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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. jamie1238

    This Rick Santorum guy is a RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALIST psycho. His kind (Bush) are the ones responsible for pushing us into wars that we didn't need to start. And we end up footing the bill for evangelical dreams of ruining the middle east and causing the rise of terrorism in the middle east which HAS ONLY AND ALWAYS BEEN due to invasion of their lands as a reactionary step.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @jamie1238,
      "His kind (Bush) are the ones responsible for pushing us into wars that we didn't need to start. "
      The Iraq War Resolution, authorizing force in Iraq (2002), was passed by a majority of both houses of congress and even a majority of Democrats in the Senate. (if Wiki has it right, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Resolution)

      January 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Based on lies, speculation and pure political McCarthyism. When every politician gets hung with the term "unpatriotic", there are only a few real statesmen with the courage to vote their conscience and not the next election. The Bush admin ran a very effective campaign to push the war through congress.

      61% of democrats votes against it. 3% of Republicans voted against it.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • MarkinFL

      That was congress.
      In the senate 42% of demos voted against it. 1 republican voted against it.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Nonimus

      @MarkinFL,
      First, so if all Demos had voted against, then it wouldn't have passed, correct? Perhaps, you should complain about the Democrats.
      Second, regardless of the pressures they voted for it. I think Iraq was a mistake, but I blame the entire Congress, not just Bush.
      Third, you are correct that Congress uses a lot of political games to get bills passed. Using your logic that party line voting implies undue pressure, how does the Health Care bill rank? Every Repub in the House and the Senate voted 'nay'? Even some Demos in the House voted 'nay'?

      Just a thought.

      January 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Jim in PA

    Obviously Santorum has no idea how much Catholics are hated by many evangelicals who view the Catholic Church as the Wh__re of Babylon. I hope Romney picks him as his VP on the general ticket. With both a Mormon and a Catholic on the ticket, about 80% of all conservatives would stay home on election day.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Brad76

      You sir, are correct.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Santorum has strayed far outside Catholic theology in his attempt to reach out to crazy evangelical Baptists. It hasn't worked well, however; he isn't doing well in polling even in South Carolina. Of course, that could have more to do with his bizarre sweater vest/weasel face combination that makes him look like Mr. Rogers turned child molester.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  3. Jimmy

    The picture of his daughter crying makes me smile. =)

    January 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  4. Ricardo

    The Catholics have a notion of common good?? Who wrie this article??? They are "my way or the highway". Their arrognace, and blind eye to perversions in thier own clergy suggest anything but. It's common good of their own.

    Ho wmany churches have been built with money from Mafia types knowing where it came from? Why do you think theri numbers are shrinking? This guy is the poster chlid of Ctaholic condescending self righteousness they have. I am an ex-catholic and know too welll thier ways. This guy is awhiney "better than you and smarter" type. A true Consevative in every way A hypocritical Catholic.in every way and a Christian only by defintiion.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Spelling, punctuation and capitalization are your friends. Get to know them.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  5. bxgrrl

    The next part of God's plan is for Santorum to lose – again.

    January 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • jamie1238

      Santorum is definitely a religious fundamentalist. one step short of a terrorist. all religious fundamentalists like santorum have one thing in common. Wanting wars against Iran and drowning us more in debt for the sake of israeli interests over our own!

      January 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • jamie1238

      The THREE WAR mongers on the GOP ticket above the rest are ... SANTORUM, GINGRICH, BACHMAN (thank god she left),

      War mongers are the last type of Prez we need. We need someone who puts America before religious fundamentalism.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  6. bob

    Has anyone in the HISTORY of mankind ever had draconian ideas like this that either wasn't hiding something or just plan crazy ? ( or both )

    So he wants USA to be home of the brave land of the free as long as you believe what i tell you ? sounds like HITLER

    January 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Distopian

      Yes. Two.
      Craig Johanson and John Wyskowski.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  7. Muneef

    Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve. (2:62)
    ---–

    Those messengers – some of them We caused to exceed others. Among them were those to whom Allah spoke, and He raised some of them in degree. And We gave Jesus, the Son of Mary, clear proofs, and We supported him with the Pure Spirit. If Allah had willed, those [generations] succeeding them would not have fought each other after the clear proofs had come to them. But they differed, and some of them believed and some of them disbelieved. And if Allah had willed, they would not have fought each other, but Allah does what He intends. (2:253)

    ---
    There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (2:256)

    Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve – their allies are Taghut. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein. (2:257)

    January 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Scat

      This begins to make a lot of sense if you read it backwards.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Muneef

      Oh. Could it maybe that's how your brain is located "backwards" ?

