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January 7th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Reversing JFK: Santorum’s bid to marry faith and politics

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series of stories looking at the faith of the leading 2012 presidential candidates, including Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich. We also profiled the faith journey of Herman Cain before he suspended his campaign.

By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors

(CNN) - It was election night in November 2006, and Rick Santorum had organized a private Catholic Mass in a room at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. The senator from Pennsylvania had just lost his re-election bid.

The Mass, held just before his concession speech, included a priest and Santorum’s close family and staff. Though the occasion was somber, the soon-to-be-ex-senator aimed for a celebratory mood, said Mark Rodgers, then a top Santorum aide.

“Life is if full of what can be perceived as disappointments or hardships,” Rodgers said, “but Scripture tells followers of Jesus that we approach those situations with joy because there’s ultimate redemption.”

Santorum’s younger brother, Dan, remembers that many attendees - including the senator’s children - were weeping over Santorum’s landslide defeat at the hands of Democrat Bob Casey Jr.

But not the senator.

“You’d think he would have been crushed,” says Dan Santorum. “But he wasn’t even bitter. He didn’t complain. He just said it was God’s plan.

“That’s when I knew he was going to run for president of the United States,” Dan continued. “Because I think that God had another plan for him.”

It’s unclear if Rick Santorum, whose strong finish in the Iowa caucuses has breathed new life into his presidential campaign, interpreted his Senate loss the same way.

Santorum concedes his Senate seat in 2006.

But the hotel Mass, and Santorum’s apparent placidity in the face of an overwhelming defeat, illustrate what confidants say is the key to understanding him as a person and politician: a devout Catholic faith that has deepened dramatically through political and personal battles.

“When I first met him he was an observant Catholic but a fairly privatized one,” says Rodgers, who ran Santorum’s first race for the U.S. House in 1990 and served as a key Santorum aide in Congress for 16 years.

“The journey I saw him on was a gradual awakening to the importance of faith at an operational level within a democracy, the idea that free people need to have a moral foundation.

“The journey was also personal - growing in faith and sharing it with others,” Rodgers says.

Many politicians have ideological concerns about issues like abortion or gay marriage, but “in Santorum’s case, it’s fundamentally religious,” says Richard Land, public policy chief at the Southern Baptist Convention. “That’s the genetic code of his life.”

It’s also the part that most inspires his political backers - among them the Iowa evangelicals who helped fuel his stunning Iowa finish, eight votes behind winner Mitt Romney - and most enrages critics, who take deep offense at Santorum’s views on divisive issues like homosexuality, which he once lumped together with bestiality in a discussion of legal rights.

“I think it’s fair to say that he’s sometimes harsh in the way he makes those arguments,” says Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for former President George W. Bush.

Indeed, even Santorum’s own party is seeing a faith-based split around his presidential campaign, with evangelicals who dominate the primaries in states like Iowa on one side and more establishment Republicans in states like New Hampshire on the other.

As he works to convince skeptical voters he has a real shot at winning the White House, Santorum’s religious faith has emerged as both his chief political asset and his biggest liability.

Kennedy's ‘sealed off’ wall

His Catholicism may have deepened as an adult, but Santorum also has deep Catholic roots.

“Three pictures hung in the home of my devoutly Catholic immigrant grandparents when I was a boy,” he said in a speech last year. “I remember them well: Jesus, Pope Paul VI and John F. Kennedy.”

Santorum attended Mass with his brother, sister and parents virtually every Sunday. “You basically had to be on your deathbed not to go to church,” says Dan Santorum.

Both parents worked in a VA hospital in Butler, Pennsylvania. As teenagers, Rick and Dan would push the wheelchairs of patients to Sunday Mass in the hospital’s interfaith chapel. Rick would serve the Mass as an altar boy, wheel patients up to receive Holy Communion, then help his brother wheel them back to their hospital rooms.

Other than that, it was a conventional American Catholic upbringing in the 1960s and ’70s: The Santorums said grace before meals, sent their kids to Catholic grade school and spent absolutely no time discussing how religion influenced their public policy views.

