POAUProtestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State
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It is perhaps not surprising that, in addition to a strong liberal sponsorship, a large number of the officers and members of the POAU were drawn from the ranks of the Northern and Southern Baptists, denominations rich in the heritage of religious freedom.
"No one," they stated, "is authorized to speak for the Baptists as a whole, and the POAU certainly does not speak for us" (Wood 1976, 99).
In 1960, POAU lawyer and author Paul Blanshard was the most articulate and outspoken libertarian opponent of Catholic Church participation in U.S.
In the February 1958 issue of Church and State, POAU's monthly newsletter, Blanshard publicly demanded that Kennedy and other Catholic presidential candidates address three contentious church-state subjects: "the Catholic boycott of public schools, the drive of Catholic bishops for public funds, and the appointment of a Vatican ambassador." Though he denied any intent to organize a "blanket boycott" of Catholic presidential aspirants, Blanshard nonetheless issued no such requirements to non-Catholic candidates.(25)
Still, if anyone pursued legal restrictions on Catholic rights to enter public service, Reitman assured Carrafiello, "the American Civil Liberties Union would be the first to enter the fray."(28) POAU and ACLU leaders defended the questions to Catholic candidates as a legal and unbiased political challenge.
Having struggled to distinguish criticism of the Catholic hierarchy from Kennedy's presidential candidacy, Blanshard urged the POAU to avoid election politics.
When this publication--called Church-State News appeared, Blanshard expressed stern opposition to POAU's strategy.
POAU particularly attracted liberal ire for criticizing Kennedy's religious affiliation at the National Conference of Citizens for Religious Freedom (NCCRF) in early September.
Christianity and Crisis editors Niebuhr and Bennett denounced both the NAE and POAU for having "loosed the floodgates of bigotry clothed in the respectability of apparently rational argument."(67) Bennett accused Kennedy's religious opponents of harboring Republican political goals, not legitimate fears about religious liberty: "Those who take the leadership in the Protestant attack on the Roman Church as a campaign issue are also persons who would not support a liberal Democrat no matter what his religion," he said.(68) But POAU members included Democrats as well as Republicans, and religious motives weighed as heavily as political goals.
As he scribbled in the margins of a New York Times story, "complete avoidance of main issue, use of public support for sectarian institutions."(75) By late September, however, even Blanshard was discouraging POAU leaders from further comments on Kennedy's Catholicism, leaving only antiliberal evangelical leaders to join POAU in promoting the campaign's religious issue.
Perhaps the leading anti-Catholic intellectual was Paul Blanshard, twin brother of the chair of the Philosophy Department at Yale and legal counsel to POAU. (54) Just ten years before the Kennedy speech, Blanshard wrote a book entitled American Freedom and Catholic Power, first published as a series of articles in The Nation, (55) which then as now was the leading voice of the left-progressive side of the ideological spectrum.
POAU might well think that religious authorities cannot attempt to influence public policy directly or indirectly, and that religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, orphanages, and social welfare activities must be excluded from the benefits of publicly funded programs, but Kennedy should not have agreed with them--and nor should the evangelical ministers in that room.