I was in bed the other night, checking Twitter one last time before falling asleep. That’s how I learned Senator Ted Kennedy had died. There have been a lot of wonderful things said about him by progressive groups over the past couple days, but I haven’t seen a lot of coverage about one of the speeches he gave.
In 1983, Kennedy spoke at Jerry Falwell‘s Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University). While respectful of religious faith, it was proudly in support of church/state separation and liberal causes. It is funny and honest and not something you hear very often these days.
The entire speech is available online, but here are a few choice excerpts:
Actually, a number of people in Washington were surprised that I was invited to speak here — and even more surprised when I accepted the invitation. They seem to think that it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a Kennedy to come to the campus of Liberty Baptist College. In honor of our meeting, I have asked Dr. Falwell, as your Chancellor, to permit all the students an extra hour next Saturday night before curfew. And in return, I have promised to watch the Old Time Gospel Hour next Sunday morning.
The separation of church and state can sometimes be frustrating for women and men of religious faith. They may be tempted to misuse government in order to impose a value which they cannot persuade others to accept. But once we succumb to that temptation, we step onto a slippery slope where everyone’s freedom is at risk. Those who favor censorship should recall that one of the first books ever burned was the first English translation of the Bible. As President Eisenhower warned in 1953, “Don’t join the book burners…the right to say ideas, the right to record them, and the right to have them accessible to others is unquestioned — or this isn’t America.” And if that right is denied, at some future day the torch can be turned against any other book or any other belief. Let us never forget: Today’s Moral Majority could become tomorrow’s persecuted minority.
Those who favor E.R.A [Equal Rights Amendment] are not “antifamily” or “blasphemers.” And their purpose is not “an attack on the Bible.” Rather, we believe this is the best way to fix in our national firmament the ideal that not only all men, but all people are created equal. Indeed, my mother, who strongly favors E.R.A., would be surprised to hear that she is anti-family. For my part, I think of the amendment’s opponents as wrong on the issue, but not as lacking in moral character.
Talk about being able to reach across the aisles… that’s impressive.
While I enjoyed reading the speech, it was even better to listen to. You can download audio of the speech here (MP3).
(via Center for Inquiry)