last Will and Testament of John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy (Vincent Voice Library -- Michigan State University Libraries)

Biographical Sites

John Fitzgerald Kennedy [alternate site] (POTUS)
John Kennedy (White House)
KENNEDY, John Fitzgerald, 1917-1963 (Biographical Directory of the US Congress)
John F. Kennedy (USA Presidents)
John F. Kennedy (American President)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Biography (Hypertext on American History)
Kennedy (The American Experience -- PBS)
Life Portrait of John F. Kennedy (C-SPAN)
A Biography of John F. Kennedy: The 35th President of the United States (John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library)
John F. Kennedy (Character Above All -- PBS)
John F. Kennedy, President, 1961-1963 (From Roosevelt to Bush: The American Presidency: Transformation and Change -- lecture by Vernon Bogdanor, Gresham College)
John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library and Museum
John Kennedy (Medical History of the Presidents of the United States)


The Kennedy Assassination (John McAdams)
The Sixth Floor Museum
The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection (National Archives and Records Administration)

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