      January 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  8. Sandy Eckert

    You know I'm not sure who I will vote for yet BUT if you politicians would spend more time working on the issues that are wrong with this country rather than constantly bash each other we would be alot better off!!!

    January 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Dan

      Please! Let the bashing continue and may the weaker candidate fall through the cracks.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  9. PC

    I think this * DOES * prove that Iowa results should be discarded.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Boris

      Few politicians have had such a searing effect on the hopes and dreams of gay Americans. Women would be foolish to vote for a man who would allow the states to take away birth control. Your womb is not his. Iowans are some looney tunes.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  10. Peter

    God created ants to show people that it is possible.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      but they are all females... the males die after breeding... hush peter 🙂

      January 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • ?

      .

      January 9, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      all ants in a colony are all female. until the queen lays eggs to create offspring to leave the nest to breed. only then do males come into the picture. they die after breeding with the new queen. science is severely lacking in this country.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
  11. Ted Peters

    Publically, Kennedy would have probably agreed with Santorum on the whole "gay marriage" issue (back then)... but privately Kennedy was probably as Catholic as Clinton was faithful to Hillary.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Donna

      Yes Clinton, the man who signed The Defense of Marriage Act and Don't Ask, Don't Tell to make amends to the Republicans for playing games in the bathroom of the Oval Office with interns. Clinton messed up and the whole American gay population had to pay.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  12. bzemo13

    what ugly children he has...

    January 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Peter

      you would have voted for Jack...no....Jackie.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  13. The Anti Santorum

    The ultimate "family value" that the Prez can give the country is a policy that promotes jobs and increases opportunity. On the foreign policy front, a policy that keeps us out of long protracted wars.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • Bertha

      The only way Republicans know how to create jobs is to cut taxes on the rich and hope and pray the rich create a job with that tax savings. Trickle Down Economics – it never worked, but it is still their solution.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  14. O Canada

    That's in the Consti.tution, right?

    January 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      yes and jesus wrote the declaration of independence...

      its fun to make schit up and believe it, isnt faith fun?

      January 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
  15. Jt_flyer

    We'll see how far this marrge of politics and religion takes him. It could be quite far if the American people totally disregard the very foundation of their country. Good luck with all that..

    January 9, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Essie

      Dominionism is his rule book. Perry's too. Conservatives have spent every waking hour trying to get their religious big toes into the cracked doors of government so that they can spread their Holy Trinity into the inner workings of the federal government. The hard times that gay Americans have had to suffer in this country are a direct cause of religious conservatism.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  16. JohnRJ08

    The Rick Santorum described in this article is a religious zombie who will not permit himself to feel real human emotion.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  17. TAK

    Is this guy running for President or Ayatollah?

    January 9, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  18. Alex

    Why don't these politicians know the rule that church and state are supposed to be kept separate

    January 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Max

      According to the story "faith based initiatives" were his brainchild. He was successful in getting George W. Bush to continue to blur the lines between church and state. Don't think he won't continue along this path with intelligent design being taught in schools and dominionism as a new guide for conservatism.

      January 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Chad

      So... if a person believes in Jesus Christ, they can't run for office?

      January 9, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • KMW

      Good comment Chad

      January 9, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • HellBent

      Chad and KWM – wow, settle down boys. Who said that? Santorum has a knack for inserting religion into politics and for funding religious causes with public money. While maybe not crossing the line of separation of church and state, he certainly likes to blur it. There's a big difference between someone that wants to legislate their religion and someone who is a Christian. Geez, sensitive much?

      January 9, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Chad

      hmmm.. I"m still confused..
      so, a person who believes in Jesus Christ CAN run for office
      but
      they can't push for legislation that they feel is correct and good for the country?

