Shirley Temple, now Shirley Temple Black, was born in Santa Monica, California and grew up in Hollywood, California on movie sets and on location as Hollywood’s first child star.
Temple’s religious life is Protestant, though it seems diffuse and involves multiple denominations. Her grandmother was reportedly a devout Lutheran and her mother was a Presbyterian. However, most of Temple’s religious experience was had at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Los Angeles where she often “spent time in contemplative communion.” Temple wanted the wedding of her first marriage to take place at that church, but her fiance convinced her to have it at a Methodist church. However, her second (and final) marriage was to an Episcopalian and took place at his Episcopalian church.
Temple’s stardom didn’t allow her to be as devout as she would have liked. First of all, if she attended church, she found that the focus turned away from piety and faith and toward her and her celebrity. Second of all, she was quickly thrust into the adult world where it is difficult to not be a cynic and a realist. For example, she said:
I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.
That aside, Temple seems to have been a faithful Christian and ultimately, it seems most appropriate to call her an Episcopalian.
It’s difficult to imagine Shirley Temple as anything but that adorable little girl who helped define a long-past era. But her post-acting career turned into an impressive political career.
In the '60s, Temple became more and more active in the California Republican Party and in 1967, she unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives on a pro-Vietnam War platform, arguing that more troops were needed in Southeast Asia. It was not a popular position at the time.
However, her celebrity granted her inroads and she was a personal friend of both President Nixon and President Reagan. Nixon appointed her a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford, appointed Temple Ambassador to Ghana as well as the Chief of Protocol of the United States meaning she was in charge of ensuring smooth diplomatic relations, etiquette and propriety at the White House.
Ronald Reagan appointed her to a position as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the State Department and George H. W. Bush appointed her as the Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Temple was staunchly anti-Communist and interpreted her post in Czechoslovakia to be something of a freedom fighter. She said:
I was told I was going to a Stalinist backwater, one of the toughest countries around… And I thought, 'Good! Let’s go get ‘em!’
This string of appointments amounts to a career of public service under every Republican president for over 30 years, which is nothing to sneeze at.