1928 September 18

Anti-Catholic Attacks on Candidate Al Smith Continue

 

Religious intolerance pervaded the 1928 presidential election campaign. On this day, Ku Klux Klan-sponsored leaflets attacked Democratic Party candidate Al Smith for being a Roman Catholic. The Klan was a powerful anti-Catholic force in the 1920s. On November 7, 1922, it sponsored an Oregon compulsory education law that would have closed down Catholic parochial schools (but the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional on June 1, 1925. And on August 8, 1925, it staged a huge march on Washington, with 35,000 Klansmen parading down Constitution Avenue in the Klan robes.

Smith’s defeat in the November election gave rise to the belief that no Catholic could ever be elected president of the United States. In 1960, John F. Kennedy addressed the issue head-on in a famous speech on religion and politics to Baptist ministers in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 1960, and that November became the first Catholic elected president.

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

Learn more about the Catholic Church in America: John T. McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (2003)

Read about Kennedy’s breakthrough: Shaun Casey, The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960 (2009)

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