October Surprise: The Day Sen. Kennedy Laid Down The (Church-State) Law At Liberty University

Ted Kennedy once gave a major address at the Rev. Jerry Falwell's school!

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy certainly led an interesting life. Known as a champion of the poor and downtrodden, he was also a powerful advocate for religious liberty and church-state separation who was adept at forging unlikely alliances with conservative Republicans.

One of the more unusual episodes in Kennedy's life occurred on Oct. 3, 1983, when the senator spoke at what was then known as Liberty Baptist College in Lynchburg, Va. -- now Liberty University.

That's right – Kennedy once gave a major address at the Rev. Jerry Falwell's school!

How did this come about? Falwell's Moral Majority was going great guns back in those days and would frequently mail solicitation letters seeking new members. For some reason, one of these letters ended up in Kennedy's hands. It even included a membership card!

Kennedy wrote to Falwell to say that while he wasn't interested in joining the Moral Majority, he would be happy to speak at the school. Perhaps feeling a little boxed in, Falwell accepted the senator's offer.

The speech Kennedy gave was simply astounding. In my view, it's one of the best speeches about religious liberty and church-state separation ever delivered in the modern era. Church & State reprinted the whole speech. You can read it here.

I urge you to take some time from your day to read Kennedy's excellent address. You will be reminded of what a powerful and articulate advocate he was for our cause. (A snippet of the speech is also on You Tube.)

It's also interesting to speculate if such an event could happen today. When we consider that Falwell's son, Jerry Falwell Jr., recently tried to expel a Democratic Party club from campus, I think there's good reason to be skeptical.