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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. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things
    The moral base of a Christian nation
    Is realized in prayer
    A leader who seeks the council of God in prayer
    Shows character and values
    And is a blessing to his people
    Prayer changes things

    January 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • BNB42

      Troll alert.....

      January 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Howard

      You don't seem to understand that this country does not just consist of Christians and Athiests! Stp trying to brainwash the rest of us!

      January 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • newsreel

      Atheism opens the mind. Prayers close it to a rigid (unproven, fake) ideology.

      Prayers have also been said for the crusades, the inquisition, and by the 9/11 bombers. So prayers in itself can be ralxing for you, but also deadly for others. Beware of the double edge before praising it, you are actually putting your religion down.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • just wondering

      newsreel would you post a prayer said for the crusades , the inquisition and the 9/11 bombers please? I have never seen any.

      January 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • jamest297

      Where did you come up with such an idea or quote?

      January 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • newsreel

      I said the men going for crusades, the men running the inquisition did say their prayers during their operations. You denied this ? Well, i'd have to dig in history book....and the 9/11 bombers did pray the day before 9/11, then even on the second before the plane hit, they also shouted god is great, their form of prayers. The point is prayers, in any religion, is double edge. It is relaxing for the one saying it, but the intention can be deadly for the one receiving it. Just say prayers are good is WRONG. Believers are known throughout history to be very bad : fanatic, cruel, intolerant, greedy. Especially to non-believers. so there...

      January 8, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  2. SHAIARRA

    In 1773, the Rev. Isaac Backus ,
    the most prominent Baptist minister in New England, observed that when "church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued."

    January 8, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  3. sdowst

    This guy could better serve the American public by becoming a priest and staying the heck out of politics. He is one scary dude!

    January 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • newsreel

      I don't know....some children may object to this idea....

      January 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • newsreel

      ....especially with the current Pope has had a helping hand in hiding/aiding previous pedophile priests.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
  4. Reality

    Dear Ricky S,

    Once again, we are still waiting for your reply:

    Obviously, you suffer from the Three B Syndrome i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed in religion and in your case, Catholicism so again we say a prayer on your behalf. Please read carefully and repeat every time you think everything is some god's plan:

    The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen

    January 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • .........

      Hit report abuse on all reality repeat garbage

      January 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Reality Jr.

      That's my dad. The Copy and paste king of the world.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Reality

      The comments were addressed to Ricky S so one assumes Reality Jr. does not meet the criteria.

      January 8, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  5. Freedom of choice.....everyones

    There are a vast number of Americans who are not Christians. What about thier rights to a president who is not swayed by HIS
    religious beliefs?

    January 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  6. dina

    Religion should definately not be part of politics, especialy a religion of such pedophelia. This candidate needs to re look his stressing this religion. First, religion needs to be out of government and then does he want everyone to espouse to his brand of religion? I am sure he does and that does not include everyone. Stop talking religion and your views of how individuals should live therir lives according toyour rules.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
  7. ab_contador

    I will never vote for him specifically because he is TOO religious – I would consider Romney though

    January 8, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
  8. jamest297

    When where and how can you political types ever come to understand that religion of any shape, type or form plays NO role in our electoral process. Bring us the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and quit the Mutha Freakin' pandering to any/all religious bases. It is unhealthy, un-american and and untrue. PLEASE, step away from religion, the bible and Is-lam.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
  9. john316

    What is amazing, is that he blasts the islamic world for wanting a theocracy....and yet with every sentence out of his mouth....he sounds more and more like them....don't people see that....what has happened to common sense? Good grief America....wake up.....soon they'll be burning people at the stake... or putting them on the rack....like the good old days ... it's time to tax the religious corporations for what they are....all of them.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  10. SHAIARRA

    "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?"

    Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner on the Ten Commandments ruling, June 27, 2005

    January 8, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  11. Tridentine

    Religion has been part of politics in one way or another since the declaration of independence.It is nothing new.We are all formed by our backgrounds.Religious or lack of.Our laws are based on Christian principals.You take the 10 commandments and verbatim they are part of the laws of the United States.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • lol

      no...no they are not....

      January 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • be

      The problem is when religious dogma takes the place of open minded dialogue on political issues and civil rights. Religion has always been slow to respond to new knowledge and change (Galileo is a case in point). There was a point when the Bible was used to justify slavery.....to condemn interracial marriage.....to prevent women from having the right to vote. Today, it closes any rational dialogue about reproductive rights, gay marriage and other issues.......people say that something is condemned by the Bible and believe that somehow that should end the dialogue. Unfortunately, people ruled by religious dogma tend to fly planes into buildings, burn witches at stakes, and crucify forward thinking itinerant preachers.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • BNB42

      Wife listed among property

      Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
      - Exodus 20:17, The Tenth Commandment

      January 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • BNB42

      So where in our laws (USA) does it say your wife is your property?

