Dan Piller was a business reporter for more than four decades, working for the Des Moines Register and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He covered the oil and gas industry while in Texas and was the Register’s agriculture reporter before his retirement in 2013. He lives in Ankeny.
Senator John F. Kennedy rose to a lectern at the Rice Hotel in Houston on September 12, 1960 to face the toughest audience of his presidential campaign; a roomful of Southern Baptist ministers who reflected the longstanding antipathy of the evangelicals toward Kennedy’s Roman Catholic religion.
JFK was just the second Roman Catholic nominee of a major political party, and older Americans remembered the fate of the first. New York Governor Al Smith lost to the lackluster Herbert Hoover in 1928, amidst charges that Smith’s Catholicism would put him—and the nation—under the control of the Pope in Rome.
If Kennedy didn’t win over the skeptical Texans, his sixteen-minute address at least neutralized their hostility by avowing his support for the longstanding doctrine of separation of church and state.Continue Reading...