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False Gods and Politics: A Letter to Rick Santorum

The GOP presidential candidate is crossing a dangerous political line, threatening a core American belief.

Dear Mr. Santorum,

While I respect your right to hold your personal religious beliefs to the high standard you have set for yourself, I respectfully request that you refrain from using them to try to change our current laws or to campaign on a platform promising that you will govern using religious tenets.

Because I don’t think any one faith should be used as a tool to tell anyone else how they must live. And I believe that our democracy was created on the foundation that religion and government should be separate.

Respectfully yours,

Heather Borden Herve 

Former Senator Rick Santorum, running for the nomination as GOP presidential candidate, makes me very afraid. Recent statements he has made indicate his desire to impose his religious beliefs on our legal and governmental systems, should he be elected. That ideology is a very dangerous one.

I take no issue with people who choose to observe and practice their own faiths. In fact, I’m a member of a congregation and I’m teaching children my family’s faith. I just don’t want to be told that Santorum’s religious faith—or anyone else’s—has to be something that impacts how I live my life and the choices I can make. I object to politicians using religion to restrict my own health care choices or the way I choose to educate my children, as well as the potential for it be used to dictate something far worse—as the basis for fighting a war against another country.

This past Sunday, Santorum answered questions on the Sunday morning political talk show circuit regarding his beliefs on the church and state relationship. He told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week”: "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute. 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 ... to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up."

Santorum was responding to Stephanopoulos’ question about earlier remarks he’d made, saying a 1960 speech given by President John Kennedy made him “want to throw up.” In that address, Kennedy was reaffirming his own commitment to keeping church and state separate—because the country was concerned JFK’s catholic faith would lead him to take direction from the Vatican and the Pope. My, my—how did we turn 180 degrees in just 50 years?

The same morning, Santorum said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that separation of church and state was "not the founders' vision."

Um, actually, it was their vision.

Religious freedom has been a fundamental tenet of our democracy from moment one, as an article of the Constitution and as part of the First Amendment. There’s also a local connection that shows it was part of the belief system of at least one founder—Thomas Jefferson penned the phrase “separation of church and state” in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptists in response to their concerns over the lack of protected religious freedoms in Connecticut, just after the turn of the 19th century.

In his words, Jefferson stated: "...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

There are similar quotations from James Madison, widely regarded as the father of the Constitution, reaffirming his belief in the separation of church and state. Similarly, in a speech Ronald Reagan delivered in 1984, he defended the need for government’s neutrality toward all religions, and not putting one faith ahead of another:

“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.” [emphasis mine]

Politicians who use religious justification to prevent women from accessing contraceptive choices are hypocritical. They are most often conservatives who also advocate smaller government with reduced oversight over personal action. But that’s exactly what restricting access to healthcare is—government’s over-involvement in personal matters.

It’s also thinly-cloaked code with just as much basis in political motivation, in an effort to garner more votes with conservative, evangelical voters—many of whom will likely turn out to vote during next week’s Super Tuesday primary.

The religious rhetoric is just as powerful when it’s used to criticize President Obama. Santorum called the President’s religious beliefs a “phony theology” and said Obama’s policies are “not based on the Bible.” Santorum later criticized the President’s apology after US soldiers in Afghanistan recently burned copies of the Quran burnings. This is not only disrespectful to those who follow the Islamic faith, but also seems to be a wink and a nod to some voters who believe that the President is hiding his “true” Muslim faith.

Guarding the principal of separation of church and state should be priority for all politicians, especially those running for the nation’s highest office. For it protects our basic freedom:  the government can’t tell you how to worship and what to believe. It’s just as important to protect the reverse:  that no church or religious belief should dictate the way our country—the country of all of us­­—is governed. To do anything less sacrifices the foundation of our most precious democratic foundation.