American Catholics at the time were living in the shadow of John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 speech in which he insisted that neither his faith nor his church would have any influence on his presidency.

Santorum would spend his political life trying to reverse the effects of Kennedy’s pledge. He argued that Kennedy “sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non-rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse.”

During college and law school at Penn State, Santorum wasn’t especially observant; neither did his religious faith factor much into his political views.

After college he served as an aide to Doyle Corman, a moderate Republican state senator in Pennsylvania. Religion seldom came up.

“My husband and I are both pro-choice,” Corman’s wife, Becky, told The New York Times in 2006. “One of the interesting things about Rick is, the whole time he worked for us, we didn't know what his views were on that issue.”

Dan Santorum says a turning point in his brother’s faith life was his marriage to Karen Garver. They met in the 1980s while Karen was studying law at the University of Pittsburgh and Santorum was recruiting law students for the Pittsburgh firm where he worked.

“There was just a bond between them,” Dan says. “Part of that was that they shared their faith.”

That bond was on display last Tuesday during Santorum’s speech after the Iowa caucuses.

“C.S. Lewis said, ‘A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you’ve forgotten the words.’ My best friend, my life mate, who sings that song when I forget the words, is my wife, Karen,” Santorum said before embracing her in a long hug.

Santorum bows his head in prayer during an Iowa campaign rally in January.

Sometime after arriving in Washington following his 1990 House victory, Santorum began attending daily Mass before work.

The Rev. Eugene Hemrick, who frequently leads Mass at 130-year-old St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill, says Santorum led Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback - who served with Santorum in Congress in the 1990s and 2000s - to the church.

“Santorum was always dressed up,” Hemrick remembers. “Brownback was in sweats a lot from running.”

The evangelical Brownback wound up converting to Catholicism, and the two were often joined in the pews by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

“When you know these people are out there, you do a little more homework before you preach,” Hemrick said of his high-profile flock. “You try to make it a little more meaningful to them.”

Moral codes and absolutes

The 1990 GOP freshman class, a small group that managed to win in a poor year for Republicans nationally, took a confident line in airing grievances to congressional and party leaders.

Santorum was part of the freshman “Gang of Seven” that exposed the House banking scandal, and he kept up his penchant for bold, against-the-grain gambits after his election to the Senate as part of the 1994 Republican Revolution.

Soon he was taking aim at the overriding culture-war issue of our time: abortion.

Santorum helped lead the effort to impose the first federal restrictions on abortion that could survive court challenges since Roe. v. Wade - a ban on the procedure critics call partial-birth abortion.

Faith and politics may have been separate in Santorum’s childhood home and the homes of other American Catholics at the time, but by the 1990s abortion had become the symbol for the infusion of conservative faith into American politics. The issue forged a powerful political alliance between conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants.

On the wall of his Senate office, Santorum kept a picture of William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian whose evangelical faith stirred him to lead the campaign that ultimately ended the British slave trade in 1807.

The senator saw his campaign for the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as his “Wilberforcean effort,” says Rodgers, now a senior adviser to Santorum’s presidential campaign.

Santorum’s comfort with using his faith to shape his politics was partly a reflection of Catholic intellectuals he had met since arriving in the capital, including Richard John Neuhaus, a priest who edited the Catholic journal First Things, and George Wiegel, a theologian.

For Santorum, such figures and books by Catholic writers like St. Augustine instilled the sense that free societies need citizens who are governed by strong moral codes.

“How is it possible, I wonder, to believe in the existence of God yet refuse to express outrage when His moral code is flouted?” Santorum said in a ’90s-era speech at the Heritage Foundation. “To have faith in God, but to reject moral absolutes?”

For Santorum, legalized abortion represented the ultimate flouting of that code.

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act passed Congress in 1995, but President Bill Clinton vetoed it the following year. Santorum led a failed Senate effort to override the veto and helped revive the bill after the election of President George W. Bush, who signed it into law.

Such campaigns helped make Santorum a national hero to the anti-abortion movement and a bogeyman for abortion rights supporters.

“On the morning after the Iowa caucuses, there were millions of pro-life voters who woke up pinching themselves that one of their very own had emerged at the top rank of candidates, making sure it wasn’t a dream,” said the Southern Baptist Convention’s Land.

