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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. flatbushfred

    Here's what I learned from the debate last night: If you want an eventual theocracy in the US, vote for Santorum; If you want a country in which blacks and other minorities will fare far worse than they do now, vote for Paul or Gingrich; if you want a country of continued and worsened income inequality, where the establishment of sweatshops will count as "job creation"vote for Romney. If you want women forced back into the back alleys for illegal abortions, vote for any of them.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  2. rs1201

    Mitt Romney will be the republican nominee and he will win the White House in Nov 2012. That's an irrefutable fact that people should get used to and be extremely happy about. We'll get rid of the Chicago community organizer who attended Rev Wright's church every Sunday for twenty years and heard all the bigotry in his sermons and then professed to have never "noticed it". We have a liar in the White House and that needs to be corrected.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Howie76

      TROLL

      January 8, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • He's quite upset

      Howie's mad because he has no plausible answer. Witness his crafty reply. Work on your vocabulary, Howie boy although in this case you'd still have no answer.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Howie76

      I have plenty of answers. When someone is so ignorant to attach the President and call him a liar that is an issue. I also happen to think Romney will make a great president in that he is middle of the road and will compromise. However, he will not win because the right wing religious nuts will not vote for him. When that happens all you right wing nut jobs will hopefully crawl back in you holes. P.S. Who case about vocabulary. A troll is a troll.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  3. Rich

    Rick,Please don't hide behind me................god

    January 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  4. Catholic Chuck

    I would vote for Santorum in a heartbeat. He believes in what he is saying and stands by those beliefs vs. others who say what the voters want to here just for the vote. Catholics have long been blackballed in politics. Think about it- the largest religious group in the country and only one Catholic president. I hope Rick will be the second.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Howie76

      No way would I vote for someone who is a member of an organization that has for centuries covered up the abuse of children and hid their assets so teh victim gets nothing.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • D

      lol @ the Pedophile president

      January 8, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • KMW

      To Chuck,

      I am also Catholic and would vote for Rick Santorum in a minute. I am so sick and tired of these left-wing liberals ruining our contury. Go Rick Santorium.

      January 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • What me worry.

      Howie – You mean like the muslim man in the White House ?

      January 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  5. Nyarlathotep

    "Marry Catholicism and politics?"

    According to Rick, marriage is solely between a man and a woman! If we allow Catholicism and politics to marry, then we'll have man-on-man, man-on-dog ... and then God will strike us down to a charred, smouldering cinder!

    January 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
  6. Michael

    After reading most of these posts I have come to the conclusion that the American Public is in need of deep therapy. There are more wing nuts out there than are vying for President. It is sad that most of you are no different than the idiot in the White House or some of the idiots that are running for the position.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • D

      ..this from a guy that thinls Obama is an anti semite....you have nothing to offer

      January 8, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  7. ?

    sounds dysfunctional already

    January 8, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  8. binky42

    If you like the idea of turning the United States into a Christian-alternative to extremist Islamic nations, go ahead and vote for Santorum. If he does get elected, I'm moving to Canada for at least four years (or until he's impeached).

    January 8, 2012 at 8:05 am |
    • Michael

      Good riddance maybe you can offset some of the illegals coming from the opposite direction.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  9. diridi

    Yes, this idiot is a plain lunatic to give shelter to Israel, bomb Iran and carry Baby's corpse. I mean plain "LUNATIC". period.

    January 8, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  10. AnnieM

    I have no problem with a person's religion as long as they don't try to ram it down the throats of others...

    January 8, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Read the story

      Which is exactly what he's trying to do.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  11. augustghost

    Cracks me up how all these politicians have to pretend they are religious and are so called "humbled" by a greater power.....most of them are probably atheist, but you can't say that in public...why? beause the american public as a whole are narrow minded idiots

    January 8, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  12. Doug

    Not sure what Obama believes in after being raised Muslim and then following Reverend Wright's teachings for many years. If you accept that our country was founded on the concept of religious freedom, i.e., the right to follow whatever religion we choose, then this article seems to be arguing against anyone who has any belief. Also with regards to Obama, I didn't vote for him, don't share many of his views, but do support his right as well as Santorum's right to have their own religious beliefs. The irony in in much of the comments above is that we all carry around our own belief system, religious or otherwise, that impacts every decision we made as an individual

    January 8, 2012 at 8:01 am |
    • D

      ..thankfully whatever he beleives in doesnt matter cuz we have seperation of church and state and to his credit he can honor that....where as your people seem intent on disregarding a 200yr old principle...