      January 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Chad, they don't get to *pass legislation* particular to their beliefs. Let's put it this way – what if Santorum was Muslim? Tell me how ready you'd be to watch him pass laws based on his faith then.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • HellBent

      Chad – they just need to actually abide by the law of the land. You've heard of the Consti.tution, right? And what's with conservatives supporting faith-based initiatives anyway? I thought conservatives were anti-tax and small government. How does it make sense, then, to collect taxes from the public and give it to religious organizations? Holy double standard!

      January 9, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Chad

      @Fookin' Prawn "they don't get to *pass legislation* particular to their beliefs. Let's put it this way – what if Santorum was Muslim? Tell me how ready you'd be to watch him pass laws based on his faith then."

      =>oh.. ok, I misunderstood.. I thought that when we elected people we did so based on their ideas and plans and leadership abilities and background, and if we didnt approve of said ideas/plans following their election we didnt elect them.

      I didnt realize that if a person who believes in Jesus Christ is elected (as opposed to an atheist for example who faces no such restriction based on their belief system), they face an additional restriction that they arent allowed to push for legislation that they believe in and feel is the right thing for the country.

      thanks for clearing that up.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • BNB42

      Chad: someone who's religious and want to run for office should say something like this:

      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 9, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • maniacmudd

      Chad, I know you are confused, and it is probably not your fault, you have been fed religion all your life and now you Cannot Understand Normal Thinking... Look up Diests...never mind, I know you wont, so this is it..." Deism is not a specific religion but rather a particular perspective on the nature of God. Deists believe that a creator god does exist, but that after the motions of the universe were set in place he retreated, having no further interaction with the created universe or the beings within it. As such, there are a variety of common religious beliefs that deists do not accept."..These are the peoples that are our forfathers and they put the laws of the land together in such a way that you and your fringe friends cannot force your beliefs on everyone else. FREEDOM FROM RELIGION, thats it in a nutshell..... so continue spewing your ideas of what you think, and realize that everyone, well everyone but your fringe friends, are looking at your post and shaking their heads....

      January 9, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Chad

      @maniacmudd " Deists believe that a creator god does exist, but that after the motions of the universe were set in place he retreated, having no further interaction with the created universe or the beings within it. As such, there are a variety of common religious beliefs that deists do not accept."..These are the peoples that are our forfathers and they put the laws of the land together in such a way that you and your fringe friends cannot force your beliefs on everyone else. FREEDOM FROM RELIGION"

      =>OH, ok, now I get it.. Only people that are deists can run for public office. So if you believe in Jesus Christ you cant.
      but
      @HellBent said Christians COULD run for office...

      now I'm confused again. Can Christians run for office or not?

      January 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • ATLmatt

      chad – adults who believe in jesus should grow up and leave their imaginary friends in their childhood or be seriously medicated.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • maniacmudd

      @chad, I personaly, hope not

      January 9, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @Chad – don't be deliberately obtuse, you smarta.ss. 'Good for the country' means many things to many people. There are people who are religious and care about everyone's rights, and there are people who are religious who don't. And please, don't for a moment tell me someone who stood up and said they were atheist would ever get elected – we both know this country is still sadly steeped in the ridiculous notion that religious = moral, when in fact that is rarely true. Any Christian can pander to the masses to the point that they get elected...and then turn around and cause entire portions of the population to suffer, such as those pesky gays. Right, Chad?

      January 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Chad

      ok, let me see if I got this straight

      @Alex, @maniacmudd and @ATLmatt all believe that Christians should not be allowed to run for office

      @Fookin' Prawn and @HellBent: feel that Christians can run for office, but are not allowed to push for legislation that they feel is right and good for the country.

      @BNB42 feels they shouldnt be allowed to establish a state religion

      Only myself and KMW feel that we live in a democracy where the voters decide who to elect based on their ideas and plans for the country.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Well, no Chad – you're just needlessly baiting, and you know it. Not everyone's idea of good and right is the same. Your game is cute but it just got old.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Chad

      Fookin' Prawn " And please, don't for a moment tell me someone who stood up and said they were atheist would ever get elected – we both know this country is still sadly steeped in the ridiculous notion that religious = moral, when in fact that is rarely true. Any Christian can pander to the masses to the point that they get elected...and then turn around and cause entire portions of the population to suffer, such as those pesky gays. Right, Chad?"

