Though rhetorical critics have been very attentive to John F. Kennedy's rhetoric during the 1960 campaign, less attention has been paid to that of his conservative Protestant antagonists. To address the omission, this essay considers W. A. Criswell's July 3, 1960 address, "George Truett and Religious Liberty," portions of which were reprinted and widely distributed as a pamphlet titled Religious Freedom, the Church, the State, and Senator Kennedy. These texts, we argue, are exemplary of a larger Protestant strategy during the 1960 race. Because Kennedy's candidacy had prompted fierce vitriol from the anti-Catholic Right, conservative Protestant leaders from across the denominational spectrum tempered their attacks so as not to alienate centrist voters. Their measured adoption of religious freedom arguments allowed them to occupy the respectable middle, assailing Kennedy's Catholicism while parrying charges of religious bigotry. In Criswell's rhetoric, we find a pure distillation of this strategy, identifying it as a species of respectability politics with enduring appeal—this time from the Right.


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pp. 33-57
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