      January 8, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  13. D

    ..the Republican party is splintered at the core...there are the parasitic capitalists (Romney) vs the religious zealots (Santorum) vs the angry racists (Gingrich and Paul)..the only unity they have is they all hate having a Black President...it is said that Republicans fall in line not fall in love...no surprise there animals that eat their own couldnt possibly have an ounce of humanity...their entire format, ideology and issues are obsolete, irrelevant and backwards...no matter who comes out of that blood bath..he'll survive to face a humiliating loss...Santorum is a reflection of why this Party is irrelevant

    January 8, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • Michael

      Again anotherworthless comment from an individual that is too blinded to see that the current President is an anti Semite.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Eddie Hurley

      it is not race it is about the country i never heard anybody say Obama was a racists when he bad mouth bush all the time all of you bad mouth him and i am not a fan but remember what was said talked about the debt now look at it pat this man on the back and tell him what a good job he is doing 5 more the hold will be so deep you will never craw out

      January 8, 2012 at 8:08 am |
    • D

      @ Micheal – Rahm Emanuel was his Chief of Staff...hes stood with Israel and still supports them...how does that make Obama anti semite? Sounds like another desperate attempt at smear tactics

      January 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • D

      ..the debt hole was delivered to us by Bush, and your Republican buddies who refuse to pay their fair share of taxes add to the problem...maybe if your corprorate and 1% freinds would pay their share that would make a dent?

      January 8, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • jim

      @D You give Michael too much credit, he's just a m0r0n.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • Michael

      D – Sorry that you fail to realize it but just because one of your staffers is Jewish does not mean you are not anti-Jew. Calling for Israel to redraw its borders clearly shows that Obama is Anti-Jew. Conversing with the head of France and making anti Netanyahu statements is Anti-Jew. Being Jewish I am better equipped in identifying someone who either is or isn't pro Israel, and the current President is not Pro Israel.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Michael

      As for the individuals who do not pay their fair share of taxes. Anyone who is on welfare and government assistance does not pay any taxes. There are so many deductions in place that the hardest hit are the middle class. It is interesting that all you communists who claim yourselves as liberals never consider the voting block that you support by taxing the middle class and rich are nothing better than lemmings who will follow anyone any where for a welfare check and food stamps.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • Michael

      As for Jim who personally attacks people by name calling. I see that you possibly might have left high school but kept that bad habits that you learned there. I suggest a 12 step program so you can either get sober or kick the habit of addictive drugs. Then maybe you can lead a meaning full life and quit all the self hatred. Once you accept yourself you will feel better about yourself and the world you live in.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • D

      Israel coopted Palestine...since theyve beent there its been nothing but a land grab...Netanyahu decided to 'lecture' Obama and tried to embarass him...and even still with all that he still supports Israel...further on the priority scale of things Israel is like -20....while the zi/onist zeal is amusing its very low on our priority

      January 8, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • The glaring fault of it

      Michael says "Being Jewish I am better equipped in identifying someone who either is or isn't pro Israel.." except for the fact that Jews are famous for their screaming paranoia. 'Everyone is out to get them'. You've demonstrated your belief that anyone who doesn't think exactly as you is Anti-Jew. Think about it, Michael.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • Michael

      Another very ignorant reply, it actually sounds like one the statements that was made when millions of Jews were being exterminated during WWII and everyone believed it was all propaganda. It is very true that the Jewish people have been persecuted from the beginning of time and it continues today. It is very sad that any individual such as yourself is too blind and ignorant to see that. It actually is no different than the Christians who have been slaughtered in Egypt since the revolt or more recently as of yesterday the Christians in Nigeria. You like everyone else do not care who is being exterminated as long as it is not yourself and that makes you just as bad as Hitler and the Nazis.

      January 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • What me worry.

      What would we be f Joe Biden were President ?
      Just curious, because I am sure I would still feel the same way.

      January 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  14. Marty Luther

    It was humorous to see these morally bankrupt politicians pandering to the Catholic vote at last night's " debate". The Catholic Church needs to clean up it's own disastrous mess before it gets involved in politics, and thugs like Gingrich and Santorum aren't going to help it's image.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • D

      lol @ pandering to Pedophiles

      January 8, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • Catholic Chuck

      So then the same must be true for Romney, don't let the Mormom cult get involved in politics either. Or O'Bummer, don't let the Islamists/token Christens in office either? Santorum is a Catholic running for office, not the Catholic Church running for office you bigot.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • D

      Obama doesnt wear his faith on his sleeve unlike you guys...and frankly we dont care what he beleives in thats between him and God...clearly however any excuse for prejudice is fair game for zealots...lol

      January 8, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • KMW

      Martin Luther,

      I am a Catholic and resent your ignorant remarks. They are speaking the truth and it must kill you to have to hear it.

