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Charleston Gazette-Mail
April 17, 1960


L. T. Anderson's In Reverse

They're Trying to Shame Us Into a Kennedy Vote

I'm beginning to bristle at the popular psychology which suggests that a West Virginia vote against Sen. Kennedy is a vote for bigotry.

No church has a monopoly on tolerance, a quality I find spread uniformly throughout all religions. So far, it is my personal observation that some Roman Catholics are as intolerantly for Sen. Kennedy as some backwoods candle-haters are intolerantly against him.

But there seems to be some irrepressible desire on the part of American publications to explain, beforehand, that the West Virginia vote next month will be shot through and through with ignorant prejudice against Sen. Kennedy's beliefs.

The constant din, some of it produced by such highly placed men as Sen. Pat McNamara, is calculated, it would seem, to shame West Virginia Democrats, somehow, into voting for Sen. Kennedy. I regard this as very poor strategy, and an almost personal insult.

The Roman Catholic Church's authoritarian structure will always cause apprehension among non-Catholics and it would be foolish to pretend otherwise. To dismiss as bigotry any dista[s]te for any particular church is itself bigotry; and to suppress opinion in the name of tolerance isn't tolerance, but ignorance. "Never discuss religion or politics" is a poor maxim, and if followed to the extreme would make very dull fellows of us all.

As a matter of fact, Americans have never demonstrated any between-election reticence about religion. We have produced hundreds of cheap and vulgar motion picture with religious themes; we are made ecastatic [sic] by television performers who assume pious mien to sing warbly hymns, both Latin and English; we are impressed by the popular religion that helps salesmen swing big deals; and we think it somehow nice to see the absurd command, "Go To Church Sunday," in newspapers, on billboards and on the rear ends of taxicabs.

On the other hand, many of Sen. Kennedy's questioners obviously have fixed opinions and are cruelly seeking to embarrass him. Sometimes the question-and-answer sessions appear to be nothing more than public persecution at the hands of boors. Sen. Kennedy has demonstrated good mannered restraint while talking to these hecklers. In some states, but not in West Virginia, some shameful attacks have been launched and Sen. Kennedy has repulsed them all with patient tolerance and straightforward answers.

I think Sen. Kennedy wants people to vote for him because they want him to be president, not to demonstrate their freedom from bias. Sen. Humphrey certainly doesn't want anybody to vote for him simply because he is a Protestant.

West Virginians, put to the test by the Supreme Court school integration decision, showed a great capacity for good will in the matter of race relations. In 1928, West Virginians gave Catholic Al Smith a big majority over his Protestant primary opponent. West Virginians require no lectures on tolerance from politicians or religious partisans.

Now:I'm certain that I'm joined by both Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Humphrey in the proposal that we all shut up and vote for whomever we please.

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