Perhaps never had the issue been argued while a greater portion of the citizenry looked on. Whatever the depth of discussion, here at least were millions of Americans witnessing debate on what it would mean to have a Roman Catholic occupying the White House. The medium was television—Lawrence Spivak’s “The Big Issue” tackling the topic, “Religion and the Presidency.”
On one side were Catholic Congressman Eugene J. McCarthy, Democratic farmer-labor representative from Minnesota and former college professor, and the Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre, dean of Washington Cathedral (Episcopal), grandson of the late President Wilson.
Providing the opposition was Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, represented by Executive Director Glenn A. Archer, former dean of Washburn University Law School, and Vice President John A. Mackay, better known as president of Princeton Theological Seminary.
A panel of distinguished Washington news correspondents was on hand to ask questions: James Reston of the New York Times, a Protestant, Glenn Everett of Religious News Service, Protestant, and Charles L. Bartlett, of the Chattanooga Times, a Catholic.
Moderator Spivak, who is Jewish, gave a rather clear impression through questions of his own that he was sympathetic to the Roman Catholic view. In fact, the hour-long program was scarcely over when the NBC switchboard in Washington became flooded with calls reportedly sympathetic with the POAU position. Viewers protested that Spivak had dealt too harshly with Archer. Here is one of the exchanges that evoked the response:
SPIVAK: Mr. Archer, I would like to ask you this question: Aren’t you really saying, without saying boldly, that no man can be a loyal Catholic and at ...1
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