      January 9, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  15. SixDegrees

    Anyone who uses the corpse of his miscarried child as a campaign prop doesn't deserve to be let near the White House; they barely deserve to be called a human being. Gabby the Meat Puppet is like something straight out of "American Horror Story", and his daddy is a dangerous lunatic.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:56 am |
    • What me worry.

      How ignorant are you. He didn't use it, the media pigs did.

      January 9, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  16. watersprite

    its not your religion that bothers me, its you being an utter, worthless jew-stooge loser

    January 8, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  17. badlobbyist

    This guy is the worst of both worlds. He wants govt intrusion in our social world, and he's a supporter of big govt fiscally. There is just nothing good about his political stances.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Eddie Hurley

      we need to put you in the white house so you could get up and call every body bad names cause that is about your daily job

      January 8, 2012 at 8:13 am |
  18. TonyP

    After reading some of the posts here, I think I should point out a couple of facts for you. Rick Santorums stand on Gay Marriage is the same as Obama's stand on gay marriage, according to Obama. Both have stated they do not agree with it, so why all the hoopla over Santorum and not Obama?

    Second, the letter to the Danbury Baptist by Thomas Jefferson has been taken completely out of context in our day. Thomas Jefferson was telling them not to worry, that the US government had no plans to see one religion given a place much like the church of England had, a state endorsed religion. Jefferson spoke of the wall of separation that would not allow it. He did not, however, intend for that to be an issue of ones personal faith if they served in public office. That is proven by his own actions in attending church at the Capital Building each Sunday in Washington DC at the time of that writing.

    America is a country who laws and government are based on high moral principles. no one is bringing a Theocracy to America. that fear mongering from the secular humanist is about as laughable as the thought that because Santorum is Catholic, the Vatican will own the White House. JFK was a catholic and spoke about God and Country, anyone of you Liberals have issue with that? Apparently not, since you also did not and do not make a fuss when Obama quotes scripture or about his deeply held religious beliefs. but I guess liberal beliefs are okay in comparison to conservative ones.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • D

      JFK died 40 years ago..why are we still fighting 200 yr old battles...seperation of Church and state means sepration of churh and state...Santorum can beleive what he wants but by having his "faith" guide his deisions that is a clear vilation of that principle...Finally this isnt about Obama this is about Santorum and his divisive ignorant policies ideology and rejection by his district voters

      January 8, 2012 at 8:04 am |
    • BD70

      The difference between JFK and Obama is they had and have walls between their religious beliefs and running the country. Thus why Obama does not stop gay marriage. Santorum would inflict his religious beliefs on the country by outlawing abortion and gay marriage. Read the article again. Santorum wants to tear down the wall that JFK had between being president and being catholic.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • liz

      It is not the same stance. Obama says he disagrees with it, yet he allows the states to allow it. Santorum wants to do everything in his power to make it illegal and force any marriages that have taken place to be divorced. That is NOT the same stance.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • D ????

      You have got your understanding of seperation all wrong. Need to break out the 9th grade history books and brush up a little.

      If your version is true, whom amonst us is a relevent candidate for the office? Any person that has a religious affiliation is guided in some way by what they have read or heard in their place of worship. Obama has a background in Islam and Christianity, that should make him twice as bad ? Tell us how he might be different. Just because he doesn't talk about it doesn't mean he doesn't ponder it in private.

      January 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  19. jon

    CNN is such a pot stirrer with these fake stories about the GOP candidates and religion. A recent poll shows that religion pays either "no importance" (66%), or "little importance" (18%) among conservatives. This makes the leftstream either ignorant or just plain liars when it comes to conservatives.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • D

      If so many "conservatives' are indifferent about religion why is it always an issue with your canidates? whats the deal with the coopting of your party by these groups?

      January 8, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Kath

      I hope none of you people live near me.

      January 8, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • D ????

      D – Because most morals are based in religion whether you like it or not.
      We don't all want to live in San Francisco or Seattle.

      January 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  20. 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 7:54 am |
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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.