.

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.

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!

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »