In 1960, when John Kennedy was running for President, W. A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, had a firm grasp of the Baptist principle of religious liberty that insisted on separation of church and state. Criswell wrote an essay on "Religious Freedom and the Presidency" that appeared in the September 1960 issue of United Evangelical Action, the newsletter of the National Association of Evangelicals. As Randall Balmer notes in his book "God in the White House: A History:"
Another Southern Baptist, W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, persisted in his crusade against Kennedy. "It is written in our country's constitution that church and state must be, in this nation, forever separate and free," Criswell wrote in a publication called United Evangelical Action. Religious faith, the redoubtable fundamentalist declared, must be voluntary, and "in the very nature of the case, there can be no proper union of church and state."On August 24, 1980, when Ronald Reagan was running for President, W.A. Criswell said during the Republican National Convention:
"I believe this notion of the separation of church and state was the figment of some infidel's imagination."