Ted Kennedy on separation of church and state

I wanted to do something in honor of Ted Kennedy today, but was unsure how I go about it, or what angle I would take.

Luckily I came across an article on eXaminer.com that seemed to touch on a subject I feel strongly about, and Ted Kennedy’s thoughts on the subject.

The following is an excerpt from a talk Sen. Edward M. Kennedy gave at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist College in 1983, where he made the case for the separation of church and state, and for tolerance of people of all faiths and no faith.

Obviously giving this talk to Falwell and his supports, Ted knew he was going to be talking to a hostile audience, and not not necessarily open to what he was saying, but he gave quite a good talk that day…

The separation of church and state can sometimes be frustrating for women and men of religious faith. They may be tempted to misuse government in order to impose a value which they cannot persuade others to accept. But once we succumb to that temptation, we step onto a slippery slope where everyone’s freedom is at risk. Those who favor censorship should recall that one of the first books ever burned was the first English translation of the Bible. As President Eisenhower warned in 1953, “Don’t join the book burners…the right to say ideas, the right to record them, and the right to have them accessible to others is unquestioned — or this isn’t America.” And if that right is denied, at some future day the torch can be turned against any other book or any other belief. Let us never forget: Today’s Moral Majority could become tomorrow’s persecuted minority.”

People of conscience should be careful how they deal in the word of their Lord. In our own history, religion has been falsely invoked to sanction prejudice — even slavery — to condemn labor unions and public spending for the poor. I believe that the prophecy, ”The poor you have always with you” is an indictment, not a commandment. And I respectfully suggest that God has taken no position on the Department of Education — and that a balanced budget constitutional amendment is a matter of economic analysis, and not heavenly appeals.

[ . . . ]

In short, I hope for an America where neither “fundamentalist” nor “humanist” will be a dirty word, but a fair description of the different ways in which people of goodwill look at life and into their own souls.

I hope for an America where no president, no public official, no individual will ever be deemed a greater or lesser American because of religious doubt — or religious belief.

I hope for an America where the power of faith will always burn brightly, but where no modern Inquisition of any kind will ever light the fires of fear, coercion, or angry division.

I hope for an America where we can all contend freely and vigorously, but where we will treasure and guard those standards of civility which alone make this nation safe for both democracy and diversity.

For more highlights of this please check eXaminer.com.


The full text can be found at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

And apparently, at least one excerpt exists on YouTube:


About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
This entry was posted in Politics, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ted Kennedy on separation of church and state

  1. Melody says:

    The author of this article, Paul Fidalgo, will be speaking at the Center for Inquiry DC on February 14, 2010. I know it’s quite far into the future, but just in case there are any Secular eXaminer fans out there…


  2. Pingback: Broken Spectrum » Tribute to Kennedy

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