The election of 1960 featuring Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon came at the height of the Cold War with the United States seemingly falling behind in the space and technological race and the Fidel Castro regime tightening relations with the Soviet Premier. Despite the rising tension, the American citizenry honed in on the individual personalities rather than the issues. Though Nixon attacked Kennedy for his age, the most detrimental factor to his campaign was his religious affiliation. Kennedy associated himself with the Catholic Church; never in the history of the United States had a Catholic been elected president. In 1928, Al Smith, a Catholic candidate for president, lost considerably to Herbert Hoover. Though this occurred decades prior to Kennedy’s election, questions were still raised concerning the legitimacy of a Catholic running to be president of the United States. More alarming to the Kennedy campaign, in terms of his religious association, was ...
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... exemptions could be perceived as one facet of favoritism leading to a slippery slope of mistrust and resentment from the American citizenry with regards to governmental treatment of religious denominations. Therefore, Kennedy was faced with the dilemma of allowing the pressure to mount from his religious association resulting in possible exemptions, or taking a hard stance on the way in which religious toleration, as understood by Jefferson, was to be handled. The direct mention of the “wall of separation” produces a monumental statement which further establishes Kennedy’s legitimacy as a candidate for the presidency. Though he practices Catholicism, Kennedy recognizes the separate spheres that exist between government and religion which denotes his comprehension of the manner in which responsibilities of the presidency are to be carried out should he be elected.
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