Senator Kennedy has at various times in his career spoken out on the subject of religious tolerance and in favor of the separation of church and state. His brother, John Kennedy, had defused the religious issue in the 1960 presidential campaign by his speech to Protestant ministers in Houston in which he reassured them that a Catholic president would honor the First Amendment's prohibition against the establishment of a state church or the interference by Catholics in affairs of state. Ted Kennedy had become concerned in the 1980s by the rising temperature of radical and intemperate political rhetoric coming from the religious right. In a speech delivered by him on the subject of 'Faith and Freedom' to the New York Coalition of Conscience on September 10, 1984, he said that "there is a long and unhappy history of intolerance which still flourishes at the extremist fringe of American politics" and "we cannot let this pluralistic society descend into a collection of competing and embittered groups" (Herbers, A 1). At the same time, he took political risks by opposing efforts by the Roman Catholic Church to place pressure of candidates Mario Cuomo and Geraldine Ferraro to endorse a legal ban on abortion.
The setting reluctantly afforded him by Falwell seemed to Kennedy as a heaven sent opportunity to get his point of view across to an admittedly hostile audience and to appear willing to beard