Newspaper Articles


Morgantown Dominion News
April 19, 1960

Kennedy to Fight Religious Issue

Won’t Turn Cheek

Senator John F. Kennedy last night accused Senator Hubert H. Humphrey of turning their popularity contest in the May 10 West Virginia Democratic presidential primary into a “mean fight.” He was met here by 2,000 persons at a reception in the Hotel Morgan.

He referred to charges by Humphrey campaign staff members that Kennedy supporters were trying to create the impression that those opposing Kennedy in West Virginia are intolerant or unfair.

During the opening day of a three-day campaign tour in both northern and southern West Virginia, Kennedy expressed confidence of victory but said “this is a very tough fight for me.”

At Fairmont, he made frequent reference during a speech to the issue of his religion – he’s a Roman Catholic – and said he did not think West Virginia Democrats would doom him to defeat on the basis of what happened 42 years ago when he was born a Catholic.

Later he told newsmen he decide to bring the religion issue “into the open because it’s obviously here underneath.” West Virginia’s almost 2,000,000 population is about 95 percent Protestant.

“Quite obviously it is hanging in everyone’s minds,” Kennedy told newsmen on a bus between his hand-shaking stops. “I don’t think it’s a majority thing but I do think it is of concern to many persons so I should give my views.”

Kennedy said he is running in West Virginia “against everybody who doesn’t want me for president for one thing or another.” He said even if Humphrey should beat him here, “as far as I can see he has no chance of being nominated, so why make it such a mean fight?”

Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) is among these favoring a candidate other than either Humphrey or Kennedy who is urging voters to go for Humphrey in the primary.

Byrd came out bluntly Monday with a statement he does not think Kennedy has “the age and experience to be president in these perilous days.” He still denied he was in back of a stopping Kennedy Movement but as a backer of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson he would vote for Humphrey May 10.

Kennedy said it is apparent the matter of his religion cannot be circumvented in West Virginia “but I’m not going to turn my cheek.”

“This is a very tough fight for me- uphill with lots of problems,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know why it couldn’t be debated on an impersonal level."

In Fairmont speech to a crowd of about 2,000 that overflowed into Main St. and blocked traffic, Kennedy said:

“I came to West Virginia to run; this is the way presidents should be chosen. West Virginia is suffering some of the most serious problems of any of our states…but I don’t think one of them is religion.

“I am free and you are free. My state was settled by those seeking religious freedom. Is anyone going to tell me that I lost this primary 42 years ago on the day I was born? I don’t think so.”

“I think this primary will be decided on other issues. We all believe in the Constitution and the First Amendment and the 6th Article. We have a chance to fight this thing out and now is the time to do it.”

At Clarksburg, Kennedy said he felt West Virginia Democrats resented efforts of those using another candidate (Humphrey) to beat me who could not win in the state next to him (Wisconsin).”


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