The Christian Science Monitor -- JFK's call for religious freedom can transform places like Pakistan

Nov 8, 2013


November 7, 2013 | By Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett

The following op-ed appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on November 7, 2013.

As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, much can be said about his focus on freedom. In speeches both before and after he became president, Kennedy championed human rights around the world and called out the Soviets and their satellite states for violating these liberties.

One aspect of his views bears particular mention: the roles of religion and religious freedom as engines and emblems of progress, roles that have particular resonance across the globe today.

In an Independence Day speech in Boston in 1946, Kennedy cited the 19th-century French nobleman and author of "Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote that "unless religion is the first link, all is vain.”On the presidential campaign trail in September 1960, speaking at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, Kennedy lamented that "we have become missionaries abroad of a wide range of doctrines - free enterprise, anti-Communism and pro-Americanism - but rarely ... religious liberty.”

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Katrina Lantos Swett is vice chairwoman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, please contact Kalinda Stephenson at 202-786-0613 or