Newspaper Articles


Charleston Daily Mail
April 28, 1960

Episcopal Prelates Differ On Kennedy

A former Episcopal bishop of West Virginia says he would not hesitate to vote for Sen. John F. Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, in the coming presidential campaign.

But the present bishop, the Rt. Rev. Wilburn C. Campbell of Charleston, said it is right and proper that the religious issue had entered Kennedy’s contest here with Sen. Hubert Humphrey, and Kennedy should be questioned.

Dr. Robert E. Strider of Leetown, started the discussion last night with his endorsement of Kennedy. He was Episcopal bishop here 32 years, retiring in 1955.

Kennedy immediately said he was grateful to Bishop Strider and “I think his statement will make it easier for us now to move to a discussion of the real issues facing West Virginia and the nation.”

In Chicago, Bishop Campbell was quoted as follows, before the release of Bishop Strider’s statement by Strider’s son-in-law, Ray Niblack:

“I will defend Sen. Kennedy’s right to be a Roman Catholic in the United States, but when a candidate wants to be a leader of all the American people, they have a right to ask questions about his religion,” the bishop told a Tribune reporter who is specifically assigned to the religious issue in the current campaign.

“For example, the bishop asked, did Kennedy subscribe to the syllabus of errors promulgated by Pope Pius IX in 1864, “which in effect denies equal rights to the non-Roman churches?”

“This is a matter which gives intelligent people concern,” the Episcopal cleric added. “Our fears are based on history and not on prejudice or bigotry.

“The senator said in his speech that no one would give him orders as president. Does this mean he denies the doctrine of papal infallibility? He should answer questions such as this unequivocably.”

Niblack, acting as spokesman for Dr. Strider, said the bishop told Kennedy he was “profoundly impressed with the forthright manner in which you have handled this (religious) issue. You have left no doubt in my mind concerning your loyalty to the Constitution of the United States which would prohibit any church influence in the discharge of your duties as president.”

He said the bishop added this statement:

“I believe the senator (Kennedy) is a man of exceptional high character, and his war record and his record in the U. S. Senate certainly are testimony to that.

“On the major religious questions of birth control, the possibility of an ambassador to the Vatican and aid to parochial schools, the senator has given answers which I feel should allay any fears concerning church influence on him as president.”

Niblack said it was the first time Dr. Strider ever had endorsed a candidate for president.

The brief unscheduled meeting between Kennedy and Dr. Strider was arranged by William C. Battle, who served in PT boats with Kennedy during World War II and is a son of former Virginia governor John S. Battle Sr.

As Kennedy was on his way from Washington to Charles Town for a rally Wednesday night, the Kennedy car suddenly cut off at Leetown, where Dr. Strider lives. After the closed-door session between the two, Kennedy drove on to the rally at the race track here.

The Massachusetts senator meets Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn) head on in the May 10 West Virginia presidential primary, which does not bind the state’s convention delegates. At the race track rally, Kennedy again criticized hopefuls for the Democratic presidential nomination who, he said, hide behind their desks in Washington instead of hitting the campaign trail.

Humphrey, in Washington Wednesday, returns to Charleston today to continue his campaign tour. He will have the state to himself, with Kennedy not due back until the weekend.


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