1927 April 18

Al Smith Replies to Attacks on His Catholicism


New York Governor Al Smith, regarded as the likely Democratic Party candidate for president in 1928, replied to attacks on his being a Catholic on this day. In a letter that was made public, a critic had demanded that Smith make it clear that his allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church would not interfere with his oath of office as president. Smith denied that there was any conflict between his religion and his obligations as a public servant.

Smith’s defeat in the 1928 presidential election created the myth that a Catholic could never be elected president in the U.S. (1928 was a Republican year, and it is unlikely that any Democrat could have won.) John F. Kennedy demolished the myth when he was elected President in 1960. Particularly important was Kennedy’s forthright speech about religion to an audience of Protestant ministers on September 12, 1960.

Read: Robert A. Slayton, Empire Statesman: The Rise and Redemption of Al Smith (207)

Learn more: Shaun Casey, The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon, 1960 (2009)

Watch newsreel footage on Al Smith’s 1928 nomination for president: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcopBKsclhY

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