Tricia March 04, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Funny how successful the right wing is in getting federal dollars not to be spent on abortions, but doesn't care so much about federal dollars used for pursuing the death penalty... never did understand that.
Tricia G. March 04, 2012 at 03:14 AM
"Getting federal dollars not to be spent on abortions"? That would be great news if true!! Just tell us where you get this information? I know house members save tried to end this, but last I heard hundreds of MILLIONS of taxpayers $$$ are still funding abortions at PP every year.
Richie Albs March 04, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Very well said. People like Rush Limbaugh and Andrew Brietbart, who recently passed, but made headlines by portraying an African American government official as racist (then admitting he edit her comments so that they were taken out of context), are exactly what is wrong with our current state of politics! People will stir extremists views just to make a prophet despite causing so much damage to morale and patriotism.
Richie Albs March 04, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Enough with distorting the concepts of free speech and morality. Your heros have done nothing but live their live's as hyporcrits and contributed nothing but division.
Bobby Sands March 04, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Does the church care about drug coverage that includes Viagra? Shouldn't it to be consistent? What about coverage for infertility? The very first testing involves men, um, figuring out how to make a sample available. And I think that process is still a no-no for Catholics. And what about treatment involving in vitro fertilization? That involves clearly prohibited activity (and by definition involves loss of some fertilized eggs). Are infertility treatments currently excluded from catholic church offered insurance? This broad issue just shows how our system of insurance tied to employment and debates over special accommodations to this or that kind of employer creates a patchwork of uneven access to treatment and healthcare. It really leads to a strong argument favoring a universal system that removes the issue of how one type of employer chooses to set up healthcare coverage.
Bobby Sands March 04, 2012 at 02:11 PM
For Trica - here's an example of fewer federal dollars used for abortion : "Over the past two decades, Congress has debated the limited circumstances under which federal funding for abortion should be allowed. For a brief period of time, coverage included cases of rape, incest, life endangerment, and physical health damage to the woman. However, beginning in 1979, the physical health exception was excluded, and in 1981 rape and incest exceptions were also excluded." "In September 1993, Congress rewrote the provision to include Medicaid funding for abortions in cases where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest. The present version of the Hyde Amendment requires coverage of abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment."
John Kriz March 04, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Keep in mind that the amount of sex you have has nothing to do with the cost of doctor prescribed birth control. You take one pill a day whether you have sex once a week or 100 times a week. Inferring it is expensive because one has a lot of sex is incorrect. I think Rush equates it to condoms... one use and buy another. The public needs more information about the various forms of birth control and how they work.
John Kriz March 04, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Medical insurance covers only prescription items. Condoms are over the counter and, therefore, not covered. This is a medical argument, not a religious one.
John Kriz March 04, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Excellent point about the state laws, some of which were supported by Republican governors. It makes one wonder why these issues are being pursued. Could it be that the stock market is up, GM is back on top, bin Laden is dead, we're out of Iraq ....
John Kriz March 04, 2012 at 02:35 PM
After reading some of the above threads, it is clear to me why Santorum prefers an uneducated public. Yes, college does teach one to analyze and question....something we need to do a lot more often. Call it being a snob, but I think the more educated our country is, the stronger we will be.
TrumbullGal March 04, 2012 at 05:43 PM
OMG as a child I was told - to bring out the argumentative side of people create a discussion about religion, sex, or politics.
Tricia G. March 04, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Huh?? No where in your post is there anything about "fewer federal dollars" going to PP to perform the MILLIONS of abortions they have done over the past many decades! And Sandra Fluke is NOT what she has represented herself to be. Robert and others have given much false info. ..."In one of her first interviews she is quoted as talking about how she reviewed Georgetown’s insurance policy prior to committing to attend, and seeing that it didn’t cover contraceptive services, she decided to attend with the express purpose of battling this policy. During this time, she was described as a 23-year-old coed. Magically, at the same time Congress is debating the forced coverage of contraception, she appears and is even brought to Capitol Hill to testify. This morning, in an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show, it was revealed that she is 30 years old, NOT the 23 that had been reported all along."... http://www.theblaze.com/stories/sandra-fluke-a-fake-victim-of-georgetowns-policy-on-contraceptives/ She was NEVER on the schedule to testify, btw!! The committee had approved another person that the Democrats had requested to testify, and that person did NOT show up!
Bobby Sands March 04, 2012 at 06:47 PM
But, you asked for information about successful attempt to limit federal dollars toward abortion, and the Hyde amendment is a really really good example.