Around the time of the Clinton veto, Rick and Karen Santorum confronted a tragedy that added flesh-and-bone experience to their anti-abortion stance, which had up until then been intellectual and religious.

By that time, the Santorums had three children. While pregnant with her fourth, doctors told Karen her fetus had a fatal birth defect. In his 2005 book “It Takes a Family,” Santorum writes about Karen turning down the option to have an abortion.

“Karen and I couldn’t rationalize how we could treat this little human life at 20 weeks’ gestation in the womb any different than one 20 weeks old after birth,” Santorum writes. “So instead of giving our child a death sentence, we gave him a name: Gabriel Michael, after the two great archangels.”

The premature baby died two hours after birth. The next day, in a move that has widened the public opinion gap over Santorum, he and his wife took the dead body home so their children could spend time with it before burial.

“Gabriel died as a cherished member of our family,” Santorum writes in “It Takes a Family.”

Karen captured the episode in a 1998 book, “Letters to Gabriel,” describing to her late child the reaction of one of his sisters: “Elizabeth proudly announced to everyone as she cuddled you, ‘This is my baby brother, Gabriel; he is an angel.’”

For Santorum, who now has seven kids, holding Gabriel was a lesson about the fragility of human life.

Santorum, wife Karen, and his seven children.

“At that moment, eternity became reality,” Santorum writes. “After Gabriel, being a husband and father was different, being a legislator was different. I was different.”

Conservatism and the common good

Santorum has received a glut of media attention for how his religion shaped his culture-war stances, but allies say his faith has made him a compassionate conservative.

As a senator, Santorum was known for his work on poverty and combating HIV/AIDS. He says such efforts are rooted in the Catholic notion of working for the “common good.”

“Just as original sin is man’s inclination to try to walk alone without God,” Santorum writes in “It Takes a Family,” “individualism is man’s inclination to try to walk alone among his fellows.”

Santorum and those close to him say that impulse motivated his work on welfare reform during the mid-1990s.

Many conservatives “would have taken a fairly harsh view of welfare reform as a waste of taxpayer dollars,” says Rodgers. “Rick’s view was that publicly funded programs are justified when it’s for the least of these, which comes from Catholic social teaching.

“There’s a compassionate side of the Catholic faith that says you prioritize the poor in public policy, and there’s also the side that says work should be a component of that care, that not working strips you of your dignity.”

Santorum championed welfare-to-work programs in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that Clinton signed, as well as the idea of charitable choice, which gave states the ability to partner with religious institutions to address social problems like poverty and addiction.

Success on welfare reform provoked Santorum and a handful of other religious Republicans in Congress to begin discussing conservative solutions to poverty and other social problems that had mostly been the province of liberals.

Among the participants in those sessions was Gerson, who would join Bush in Texas as a speechwriter in the run-up to his 2000 presidential campaign and bring some of the ideas of the congressional group with him.

One was a plan to start a federal program to help level the playing field for religious groups applying for government money to address social problems.

For Santorum, employing faith groups in such a campaign was partially grounded in the Catholic idea of subsidiarity, which calls for addressing problems closest to where they are. In many troubled communities, the thinking goes, the strongest local institutions are churches, ministries and other religious organizations.

The notion of outsourcing government programs to religious institutions also appealed to Santorum’s beliefs about government’s limits.

“The problems currently afflicting us reflect an impoverishment of the soul more than the pocketbook,” Santorum has said, quoting conservative education scholar Chester Finn. “Government is simply not equipped to address problems of the soul.”

The idea for a government faith-based program had critics on the left and right, who feared government-backed religion and a welfare system for churches.

“A lot of people have a hard time getting Rick Santorum because they’re used to a debate between liberalism and complete free market approach and he’s not either of those things,” says Gerson, now a Washington Post columnist.

Bush created the Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships via an executive order days after his 2001 inauguration. Santorum helped organize a conference to tell religious leaders from across the country about the new program.

“It was on that day that I decided to swallow my constitutional concerns about it,” says Richard Land, who attended the conference despite reservations.

