From John F. Kennedy's 1960 Campaign Speech to Christian Supremacy: Religion in Modern Presidential Politics
Stephen A. Newman
New York Law School
December 9, 2008
New York Law School Law Review, Forthcoming
NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08/09-12
The mixing of religion and politics raises a distinct and thorny issue for a democracy that intends a significant degree of separation between religion and government. In the recent 2008 presidential campaign (including primaries), several candidates chose to stress their commitment to their faith, to disclose personal details about the influence of religion on their lives, and to make promises in religious terms about how they might govern. Campaign appeals to the electorate based upon religious belief raise troubling concerns about adherence to values underlying the separation of church and state. This article discusses the 2008 campaign, and the risks associated with politics aimed at religious voters, especially that faction I denominate Christian supremacists. Although Barack Obama's victory may cause us to relax our vigilance, the Christianist movement's network is in place, politicized, and prepared to fight for school prayer programs, anti-evolution science classes, public funding for Christian projects, and other special privileges. The current Supreme Court is likely to be more receptive to the mixing of public and religious interests. A look back at John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 campaign speech, and the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause cases at the time, provides a helpful perspective on our current religious politics.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 76
Keywords: religion, politics, establishment clause, church and state, Christian supremacy
Date posted: December 11, 2008
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