Major Department



College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2020

Honors Major Advisor

Alyssa Park

Thesis Mentor

Colin Gordon


The Anti-Catholicism sentiment during the mid-1900’s influenced many aspects of United States’ history. The campaign and election of the first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy is one example.

This essay examines anti-Catholic sentiment and its impact on the campaign and the election of John F. Kennedy. Catholics have held a tenuous relationship with Protestants, as seen in the anti-Catholic sentiment during the Irish immigration of the nineteenth century of the growth of nativist organizations, who brought the sentiment to the public. During the campaigns of Kennedy and Richard Nixon leading up to the 1960 presidential election, anti-Catholic groups voiced their anxiety over the issues of the separation of Church and State, including the influence of the Vatican in US domestic affairs and the funding of parochial schools. Many journalists fueled the paranoia through strengthening the legitimacy of anti-Catholic claims of future religious policies that could be implemented if Kennedy was elected. Such public discussion of anti-Catholic groups led to the re-emergence of old fears amongst the Protestant population and forced Kennedy’s campaign to address them, such as Kennedy’s loyalty to the public office rather than faith. Kennedy’s arguments countering the “Catholic Question” truly influenced his victory in the 1960’s election.


Anti-Catholicism, Kennedy, Election, Nixon, 1960, Religion

Total Pages



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