“Seventy-five percent of the people attending the conference were either African-American or Hispanic,” Land says. “They wanted people who lived where the problems were making decisions about what should be done. They were in a lifeboat situation.”

Santorum was also a key Bush ally in creating the president's $15 billion global AIDS initiative, with the senator’s staff sometimes lending office space to rock singer Bono while he was lobbying for the program on Capitol Hill.

President Barack Obama has continued support for both the faith-based office and the global AIDS initiative. The programs are evidence that Santorum can be more than a culture warrior, and their staying power suggests he's gone a long way breaking through JFK’s sealed-off wall between religion and politics.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (2,874 Responses)
  1. Jataka

    Separation of church and state. Period. Also people should be able to marry whatever they want. I saw a Nat Geo special about a woman in love with a brick wall, whose to say she isn't allowed to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. If someone wants to marry a wall, a car, and animal, let them. We have farm too many problems with drugs, corruption, and gangs to worry about who is in love with who. Get your heads out of your assess and start building the country back up and mind your own frikin business.

    January 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • J-Ex

      NAMBLA has the same ideas as you....slippery slope my friend

      January 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  2. 21k

    his faith itself is not an issue, it's his personal desire to jam it down our throats as government policy that is a problem. just like it is a problem in iran, iraq, yemen, israel, etc.

    January 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  3. mjcjr

    I don't really care what anyone believes or does not believe, so long as their choices do not impact my life. A president's actions (and those of many politicians, in fact) will touch my life, either directly or indirectly. I need those people to have their heads firmly here on earth, using sound logic and reason to solve problems that we have here and now. They are free to worry about the hereafter all they like, after their terms are completed.

    January 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  4. The Central Scrutinizer

    "No citizens ... were more sensitive to Washington's role as an upholder of liberties than the religious minorities. These groups were less anxious to cultivate what they had in common with other Americans than to sustain what kept them apart. Washington recognized this, just as he recognized the tenacity of regional and economic interests, and he took pains to explain precisely what national unity meant to him. He carried to his countrymen a vision of "organic" rather than "mechanical" solidarity, a union based on difference and interdependence rather than uniformity of belief and conduct. Washington's understanding of the kind of integration appropriate to a modern state was not shared by the most powerful Protestant establishments, the New England Congregationalists and Presbyterians; but other religious groups could not have been more pleased.... Acknowledging in each instance that respect for diversity was a fair price for commitment to the nation and its regime, Washington abolished deep-rooted fears that would have otherwise alienated a large part of the population from the nation-building process. For this large minority, he embodied not the ideal of union, nor even that of liberty, but rather the reconciliation of union and liberty."

    - Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol (1987) pp. 85-86, quoted from Ed and Michael Buckner, "Quotations that Support the Separation of State and Church"

    January 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • rlowens1

      Surely, you are not trying to compare Santorum to Washington, are you? Besides, just because George Washington was our first president does not mean he was our best president. So, what is your point, here?

      January 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      respect for diversity

      Obama 2012

      Nothing more.

      January 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  5. Dadster

    As a Christian, I am utterly discusted with the way politicians use God to promote themselves. When one chooses to become a Christian, one is supposed to spread the word or spread the gospel. In other words, promote God. It is not God's job to promote a politician. After looking at what all of the Republican Presidential candidates want to do to fix the economy, large tax cuts for the wealthiest – eliminate the remaining 15% capital gains tax for the wealtiest – repatriate $1-$2 trillion for the wealthiest, (by the way Bush did all 3 of these and they all failed unless you were one of the rich recipients) one can only assume that they must have replaced the "All Mighty God" with the "All Mighty Dollar".

    January 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Right on brother. Nice to hear from a Christian with a brain.

      January 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  6. rlowens1

    God belief is either dishonest or delusional – neither of which are "Presidential" qualities.

    January 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • mjcjr

      I totally agree.

      January 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  7. The Central Scrutinizer

    If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

    - George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789, in Anson Phelps Stokes, Church and State in the United States, Vol 1. p. 495, quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

    January 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • rlowens1

      "I'll tell you what you did with Atheists for about 1500 years. You outlawed them from the universities, or any teaching careers, besmirched their reputations, banned or burned their books or their writings of any kind, drove them into exile, humiliated them, seized their properties, arrested them for blasphemy. You dehumanized them with beatings and exquisite torture, gouged out their eyes, slit their tongues, stretched, crushed, or broke their limbs, tore off their breasts if they were a woman, crushed their scrotums of they were men, imprisoned them, stabbed them, disemboweled them, hung them, burnt them alive. And you have the nerve enough to complain to me that I laugh at you."

      –Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair

      January 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      "Extraterrestrial contact is a real phenomenon. The Vatican is receiving much information about extraterrestrials and their contacts with humans from its Nuncios (embassies) in various countries, such as Mexico, Chile and Venezuela."

      - Monsignor Corrado Balducci

      January 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Matt B.

      Thank God for Atheists!

      January 8, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  8. tom

    i've recently noticed the catholic church running tv ads with the hook "come home to the church". as long as santorum is the new face of the church, i'll stay away. he embodies everything i hate about growing up catholic.

    January 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
  9. T-bone!

    This utter nonsense about 'God told me to run for president' needs to stop. It's a pathetic attention grab because each and every one of these candidates know that anyone with any common sense wouldn't vote for them.

    "God told me to run."

    God also told that kid a couple months ago to shoot at the White House, told 17 men to capture some planes and crash them into buildings 11 years ago. He told Catholics to throw Christians to lions in front of a crowd a people for 'sport'. God has told people to do things from John Wayne Gacey to Osama Bin Laden to do things.

    You think that's gonna get you elected? Then you deserve the fanatical zealots you are trying to appeal to. You'll be no different than W and in the eyes of at least someone in the world no less a monster than those I listed.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • rlowens1

      As soon as they start talking about their imaginary friend, I stop taking them seriously.

      January 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  10. Antony

    I found it amusing that the GOP held yet another debate in NH on a Sunday morning. Isn't this when all good little right-wing god-thumpers should be in church?

    I'll bet the preachers took the day off and just put a TV in the pulpit. And, if they did, their tax-free status should be taken away for engaging in political pontification from that pulpit.

    Religion is America's only legal tax scam!

    January 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  11. NSP

    Yay, can't wait to become the United States of the Vatican.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  12. Tridentine

    You want to see religion in public policy.Please read some of the speeches of Abraham Lincoln.I hate to break the news to people but all of our laws are based on Christian principals.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • rlowens1

      Sorry, you're history is flawed. This country was founded on the principles of civil rights and freedom and you will not find one mention of either civil rights or freedom anywhere in the Bible – not one. Go ahead, dust off the Bible you've never bothered to read and actually read it. Look for anything that talks about civil rights and freedom – you won't find it. The idea that the US was founded on Christian principles is a LIE.

      On the other hand, you will find much in the Bible that demonizes anyone and everyone who believes anything different than what the Bible teaches. You will find that the Bible demonizes every man, woman, and child who has ever or will ever live.

      January 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • millmaster

      Which principal of Christ says that we should be free to bear arms? Come on, not all our laws are based on Christianity. Why disregard the wisdom of our founding fathers to not have state-sponsored religions and to keep them separate? I don't want a priest or rabbi or ayatollah or minister making laws and using tax-payer supported police forces to enforce them.

      January 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • rick

      It was also founded on slavery. If that is okay, there is a nice little coffee colored girl down the street, and i would sure love to go all thomas jefferson on her

      January 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  13. Chrism

    “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
    – George Washington

    “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”
    – George Washington

    “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable.”
    – George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation 1789

    January 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Chrism

      “I … [rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.” – Samuel Adams

      “We have this day [Fourth of July] restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come.”

      – Samuel Adams

      “The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe (Proverbs 18:10). Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better.”

      – Samuel Adams

      January 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Chrism

      “The United States in Congress assembled … recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States … a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools.”

      – United States Congress 1782

      “Congress passed this resolution: “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”

      – United States Congress 1782

      “By Law the United States Congress adds to US coinage:”

      “In God We Trust”- United States Congress 1864

      January 8, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Chrism

      “The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.” – John Adams

      “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

      – John Adams

      “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

      – John Adams

      “The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.”