      January 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Santorun Schmantorun

      its "verbatum", and where is the second commandment in our law ? hint: OMG

      January 8, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Rick

      How is having no god other than the christian god part of the laws of the United States?

      January 8, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • jamest297

      C'mon people. Are you kidding me? Are any of you even the least little bit curious or can you even read?

      The 10 commandments didn't even originate in the beliefs of the bible and its evolutionary predecessors. Hammurabi had then described over 1000 years earlier and there is data to suggest that they were culturally adopted 1000 years BEFORE THAT.

      January 8, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  12. ashrakay

    How to think like an atheist: 1) Next time you're in a discussion with someone, reading, or just writing about god, replace the word "god" with "allah" or "santa clause". If your statement sounds ridiculous and childish or even scary, congratulations! You have now taken the first step to thinking like and atheist. Welcome to the adult table.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  13. Grinning Libber

    Want to know what a country run by medieval Catholics looks like? No you don't.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  14. becool

    Catholic rules U.S. Are you crazy? I just can't understand where are the Americans? America has been founded on Christian faith of Protestantism this is why it became Uncle Sam.. It seems that they have lost their value between the Mormon and the Catholic... God have mercy...

    January 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Grinning Libber

      The US was founded on NO religion. You are as bad as he is,

      January 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Jim

      You are wrong. Ignorance is the greatest tragedy of modern Christianity. The Founding Fathers were not protestants, nor christian, but deists – look it up. George Washington explicitly wrote and promoted total seperation of church and state, and explicitly stated that we are not a christian nation, but a nation dedicated to freedom of religion. Jefferson wrote that Man will never be free until the myth of Christ is relegated to the myths of Zeus and Jupiter. Those who espouse a Christian, or Protestant America are not Americans – that is not what we are about.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  15. Mike

    I grew up Catholic and have no problem with how others practice their faith. But you only have to look at certain countries to see what happens when religion is allowed to be part of politics.

    Santorum is dangerous. Say no to the Christian Taliban.

    January 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Jim

      Amen. Our Founding Fathers were explicit in seperating church and state. This is not a Christian nation, it never was a Christian nation. However, Christian factions are responsible for an awful lot of very nasty things – ask a Native American, for example. I do not want my government telling me nor my kids where or when or how to pray. I do not want my government using mythology to define science and morality. I don't want angels voices and demons determining my government's activities. The Christian Taliban is no different than the Afghan variety – just as vicious, as dangerous, as violent and as malevolent.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  16. SHAIARRA

    SCOTUS 367US488,489 ( SEE ALSO THE CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT CLAUSE )
    " In the exercise of one's religion one, CANNOT INSIST ON CONDUCT WHICH THREATENS important interest on the society in an UNREASONABLE MANNER. The courts must, therefore, BALANCE the Importance of a religious exercise claim against the State interest involved in a rule or practice which prevents or hinders the exercise SCOTUS 367US488,489.

    January 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  17. ed tambini

    religion has NO place in politics!
    i will never vote for anyone that tries to mix them together.
    i am an atheist and i vote...

    January 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Bemused

      I am a christian and I vote...

      January 8, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Pete

      My dear friend Ed, you cannot separate a human person, we are a unity. It would be like saying, your atheism should not find a way into your political beliefs. That's impossible. A human person's relationship with God, or lack of, is fundamental to how one see's and interprets the reality. To comment that politics and religion don't mix is to say that humanity itself does not mix with politics and that's just absurd. Let's stop reducing the human person and creating increasingly relativistic ideologies.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • Felix theNavidad

      If all the atheist types voted as a block it would represent less than 1% of the vote. We need a president that will put those whining ne'er do wells in their place. Rick would put the fear of God in those atheistic losers.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • Rick

      Free people do not need to "fear" god, nor do they need salvation. Slaves do

      January 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  18. LauraP

    Santorum makes Catholicism look really crazy because of his hypocrisy and irresponsible, non-compassionate statements. It's embarrassing each time he talks.

    January 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  19. SHAIARRA

    John F. Kennedy September 12, 1960, address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association:

    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

    January 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Jim

      Wacko christian extremists violate this every hour, yet they are not held to be treasonous. I believe anyone who espouses one religion over another is a traitor to the very core of America – freedom of religion.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Bemused

      And yet you are probably perfectly content with public funds being doled out by the hundreds of thousands or millions favoratistically to various public schools and look the other way when appointments for public positions are doled out on partisan grounds. You are also a hypocrit.

      January 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
  20. LMC

    Our founding fathers pushed for the separation of church and state for a good reason–to keep away from a national religion. The problem is that I see Santorum and other conservative Christians wanting to connect church and state and I can see down the road where this might take us. I wish no evil upon Santorum, I just don't want him to be president!

    January 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
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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.