Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit

Rick Santorum attacked the views of John F. Kennedy regarding separation of church and state today. Without realizing it, he was also attacking the views of many of the Founding Fathers, as well as the views of Ronald Reagan. Last year Santorum had said, “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.” Kennedy had said:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

Santorum defended his remarks on This Week:

Santorum defended his remarks, telling Stephanopoulos that “the first line, first substantive line in the speech, says, ‘I believe in America where the separation of church and state is absolute.’”

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum said. “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

He went on to note that the First Amendment “says the free exercise of religion — that means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith, into the public square.”

“Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, ‘No, faith is not allowed in the public square. I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech. ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was abhorrent at the time of 1960.”

Later in the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Santorum, “You think you wanted to throw up?”

“Well, yes, absolutely,” Santorum replied. “To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up.”

Santorum’s claim that separation of church and state means that people of faith are not allowed in the public square is false, and certainly is not what John Kennedy had said.

John Kennedy’s view on the separation of church and state corresponds with the view of the Founding Fathers who created a secular republic, realizing that this is the best way to protect freedom of religion. Santorum’s views are also counter to the views expressed by Ronald Reagan in a speech at Temple Hillel on October 24, 1984 (emphasis mine):

We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.

This is just one example of why Ronald Reagan would no longer be welcome in a Republican Party which has moved to the extreme right. Maureen Dowd wrote about the GOP–Ghastly Outdated Party in yesterday’s column, quoting one of many Republican strategists who fear that the Republicans are becoming out of touch:  “Republicans being against sex is not good,” the G.O.P. strategist Alex Castellanos told me mournfully. “Sex is popular.”

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12 Comments

  1. 1
    Doug Indeap says:

     
    Separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of our Constitution, is hardly “absolute”–at least not in the cartoonish sense Santorum supposes President Kennedy meant in his 1960 speech.  Kennedy did not remotely suggest that faith is not allowed in the public square.  In asserting otherwise, Santorum sets up a silly “straw man” against which he then boldly battles.  What nonsense.
     
    It is important to distinguish between the “public square” and “government” and between “individual” and “government” speech about religion.  The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square–far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment’s “free exercise” clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views–publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion.  As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment’s constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated.  While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.
     
    Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies.  The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.
     
     
    The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.
     
     
    Wake Forest University has published a short, objective Q&A primer on the current law of separation of church and state–as applied by the courts rather than as caricatured in the blogosphere. I commend it to you. http://tiny.cc/6nnnx
     

  2. 2
    Stephen Pollard says:

    Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit #p2 #p21 #topprog http://t.co/5E8q0fLE

  3. 3
    Yes, we can! says:

    Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit #p2 #p21 #topprog http://t.co/5E8q0fLE

  4. 4
    Tim Huff says:

    Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit #p2 #p21 #topprog http://t.co/5E8q0fLE

  5. 5
    FloridaGirl says:

    Santorum is the very best example yet as to why our Forefathers put Separation of Church & State in the Constitution http://t.co/Oj6CIaqd

  6. 6
    Russ Williams says:

    Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit #p2 #p21 #topprog http://t.co/5E8q0fLE

  7. 7
    Beyond The Spectrum says:

    People should treat their religious beliefs the same way they should treat their sexual practices…keep it to yourself and out of the public sphere!

  8. 8
    Jesus Christ says:

    Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit Liberal …: Rick Santorum attacked the views of John F… http://t.co/sFRGI8Ah

  9. 9
    John Sonntag says:

    RT @ronchusid: Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit #p2 #p21 #topprog http://t.co/zPdF9MOa

  10. 10
    Rockin' Mami says:

    "Sex is popular." http://t.co/GYE7x16O #atheist #atheism #obama2012

  11. 11
    Grung_e_Gene says:

    Sick Rantorum makes Americans vomit, and conservatives lick it up…

  12. 12
    RepublycanParty says:

    Separation of Church and State Makes Rick Santorum Vomit Liberal …: Rick Santorum attacked the views of John F… http://t.co/0XQX9e6X

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