      =>right, I get your position. "Don't allow Christians to run for office"
      thanks for clarifying the reason "you never know when they might push for legislation they believe is good for the country but I as an athiest dont agree with"

      January 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
    • Chad

      @Fookin' Prawn "Not everyone's idea of good and right is the same. Your game is cute but it just got old"

      =>right, I got it, Christians cant run because they have a different belief system than atheists.. understood.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • BNB42

      Actually chad, the last line of Kennedy's quote was most important.

      "I want to make it clear that I am committed as a matter of deep personal conviction to separation."

      January 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Chad

      @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."

      => I would agree with that 100%, I do not want civil power combined with religious power either. IOW no state religion, keep the state out of religion.

      Note: JFK never said "I agree to never take a stance on legislation that is consistent with my belief system as a Christian"

      January 9, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Chad, a majority usually votes in the candidate they feel represents their needs and values. That's fine. That's how it should work. The point, here, is that that same majority does not get to tell the minority how to live. That's not how this country works. If an atheist was voted into office, and then decided to start passing laws disallowing Christians their basic rights? I would yell as loud as anyone else with a brain. Santorum is a joke. Anyone who wants to force others by law to live by their belief system is a terrifying person. You can twist that however you like.

      January 9, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • ......

      Chad = fred

      January 9, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • Chad

      @Fookin' Prawn "Chad, a majority usually votes in the candidate they feel represents their needs and values. The point, here, is that that same majority does not get to tell the minority how to live."

      =>right, ok, a slight tweak on your position. They can run for office but have to agree before hand that they wont push for legislation they feel is good for the country if any of the minority disagrees with the legislation.

      In other words, they can only do what they feel is right, as long as that is in line with the atheists agenda.

      got it.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @Chad LOL Gotta say, takes effort to twist things around so consistently. You should run for office.

      January 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Chad

      Twisting?

      explain how these two statements are different then..
      "Anyone who wants to force others by law to live by their belief system is a terrifying person"
      "Anyone can do what they feel is right, as long as that is in line with the atheists agenda (belief system)"

      January 9, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      No difference? You really didn't read a single full sentence in any of my responses, did you. Your perser.verence in playing this game just got less admirable. Let's try it this way:

      "Anyone can do what they feel is right, as long as that is in line with the Christian agenda (belief system)"
      "Anyone can do what they feel is right, as long as that is in line with the communist agenda (belief system)"
      "Anyone can do what they feel is right, as long as that is in line with the Muslim agenda (belief system)"

      It doesn't matter what word you put there – Christian, atheist, Martian – it doesn't work for everyone. You should not attempt to force an entire population to adhere to one belief system and still call it America, no matter how 'right' or 'good' it seems. If someone tries to pass laws from the Quran, the Bible, the Torah, and force all to adhere to it, that's wrong. That's my whole point, right there. What are you trying to do, pass the time? You do have basic reading comprehension skills, yes? Do you need it in semaphore?

      January 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Chad

      and, for extra credit, explain how forcing me to abide by the law that says abortion is legal isnt forcing me to live by your belief system, and doesnt make you a terrifying person.

      "Anyone who wants to force others by law to live by their belief system is a terrifying person"

      and, here's the hard part. you have to explain it WITHOUT telling me how abortion is so great, and people should have the right to kill babies. What your thoughts on the legitimacy of the belief system in question (abortion) don't bear on my question at all. Explain how YOU forcing ME to live by YOUR belief system doesn't make YOU a terrifying person.

      January 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Chad

      There's ALWAYS a subtle little dodge in there (sometimes not so subtle)

      @Fookin' Prawn "You should not attempt to force an entire population to adhere to one belief system and still call it America, no matter how 'right' or 'good' it seems. If someone tries to pass laws from the Quran, the Bible, the Torah, and force all to adhere to it, that's wrong"

      =>so, I note that you DIDNT include "pass laws that are in line with the atheist belief system" along with your "pass laws that are in line with christian belief systems" prohibited conduct list.

      Because, that of course would mean you felt it was wrong for atheists to lobby to have the Ten Commandments removed from court houses.

      The word you are searching for is hypocrisy, you apply your prohibition on belief system legislation ONLY to other belief systems. not your own.

      Hypocrisy is the state of pretending to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that one does not actually have.

      January 9, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      Ah, here it is – the hidden little crux of your argument. You're getting emotional and your logic is deteriorating, so I'm not interested in messing with you any further after this.