      – John Adams

      January 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • Chrism

      It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great Nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.- Patrick Henry

      John Jay, First Chief-Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

      Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is their duty – as well as privilege and interest – of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.

      – John Jay

      The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.

      – John Jay

      January 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • BNB42

      Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person's life, freedom of religion affects every individual. Religious insti.tutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the "wall of separation between church and state," therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society.
      We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.
      - Thomas Jefferson, to the Virginia Baptists (1808) ME 16:320. This is his second kown use of the term "wall of separation," here quoting his own use in the Danbury Baptist letter. This wording of the original was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause: Reynolds (98 US at 164, 1879); Everson (330 US at 59, 1947); McCollum (333 US at 232, 1948)

      January 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Chrism

      “The only foundation for . . . a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”
      – Benjamin Rush

      January 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • BNB42

      Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.
      - Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

      January 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Chrism

      “I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society. One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law … There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying its foundations.”

      – Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Harvard Speech, 1829

      January 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • BNB42

      The 'Wall of Separation':
      Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, 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 and State.
      - Thomas Jefferson, to Danbury Baptists, 1802 (emphasis ours). This was used again by Jefferson in his letter to the Virginia Baptsits, and was several times upheld by the Supreme Court as an accurate description of the Establishment Clause: Reynolds (98 US at 164, 1879); Everson (330 US at 59, 1947); McCollum (333 US at 232, 1948)

      January 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Chrism

      God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.

      – Thomas Jefferson, Jefferson Memorial

      January 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • BNB42

      The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man.
      - Thomas Jefferson, to Jeremiah Moor, 1800

      January 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Chrism

      “This nation under God”

      – Abraham Lincoln, Gettysberg Address and inscribed on Lincoln Memorial

      “And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

      – Abraham Lincoln

      January 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • BNB42

      The declaration that religious faith shall be unpunished does not give immunity to criminal acts dictated by religious error.
      - Thomas Jefferson, to James Madison, 1788. ME 7:9

      January 8, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • millmaster

      Christ's two greatest commandments: Love thy good with all thy heart and then love they neighbor as thyself. Some in the GOP seem to want to re-write these as "love my God or else" and "my neighbor must do as I say before I shall love him."

      January 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • BNB42

      In 1850, I believe, the church property in the United States, which paid no tax, amounted to $87 million. In 1900, without a check, it is safe to say, this property will reach a sum exceeding $3 billion. I would suggest the taxation of all property equally.
      - Ulysses S Grant, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

      January 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • SafeJourney

      The United States of America should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy." ~ George Washington

      January 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • BNB42

      We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions ... shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for honors and power ... we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.
      - John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785, quoted from Albert Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom (1991)

      January 8, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Chrism

      “Religion is the basis and foundation of Government” – James Madison

      January 8, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • BNB42

      As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?
      - John Adams, letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

      January 8, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Chrism

      Ronald Reagan; a prayer for healing (from a speech to the American people, February 6, 1986):

      To preserve our blessed land we must look to God… It is time to realize that we need God more than He needs us… We also have His promise that we could take to heart with regard to our country, that “If my people, which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Let us, young and old, join together, as did the First Continental Congress, in the first step, in humble heartfelt prayer. Let us do so for the love of God and His great goodness, in search of His guidance and the grace of repentance, in seeking His blessings, His peace, and the resting of His kind and holy hands on ourselves, our nation, our friends in the defense of freedom, and all mankind, now and always. The time has come to turn to God and reassert our trust in Him for the healing of America… Our country is in need of and ready for a spiritual renewal. Today, we utter no prayer more fervently than the ancient prayer for peace on Earth. If I had a prayer for you today, among those that have all been uttered, it is that one we’re so familiar with: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace….” And God bless you all.

      January 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Chrism

      “The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.”

