The first was New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith in 1928, followed by Massachusetts Sens. John F. Kennedy in 1960 and John F. Kerry in 2004.
Biden has openly described how his deep religious faith sustained him through the dark moments of his life, especially the tragic deaths of his first wife and two children. Biden is, in many ways, doubling down on his faith during his campaign, in the hopes of attracting Catholic faithful and religious voters who may see President Donald Trump’s use of faith as hypocritical.
In fact, Biden is counting on his Catholicism to be a boon to his campaign — but that hasn’t always been the case for Catholic presidential hopefuls.
It certainly was not for Smith, who ran against U.S. Commerce Secretary and Republican Herbert C. Hoover. Back then, the religious bigots publicly charged that the New York governor’s religious loyalty to Pope Pius XI superseded his faithfulness to the Constitution and made him unfit, even dangerous, to sit in the Oval Office.
The obscene anti-Catholic attacks on Smith came not only from members of the anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and anti-African American Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups. There were also strong anti-Catholic feelings deeply embedded among the clergy and laity of many Protestant denominations, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Methodist Church.