      By your logic, having abortion be legal = forcing you or a loved one to get an abortion. Read it again. You're coming across like the legality of abortion means someone is forcing it on you.

      There are going to be things in the world you don't agree with, that you think are wrong. That does not make it okay for you to take those things away from everyone else. The world's going to be very hard on you all your life until you realize this.

      It's okay for you to follow your faith and not get an abortion in your family. No one is going to force you to. You can be against it and no one is going to come after you and throw you in jail. For some reason, you're imagining I'm going to tell you abortion is great. I don't agree with it, personally, unless we're talking ra.pe or inces.t or a mother's life in danger. Those are reasonable choices. I think using it as a form of birth control is wrong. But, see, that's my opinion – and I have no right to force others to follow it.

      Maybe you feel that having something like that be legal means someone else is forcing you to live by their beliefs (or that's what I'm getting amid the caps and conclusion-jumping). What it actually means is that no one is going to tell you what to do with your body. Christians, however, do not get to tell non-Christian women what to do with their bodies. Can I make that any clearer for you, Chad? No one is going to throw you in jail for not performing abortions or having one, yet if it's made illegal, woman and doctors in this country will be in danger simply for needing to make a terrible decision.

      Fools like Santorum don't get to tell me I can't use contraception because his faith doesn't like it. Catch up, here, Chad.

      Now, calm down, go drink some water and have a lie-down.

      January 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Chad

      @Fookin' Prawn "By your logic, having abortion be legal = forcing you or a loved one to get an abortion. Read it again. You're coming across like the legality of abortion means someone is forcing it on you."

      =>oh, but that's exactly what you are doing (but hypocritically not admitting it), forcing me to live in a society that kills babies. Forcing me to live in a society where I can't display the ten commandments in court houses, forcing my children to listen to intellectually dishonest people that incorrectly claim that science has disproved God, and on and on..

      @Fookin' Prawn "There are going to be things in the world you don't agree with, that you think are wrong. That does not make it okay for you to take those things away from everyone else."
      =>you mean, like how atheists think that creation is wrong, and try to remove it from schools? You mean like that?

      Look It's okay for you to follow your atheism and not look at the ten commandments and not believe in creation and not acknowledge God in the classroom. No one is going to force you to. You can be against it and no one is going to come after you and throw you in jail.

      see? You're a hypocrite.. get it?

      January 9, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • Chad

      @FookinPrawn "Christians, however, do not get to tell non-Christian women what to do with their bodies"
      =>er.. you mean like this?
      The Unborn Victims of Violence Act is a United States law introduced into congress in 1999 which defines violent assault committed against pregnant women as being a crime against two victims: the woman and the fetus she carries

      bans on late-term abortions and fetal homicide

      laws governing child neglect

      Look, this is reality: a societies laws tell a person what they can and can't do with their bodies ALL THE TIME. Laws infringe upon an individuals rights all over the place when the rights of another person need to be taken into the equation. Why are their speed limits? No one can tell you what to do right? Wrong.

      If you dont want the state protecting the life of an unborn baby, dont get pregnant.

      January 9, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
    • BNB42

      @Chad:
      "@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."

      => I would agree with that 100%, I do not want civil power combined with religious power either. IOW no state religion, keep the state out of religion."

      WOW something we can agree on (as long as you continue your though... Keep the state out of religion AND religion out of the state.)

      January 9, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Chad

      @BNB42 "Keep the state out of religion AND religion out of the state"

      =>hmm. State atheism . It's been tried (Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Cuba, North Korea), no thanks. Is that what you want?

      January 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • BNB42

      Chad:
      I didn't say State atheism.... I'm only trying to reinforce the separation of church and state.. (IE Jeffersons "Wall of separation")

      January 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • BNB42

      Here.... Maybe this will help.....

      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)

      January 9, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Chad

      @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."

      =>exactly:
      1) No mandated state religion, keep government out of religion
      2) Allow people the freedom to worship the God of Abraham, do not in any way shape or form attempt to stop them.
      3) Acknowledge the God of Abraham in all things:

      "The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.
      1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.
      2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
      3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion.

      These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews." – Thomas Jefferson

      January 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • bnb42

      You had me till your #2.... I don't see where you're coming from..

