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John F. Kennedy and the Politics of Faith, Patrick Lacroix

Reviewed by David O'connell

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In this brisk new offering, independent scholar Patrick Lacroix ambitiously seeks to “restore the early 1960s… to a place of prominence in histories of twentieth-century US religion” (p. 181). To a degree, he succeeds.

The title of Lacroix's book, John F. Kennedy and the Politics of Faith, might give readers the wrong impression. Those expecting fresh insights into John Kennedy will come away disappointed. Kennedy is an elusive presence throughout the book. The long-running scholarly debate about the depth of Kennedy's personal faith is dispatched within a few introductory pages (pp. 7–15). Likewise, Chapter 5 focuses on the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp, as well as Vatican II—events that Kennedy had no direct involvement with, and barely even publicly commented on. Perhaps this is not altogether surprising, since Lacroix admits to beginning his research feeling “perfectly indifferent” toward Kennedy (p. vii). So instead of a study of John Kennedy or his presidency, it is better to understand this book as one attempting to map out the religious conversations swirling about the Kennedy administration with respect to church-state issues that arose during his brief tenure, conversations often taking place in speeches, in let

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