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Most Americans don’t mind that President Biden is Catholic

Published: Jan. 24, 2021 at 6:13 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -When John F. Kennedy decided to run for president in 1960, he was only the second Catholic person to be nominated by a major party. The first was Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York in 1928. Due to catholic discrimination, he was soundly defeated. Much of that sentiment still existed in 1960, and Kennedy had to defend on several occasions that he wouldn’t be beholden to the Vatican.

Now we have our second elected Catholic president in Joe Biden. And it seems that in the intervening 60 years, things have changed. A professor of religious studies at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point explains the shift in priorities.

“What’s driving a lot of the debate now are issues, culture war types of issues. Culture war debates between the left and right, liberals and conservatives, on issues like abortion, gun control, public schools,” said Associate Dean of General Education and Honors Shanny Luft.

Some politicians make it clear that there is no divide between their beliefs and how they legislate. Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan was one of these. It was a distinction he made during the 2012 Vice Presidential Candidate debates.

“And others like Biden have said, my religiosity is central to my identity and central to my personality, but that doesn’t mean that everything I’m going to support is going to be catholic doctrine,” said Luft.

The Catholic church is so large that it is divided itself. Many traditionalists don’t agree with what is arguably one of the most liberal popes ever elected. And Luft says that is true in any religion, where personal beliefs may stray from strict gospel in any degree.

“Ironically, I was reading an article today that said, one of the things the pope, Pope Francis and Biden have in common, is they’re both leading organizations that are very split on a lot of issues,” he said.

Luft also notes that it was not long ago we had our first Mormon candidate for president. And while he did not win, there was little uproar about his religion either.

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