      January 9, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • bnb42

      Chad:
      "These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews." – Thomas Jefferson"

      You're Jefferson quote seems to against his priciples.. what's your source? I think this quote is a little better.

      Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.
      - Thomas Jefferson, to Richard Rush, 1813

      January 9, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • ..

      http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/jeff1458.htm

      January 9, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
    • bnb42

      @**

      http://www.positiveatheism.org

      Looks like somebody found my source of Jefferson quotes

      January 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • bnb42

      I get it... it's taken out of context....

      To Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse

      Monticello, June 26, 1822

      Dear Sir, - I have received and read with thankfulness and pleasure your denunciation of the abuses of tobacco and wine. Yet, however sound in its principles, I expect it will be but a sermon to the wind. You will find it as difficult to inculcate these sanative precepts on the sensualities of the present day, as to convince an Athanasian that there is but one God. I wish success to both attempts, and am happy to learn from you that the latter, at least, is making progress, and the more rapidly in proportion as our Platonizing Christians make more stir and noise about it. The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.

      1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.

      2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.

      3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself; is the sum of religion.

      These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.

      1. That there are three Gods.

      2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing.

      3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.

      4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.

      5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save.

      Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian? He who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus? Or the impious dogmatists as Athanasius and Calvin? Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet. Their blasphemies have driven thinking men into infidelity, who have too hastily rejected the supposed author himself, with the horrors so falsely imputed to him. Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian. I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.

      But much I fear, that when this great truth shall be re-established, its votaries will fall into the fatal error of fabricating formulas of creed and confessions of faith, the engines which so soon destroyed the religion of Jesus, and made of Christendom a mere Aceldama; that they will give up morals for mysteries, and Jesus for Plato. How much wiser are the Quakers, who, agreeing in the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, schismatize about no mysteries, and, keeping within the pale of common sense, suffer no speculative differences of opinion, any more than of feature, to impair the love of their brethren. Be this the wisdom of Unitarians, this the holy mantle which shall cover within its charitable circ.umference all who believe in one God, and who love their neighbor! I conclude my sermon with sincere assurances of my friendly esteem and respect.

      January 10, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • Chad

      Keep state out of religion (no official state religion, the govt doesnt get to tell people which religion they can belong to)
      Keep organized religion out of the affairs of the state
      As a citizen, I am going to elect people that acknowledge Jesus Christ personally and publicly
      The government made up of such individuals should establish a rule of law consistent with the Gods principles (see ten commandments for reference)
      The government made up of such individuals would at all times actively seek to be guided by God in their actions

      The point I made above about atheist hypocrisy, is that atheists and Christians do the same thing (advocate for laws and governing officials who will act in line with their belief system), the difference is that the Christian acknowledges it. The atheist attempts to hide behind "the tyranny of the majority", or "you cant pass laws telling me what to do", when in fact, they do the EXACTLY same thing: namely passing laws that abridge my freedoms.

      It's just unbelievable that the hubris of the atheist renders them so catastrophically self unaware.

      January 10, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • KMW

      Chad,

      I am with you.

      Hellbent, I happen to be female so please do not include me in the boys category.

      There are many women who feel abortion and gay marriage are wrong. Like Chad, I feel a Christian or any other religious person can and should run for office.

      I am glad someone is supporting the freedom for relilgion and I am sure I am not alone. I am tired of these anti-religious people who are running are country. No wonder we have many problems. I want religion to be brought back into the schools and morals and values too.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • KMW

      Correction please to my last post:

      I meant to say OUR country. I pressed the POST button too quickly.

      January 10, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  19. CaliMafia

    Latest CNN Headline: God Resigns – God handed in her resignation today. She said she was “ Really tired” of people saying and doing really crappy things and attributing them to her. She really stressed that she didn’t have a plan and that “S**T happens” and that ‘s just the way things are. She plans to retire somewhere off the coast of Bali and do some surfing. Film at 11.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • maniacmudd

      it's true, she is renting my beach house...

      January 9, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • Fookin' Prawn

      @maniac – be careful, I hear she sucks at housekeeping!

      January 9, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
  20. ATLmatt

    Dear god – IF you are out there and looking over this wonderful world, please protect us from your true believers and followers. theyre scary. and please stop talking to pat robertson. thanks so much.

    January 9, 2012 at 4:33 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.