Tricia March 04, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Got that right BL - Yoohoo, Tricia - why did you post that reference to the Missouri legislation? You've replied above to other points...looking forward to a delectable retort.
gail jarvis March 05, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Let me join in on this NON-ISSUE for many folks Some of the Comments are reading like "true confessions" .....and Before you all "pile on" with comments......let me say that this argument is a ruse. This election is about the Economy/Jobs/Taxes and Less Government This election is about the Politicians against the People This election is about the Public Sector Unions against Private Sector This election is about $$$$$ and who gets it --- and how much. Comments from Pundits of all stripes is what is shaping this Election I think we are all in alot of trouble. Santorum wrapped in a heavenly glow and holding the crucifix --- Non sense!
Paul G. Littlefield March 05, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Sorry Robert B, you may know by now that you got it wrong that Sandra Fluke was scheduled to testify before Issa's committee. This was the Democrat leadership pulling one of their bait and switch schemes. The Dems had submitted an expert which Issa accepted. Then on the afternoon at 4:30 the day before the scheduled hearing, the Dems asked to pull the expert and to put on Fluke. Issa said it is too late, there is not enough time to vet her. Nobody knew that she was a career women's health and abortion advocate, since she was a freshman at Cornell in 1999. Then Pelosi put together a press briefing in a setting that looked like a hearing was in progress. That is how they play games at our expense to make political hay on a non issue. It is consistent with the public be damned attitude of Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et. al.
Paul G. Littlefield March 05, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Tom K in regards to your Sat. 9:45 post, I'd like to suggest we share a coffee. I'd like to get to know you better and what makes you tick. You just don't get the message to lay off the personal stuff and discuss the issues that are troubling this nation. That for me is important. Tom, I want you to stand up for what you believe is right. But please, tell us how you see an issue, what's involved in it, what you see as the basis for it, how does the issue benefit or detract from the quality of life and what is the impact upon our town and country. It is not "because of (your) opinions on this topic" that I question your qualifications to be on the BOE. It is because you exhibit a lack of ability to look at a situation, fact find, analyse and debate the pro's and con's of a correct course. That is my wish for you. We still might not agree, but we could have a meeting of the minds and you would better serve the town. The Fluke affair came about as an effort to throw the public a curve to distract their attention away from Obama's failure with the economic recovery and benefit his re-election campaign.
Kristy Waizenegger March 05, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Without speaking for David, I think the point he is trying to make is that there is outrage in the media and the public whenever any action is taken that is perceived to violate or offend other religions but when it's Christianity, people tend to look the other way. We should all be outraged by Obama's recent actions, which, if followed, essentially prevent some catholics from practicing their religion - but where is the outrage? - even you Tom, a devout catholic, refuses to say that what Obama is doing is wrong. I'll give the best example I can think of, which is the "holiday tree" at the White House this year. If the President of the United States, or anyone else for that matter, decided to call a Menora a "holiday candle holder", there would be outrage, as there should be, but when it's about Christmas, the media doesn't say word. (btw, Christmas trees don't even have religious origins).
Tricia G. March 06, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Re: Robert's false claim (Sat 9:25 p.m.): "how successful the right wing is in getting federal dollars not to be spent on abortions"... ..."This year, pro-life leaders believe the House of Representatives will vote as it did last year to remove federal funding. (The measure failed in the Senate in 2011.)"... "Even Planned Parenthood insiders are joining the critics. Seven former Planned Parenthood employees have volunteered to testify against the organization at any congressional hearings that may occur. Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who now works as a policy analyst for Americans United for Life (AUL), is likely to give testimony. "No one understands better than Abby how intertwined abortion policy and government funding have become," said AUL president Charmaine Yoest."... "Last February, members of the pro-life group Live Action posed as a pimp and prostitute in hidden-camera exposés. They asked for and received help from Planned Parenthood employees in four states to obtain abortions for the underage girls they supposedly "managed." "...Planned Parenthood covers up the sexual abuse of its patients. Rose said of the videos, "I've never been in a Planned Parenthood clinic where they've done the right thing. They're always willing to work with [the abuser] or get a secret abortion for underage girls."... http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/february/planned-parenthood.html
Mark E Smith March 06, 2012 at 12:28 AM
