FFRF to air ad featuring JFK during Tuesday CBS Democratic debate

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is placing an ad featuring John F. Kennedy during the Democratic debate on Tuesday, Feb. 25, to remind candidates and voters of dire threats to the constitutional principle of separation between religion and government.

FFRF is running a 30-second commercial showcasing the face and famous words of John F. Kennedy vowing as a presidential candidate: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” The ad will air during the 10th debate, which takes place in Charleston, S.C., and is co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus. The debate starts at 8 p.m. Eastern.

FFRF’s ad opens with footage of the speech by JFK in his historic 1960 appearance before the Protestant ministers in Houston. The full text is:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. . . . where no ecclesiastical body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly on the general populace.” Let’s restore respect for America’s secular roots. Help the Freedom From Religion Foundation defend the wall of separation between state and church. Join us at FFRF.org. Freedom depends on freethinkers.

The ad concludes with the strains, “Let freedom ring,” as FFRF’s emblematic image appears of a Lincoln penny with the words “In Reason We Trust” instead of “In God We Trust.”

This ad was first created in response to a comment by then-GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum in 2012, who averred that JFK’s speech “makes me want to throw up.”

“We’re running this ad again because there has been almost no discussion during the debates about this constitutional principle that has never been under greater assault, and upon which so many of our other rights rest,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

Gaylor cites the nearly 200 judges appointed by President Trump, including two on the U.S. Supreme Court, who have been virtually handpicked by the Religious Right, the claim by then-Secretary of Energy Rick Perry that the president was “chosen” by God, the vilification by Attorney General William Barr of “militant secularists” while lauding “Judeo-Christian standards,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo billing himself as a “Christian leader” in speeches and on the State Department website. The president himself routinely calls America a “nation of believers,” thereby appearing to disenfranchise the 26 percent of nonreligious U.S. citizens.

Other threats to secular government include the so-called Religious Liberty Task Force launched by the Justice Department in 2018, a new federal voucher scheme to divert up to $5 billion in tax revenue each year toward private school vouchers, and the promotion of evangelist Paula White to a paid position within the White House’s Faith & Opportunity initiative. White recently raised eyebrows by appealing to Jesus to “command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now.”

The theocratic influence on the Trump administration can be seen by the sway of Ralph Kim Drollinger, who runs the White House Bible Study (which is sponsored by 10 cabinet members weekly). Drollinger has been called a “shadow diplomat” by the New York Times. During one White House bible study, Drollinger infamously cited scripture to “to protect citizens from invaders,” inspiring then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to cite Romans 13 to justify separating children from their parents at the southern border.

Most recently, the administration released proposed rules to implement a May 2018 executive order to “remove regulatory burdens” on religious organizations contracting with the federal government to provide social services. The rights of non-Christians and LGBTQ citizens are imperiled by many of these rules. Women’s reproductive rights are also under serious threat by those motivated by religious opposition.

“JFK was absolutely right that the best hope for the world is secular government,” says FFRF Co-President Dan Barker.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation will be highlighting secular issues — and their importance regardless of party affiliation — throughout the presidential election.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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