      – Calvin Coolidge

      January 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • BNB42

      Whatever one's religion in his private life may be, for the officeholder, nothing takes precedence over his oath to uphold the Const.itution and all its parts - including the First Amendment and the strict separation of church and state.
      - John F Kennedy, Interview, Look, March 3, 1959, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

      January 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • SafeJourney

      Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: Why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?" ~ Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner on the Ten Commandments ruling, June 27, 2005)

      January 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • BNB42

      We do not want an official state church. If ninety-nine percent of the population were Catholics, I would still be opposed to it. I do not want civil power combined with religious power. I want to make it clear that I am committed as a matter of deep personal conviction to separation.

      - John F Kennedy, Interview, CBS-TV, "Face the Nation," October 30, 1960, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

      January 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • BNB42

      I do not speak for my church on public matters; and the church does not speak for me.

      - John F Kennedy, address to the Ministerial Association of Greater Houston, September 12, 1960, quoted from, “The Catholic Conundrum,” Time Magazine, (July 2, 2007) page 59

      January 8, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Chrism

      “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”
      ― John F. Kennedy

      January 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Norma Jean

      “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men.”
      ― John F. Kennedy

      Yeah, then you can get any chick that you want...

      January 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  14. Scott

    It is hard to imagine an article that would cause me to feel any worse about the idea of a Santorum presidency.

    I do not want religion in my laws. In fact, I want LESS religion (and more common sense) in my laws.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  15. Kent Allard

    How wonderful that Santorum has deep Faith, and how utterly frightening and un-American it is that he is trying to impose his Faith on the body politic.

    In last evening's debate he called for civility while being uncivil, he invoked Faith while demeaning the Faith of our Muslim cousins, he referred to the compassion of the Creator while showing none for our gay brothers and sisters.

    His vision is no that far from the Iranian mullahs who inspire him to rattle his saber.

    Faith is a personal thing. Santorum needs to keep it that way.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Kent Allard

      I forgot to mention an observation. Santorum is perhaps the first person in history to get agitated over the term "middle class". While discussing the vitally important reality that the economic middle class is getting bludgeoned, he somehow shifted the discussion away from that issue and on to the laughably non-important semantics of the term middle class. Using middle class as a perforative is an absurd but creative way to spew bluster and say nothing – all the while morphing the middle class as a group worth saving into a group that can't possibly exist in his America. Santorum, who has figured out a scam to have money drop out of the sky and into his pocket, may not believe in the middle class, but not having that advantage, the nuance is lost on me.

      January 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  16. Tridentine

    It seems like every idiot that comments on the church says something about molestation.I do not recall any of the same people talking about the public school teacher who was just nabbed or Jerry Sandusky.Oh wait that doesnt fit in with the hatred and vile they want to throw at the church.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Kent Allard

      Commenting on the horror of child molestation is not idiocy. Whining about those who try to bring it into the light of day is.

      January 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Dr.K.

      Tridentine, if it makes you feel better, I will say it: football is riddled with nastiness, immorality, womanizing, drug abuse, and cheating. When they try to cover it up it is even more vile.

      Public schools have suffered as well, but to my knowledge there is no culture of covering up or overlooking child molestation. Pedophilic teachers are not simply sent to teach at other schools. THAT is the problem with the Catholic church, and Penn State football.

      January 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  17. amac

    JFK said in 1960, "I do not speak for my church on matters of public policy, and my church does not speak for me."

    I don't believe there is a single Repuglican candidate for president in 2012 that can legitimately make the same claim.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  18. rlowens1

    There are few things scarier than an adult with an imaginary friend who has real power.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
  19. Ishmeal

    Politics & Faith can "MARRY" ? Here's a perfect example to refute the Republican & fundamentalists erroneous claim that "marriage" is only between a man and a woman. This headline provides and example of how "marry and marriage" has many uses and connotations in the English language.
    Thank you CNN for this stellar example of the versatility of the word and our language in general, showing the ignorance of ignorant, hateful conservatives.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  20. southside nike

    I do not understand the GOP. They claim to hate big government, and If it’s government in the boardroom they are all against it, if it’s government in the bedroom they are all for it.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • SilverHair

      All these 'wingers' need to stay out of my home – ALL parts of it. I don not wish to partake in any of the pushed belief positions. My conscience is with the God of my choosing, not some self appointed pusher.

      January 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.