My issue with Santorum is that he like many Republicans on the national level talk about smaller government yet the Republican party wants to be in your house telling you how to live your life when it comes to family planning and Women's health issues. This is a phenomenon that only came around in the 1960's when they aligned with many of the leaders of the Bible belt. Hell, even President Reagan voted in 1967 shortly after becoming Governor voted for Therapeutic Abortion Act. He changed his colors when he moved into the National scene and had to deal with the Evangelicals. Unfortunately I think this has worked against the Republican party since then. Again, I believe that the Government is too big and too dumb to tell me how to run my life on ANY level, more especially when it comes to family planning. Can you name one positive thing the Government does well? They created the TSA and they want to tell you how to run you family? They created Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and you want them in your home? I believe that we all should be grounded by our faith in our creator. However, I don't believe that religion should guide our politics. History is fraught with death, wars and destruction based purely on religion. That is why I don't want Santorum or anyone else who will tell me how to run my life. In the end THIS election will be about Jobs, Jobs, Jobs and the economy. Faith and women's health issues with be down the list.
Tom Kelly March 06, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Mark, we agree!!! Halleluiah! Everyone is entitled to their faith, but it should not dominate the political discussions, and it HAS BEEN! Why aren't the Republicans talking about the economy?
Paul G. Littlefield March 06, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Mark E Smith. Hold on big fella, the Republican party mostly, especially the conservitives, want nothing to do with "being in your house" telling you how to live your life. Where do you get that silly idea? I think you meant to say that it is the democrat liberals. It is they who take away your freedoms. It was George Stephanopoulis, a Democrat Party operative, who introduced contraception into the Republican Presidential debates when he ask Mitt Romney the question, "Do the states have the righrt to ban contraceptives?" It was Nancy Pelosi who staged the faux "hearing" press conference to distract the public's attention away from the failure of the Obama regime to create private sector jobs and stimulate the economy. It is the Mayor of NYC, a democrat dressed as a republican, who deny people the right to chose whether they use salt in restaurants and to manage their own diets, So mark you may wish to amend your post and correct the party you want to blame as intrusive of your rights.
Bobby Sands March 06, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Umm - Christianity today? Really? "Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men." Voltaire
Bobby Sands March 06, 2012 at 01:22 AM
The Hyde amendment is a really good example of limitations on direct spending to fund preganancy termination. Isn't it odd how much effort goes into making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy by right wing types and how little those same people care about that life once its born because that would be a hand-out...
Bobby Sands March 06, 2012 at 01:24 AM
I love the suggestion from conservatives to grab coffee and discuss issues with liberals. It's in the handbook.
Mark E Smith March 06, 2012 at 02:37 AM
Paul, In this context they do, absolutely. You can easily find a one-off exception from both political Parties however, when it comes to Religion, Abortion and women's health issues the Conservates in the Republican party want that control. It is counter to the small government beliefs of the Party that have been around much longer than the amended social issues added to the Republican agenda. Paul, BTW I am a libertarian.
Mark E Smith March 06, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Tom, Yes, you are right. The economy should be number one. However, at this time the Primaries are going through the Bible Belt and some southern states and that is when the Pols need to adjust the intensity and priorities in their message. Both Partys candidates do it. However, if the past four years doesn't reminded anyone what the major issues which should on top of their list then they are running for the wrong office.
Tom Kelly March 06, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Or a rabbi, or a priest, or a mullah, or some other kind of spiritual guide, right Tricia? I just want to make sure that you aren't saying that there is freedom of religion as long as it's your religion.
Tom Kelly March 06, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Tricia, you stated that Obama supports promiscuity, and there's not a shred of evidence to back that up. Indeed, if you are looking for someone who places value on the family unit, President Obama sees to be happily married, he's been married ONCE, has two beautiful daughters, and sets a fine example of good family life for our country. On the contrary, heroes to the conservative movement like Rush Limbaugh (four marriages, no children, drug rehab) and Newt Gingrich (three marriages, ethics violations) do not see to be able to live up to the family values of which we often hear you speak.
Tricia G. March 06, 2012 at 06:08 PM
No, Tom. Someone formerly posting under "Jessall" has made at least 8 posts under "Tricia G." I do agree with and applaud everything Paul Littlefield has posted here. If you click on the "Tricia G." comments made at 7:06 p.m. and those made later last night, you will see that there are two separate user pages under my name, but one has the posts before last night showing the name "Jessall." After I made the 7:06 p.m. post about the Senate last year stopping the defunding of Planned Parenthood, and "Planned Parenthood covers up the sexual abuse of its patients" I turned off my computer, and was actually at Planet Fitness when the post you referenced, and another at 8:48 p.m. were made by this imposter! I have e-mailed Aaron Leo, so hopefully he will soon get this subterfuge stopped! I have to believe this glitch is deliberate on the part of "Jessall," who seems to be making a fair effort to represent some of my views, but distorts them into something more extreme. The 8:48 post is NOT my style at all!

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