Thoughtful Speeches on Separation of Church and State

In 1984, while working for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, I helped draft talking points that were used by Democratic nominee Walter Mondale in a major address at B’Nai Brith outlining distinctions between Mondale and President Reagan on religious liberty. Mondale used significant chunks of my draft. The speech even today is remembered for these aphorisms:

“The Queen of England is Defender of the Faith but the President of the United States is Defender of the Constitution, which defends all faiths….Today, the religion clauses of the First Amendment do not need to be fixed; they need to be followed….Whatever his private beliefs and religious practice, a president must be the guardian of the laws which ensure America’s religious diversity…” NYTimes coverage. Google search.

I was reminded of this while reading Mario Cuomo’s obituary. One of his most memorable speeches was on the separation of church and state.

“Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective on the Separation of Church and State,” by Mario Cuomo, 1983. C-SPAN full report here. Full text from Notre Dame’s archives, here.

Money quote: “I can offer you no final truths, complete and unchallengeable. But it’s possible this one effort will provoke other efforts—both in support and contradiction of my position—that will help all of us understand our differences and perhaps even discover some basic agreement.”

Other memorable speeches on separation of church and state have come from John F. Kennedy in 1960; Edward Kennedy in 1984; John Kerry in various places, consistencies and inconsistencies; Mitt Romney in 2007, and Rick Santorum in 2012. Frederick Clarkson offered a comparing/contrasting analysis on Truthout in 2012.

A good assignment would be to re-read all these speeches and do an analysis of their similarities and differences.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: