2016-07-27
Senator John Kerry is Catholic and a former altar boy. He attends Mass regularly and describes himself as a "believing and practicing Catholic," He recently discovered that his paternal grandparents were Jewish. Below are selections from recent speeches and interviews in which he mentions his faith or religious topics.

On Faith and Politics
"My faith, and the faith I have seen in the lives of so many Americans, also teaches me that, 'Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.' That means we have a moral obligation to one another, to the forgotten, and to those who live in the shadows. This is a moral obligation at the heart of all our great religious traditions."
--Speech at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, October 24, 2004

"The Bible tells us that in others we encounter the face of God: "I was hungry and you fed me; thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you received me in your homes; naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me." This is the final judgment of who we are and what our life will mean.

I believe we must keep faith, not only with the Creator, but also with present and future generations."
--Speech at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, October 24, 2004

"Now with respect to religion, you know, as I said I grew up a Catholic. I was an altar boy. I know that throughout my life this has made a difference to me. And as President Kennedy said when he ran for president, he said, I'm not running to be a Catholic president. I'm running to be a president who happens to be Catholic. Now my faith affects everything that I do and choose. There's a great passage of the Bible that says What does it mean my brother to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead. And I think that everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith, affected by your faith, but without transferring it in any official way to other people. That's why I fight against poverty. That's why I fight to clean up the environment and protect this earth. That's why I fight for equality and justice. All of those things come out of that fundamental teaching and belief of faith. But I know this: that President Kennedy in his inaugural address told of us that here on earth God's work must truly be our own. And that's what we have to - I think that's the test of public service."
--Third Presidential Debate, Tempe, AZ, October 13, 2004

"With faith in God and with conviction in the mission of America, I believe that we can reach higher. I believe we can do better. I think the greatest possibilities of our country - our dreams and our hopes - are out there just waiting for us to grab onto them." --Third Presidential Debate, Tempe, AZ, October 13, 2004


"And let me say it plainly: in that cause, and in this campaign, we welcome people of faith. America is not us and them. I think of what Ron Reagan said of his father a few weeks ago, and I want to say this to you tonight: I don't wear my own faith on my sleeve. But faith has given me values and hope to live by, from Vietnam to this day, from Sunday to Sunday. I don't want to claim that God is on our side. As Abraham Lincoln told us, I want to pray humbly that we are on God's side. And whatever our faith, one belief should bind us all: The measure of our character is our willingness to give of ourselves for others and for our country." --Speech at the Democratic National Convention, Boston, MA, July 29, 2004

"I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist. We have separation of church and state in the United States of America."
--Interview in the Dubuque, Iowa, Telegraph Herald, July 2004

"The Scriptures say: 'It is not enough, my brother, to say you have faith, when there are no deeds.' We look at what is happening in America today and we say: Where are the deeds?"
--Speech at New Northside Baptist Church, St. Louis, March 28, 2004

"My brothers and sisters, our time has arrived: We can bring change to America. And if we live by our faith and pray with our feet, no one's going to stop us now."
--Speech at the Greater Bethlehem Temple Church, Jackson, MO

"Scripture tells us there is 'a time to break down and a time to build up.' This is our time to break down division and build up unity. This is our time to reject the politics of fear. This is our time, as Langston Hughes so eloquently put it, to:

"'Let America be America again...Let it be the dream it used to be.for those whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain must bring back our mighty dream again.' "So, let us pray."
--Speech at the AME Convention, July 06, 2004

"America is a land of tolerance for every belief, it can never be a place of indifference to faith. We should never separate our highest beliefs and values from our treatment of one another and our conduct of the people's business."
-- Speech at the AME Convention, July 06, 2004

On Abortion
"First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic - raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life, helped lead me through a war, leads me today.

"But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can't do that. But I can counsel people, I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility."
--Second Presidential Debate, St. Louis, October 8, 2004

"I'm against the partial birth abortion, but you've got to have an exception for the life of the mother and the health of the mother under the strictest test of bodily injury to the mother. Secondly, with respect to parental notification, I'm not going to require a 16- or 17-year-old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father. So you've got to have a judicial intervention. And because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help I voted against it."
--Second Presidential Debate, St. Louis, October 8, 2004

"I believe that choice, a woman's choice is between a woman, God and her doctor. And that's why I support that. Now I will not allow somebody to come in and change Roe v. Wade. The president has never said whether or not he would do that. But we know from the people he's tried to appoint to the court he wants to. I will not. I will defend the right of Roe v. Wade."
--Third Presidential Debate, Tempe, AZ, October 13, 2004

"I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception."
--Interview in the Dubuque, Iowa, Telegraph Herald, July 2004

On Homosexuality
"I think if you talk to anybody, it's not a choice. I've met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage, because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it. And I've met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them. I think we have to respect that.

"The president and I share the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe that, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. But I also believe that because we are the United States of America, we're a country with a great, unbelievable Constitution, with rights that we afford people, that you can't discriminate in the workplace, you can't discriminate in the rights that you afford people. You can't disallow someone the right to visit their partner in a hospital. You have to allow people to transfer property, which is why I'm for partnership rights and so forth."
--Third Presidential Debate, Tempe, AZ, October 13, 2004

On Faith-Based initiatives
"And I invite churches and faith-based institutions to continue to play the role they have always played--as leaders, teachers, and guides in our communities. I know there are some who say that the First Amendment means faith-based organizations can't help government. I think they are wrong. I want to offer support for your efforts, including financial support, in a way that supports our Constitution and civil rights laws and values the role of faith in inspiring countless acts of justice and mercy across our land."
--Speech at the AME Convention, July 06, 2004

On Separation of Church and State
"There is separation of church and state in America. We have prided ourselves on that all of my lifetime.... I fully intend to continue to practice my religion as separately from what I do with respect to my public life, and that's the way it ought to be in America."
--Quoted in the Boston Globe, April 12, 2004

"I will say I personally would not choose--though I'm a person of faith--to insert it as much as this president does. I think it crosses a line, and it sort of squeezes the diversity that the presidency is supposed to embrace. It creates a discomfort level. You have to balance it, and be very thoughtful about it."
--Quoted in Lady's Home Journal, August 2003

"It's important to not have the Church instructing politicians."
--Quoted The American Spectator, July 7, 2004

"We have a separation of church and state in this country. As John Kennedy said very clearly, I will be a President who happens to be Catholic, not a Catholic President."
-Quoted in Time Magazine, "A Test of Kerry's Faith," April 5, 2004


On His Personal Faith
"I have tried and so much of that effort has been nourished by my faith. I know there are some Bishops who have suggested that as a public official I must cast votes or take public positions - on issues like a woman's right to choose and stem cell research - that carry out the tenets of the Catholic Church. I love my Church; I respect the Bishops; but I respectfully disagree."
--Speech at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, October 24, 2004

"I respect everything that the president has said and certainly respect his faith. I think it's important and I share it. I think that he just said that freedom is a gift from the Almighty. Everything is a gift from the Almighty. And as I measure the words of the Bible, and we all do, different people measure different things: the Koran, the Torah or, you know, Native Americans who gave me a blessing the other day had their own special sense of connectedness to a higher being. And people all find their ways to express it. I was taught - I went to a church school, and I was taught that the two greatest commandments are: love the Lord your God with all your mind, your body and your soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. And frankly, I think we have a lot more loving of our neighbor to do in this country and on this planet.

"The president and I have a difference of opinion about how we live out our sense of our faith. I talked about it earlier when I talked about the works and faith without works being dead. I think we've got a lot more work to do. And as president I will always respect everybody's right to practice religion as they choose or not to practice, because that's part of America."
--Third Presidential Debate, Tempe, AZ, October 13, 2004

"I began life baptized and confirmed as Catholic. I served as an altar boy. There was a period in my life when I thought I might even be a priest--as a young person. And then I went to Vietnam. And in Vietnam I think most of the time I wore a rosary around my neck when we went into battle. So I believe. I still believe. And I have great personal faith and I think the more you learn about the universe; the more you learn about the unanswered questions, the harder it is for many people not to, in my judgment. But many people chose not to and I understand that and I respect that. That's what I want to get to. We are a country founded on the notion of diversity and our freedom of choice and freedom of religion."
--From a new campaign ad released July 26, 2004

"[After the Vietnam War, Kerry went through a] "period of a little bit of anger and agnosticism, but subsequently, I did a lot of reading and a lot of thinking and really came to understand how all those terrible things fit.""
-Time Magazine, "A Test of Kerry's Faith," April 5, 2004

"Anticipating my candidacy, the Boston Globe looked into my family history. the paper discovered that one hundred years ago, my paternal grandfather was an Austrian Jew named Fritz Kohn, who changed his name to Kerry and converted to Catholicism shortly before immigrating to Massachusetts. I didn't know this because my grandfather died when my father was just five years old... One thing that hasn't changed for me as a result of this revelation is my Catholic heritage. I am a believing and practicing Catholic, married to another believing and practicing Catholic. And being an American Catholic at this particular moment in history has three particular implications for my own point of view as a candidate for presidency.


"The first two follow directly from the two great commandments set forth in the Scriptures: our obligations to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbors as ourselves. The first commandment means we must believe that there are absolute standards of right and wrong. They may not always be that clear, but they exist, and it is our duty ti honor them as best we can.

"The second commandment means that our commitment to equal rights and social justice, here and around the world, is not simply a matter of political fashion or economic and social theory but a direct command from God...Christian bigotry and intolerance are nothing less than a direct affront to God's law and a rejection of God's love.

"There is a third facet of being an American Catholic. To a larger extent than Catholics elsewhere, we have supported and relied upon the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state to guarantee our right to worship and our liberty of conscience. That tradition, strongly advanced by John F. Kennedy in his quest to become our first Catholic president, helped make religious affiliation a nonissue in American politics. It should stay that way."
--Excerpted from Kerry's book, "A Call to Service"

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