April 7, 2009
The Making of a Catholic President
The 1960 presidential election, won ultimately by John F. Kennedy, was one of the closest and most contentious in American history. From the outset, Kennedy saw the religion issue as the single most important obstacle on his road to the White House. At this event, Shaun Casey presented his new book, The Making of a Catholic President, a fascinating account of how the Kennedy campaign transformed the "religion question" from a liability into an asset. Casey also reveals, for the first time, many of the Nixon campaign's efforts to tap into anti-Catholic sentiment, with the aid of Billy Graham and the National Association of Evangelicals. He argues that this alliance laid the groundwork for the rise of the Religious Right. The Center's Chester Gillis moderated the discussion of Kennedy's election and its enduring legacies for contemporary American politics.
Shaun Casey is the head of the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives and associate professor of Christian Ethics and director of the National Capital Semester for Seminarians (NCSS) at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. His research interests include ethics and international affairs, the public implications of religious belief, and the intersection of religion and politics. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School with a Doctorate of Theology in Religion and Society, Casey has written on the ethics of the war in Iraq as well the role of religion in American presidential politics. His book The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960 was published by Oxford University Press in January 2009.