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April 10th, 2012
04:33 PM ET

With Santorum suspending campaign, some religious conservatives wonder how to proceed

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - Evangelical activist Michael Farris was not exactly surprised that Rick Santorum suspended his campaign on Tuesday. But that doesn’t mean that Farris, a longtime political organizer, knows what he’s supposed to do now.

“Right now my choice is to sit on my hands and do nothing or to actively try to find some alternative” to Mitt Romney, Farris said in an interview shortly after Santorum's announcement.

“Some of us just have a hard time supporting a person who said he was going to be more liberal on gay rights than Ted Kennedy,” said Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, referring to remarks Romney made in a 1994 letter.

Farris’ reaction is a stark emblem of the disappointment among religious conservatives over Santorum's announcement, and a reminder that Romney’s enthusiasm deficit among the conservative evangelicals who form the GOP’s base hasn’t gone away.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“There are two kinds of disappointment today,” said John Green, a religion and politics expert at the University of Akron. “One is felt by people who care a great deal about social issues, especially white evangelicals, who are uncomfortable with Mitt Romney.”

“And there’s another group who really liked Santorum,” Green continued, “and were quite excited about him not only because of the social issues but because they saw him as representing this positive role for faith and values in a society.”

The conservative and largely evangelical Family Research Council said in an email to supporters Tuesday night that Santorum's announcement "was clearly disappointing news for those looking for a nominee who understands and articulates the connection between the social and fiscal challenges facing America."

"His historical run for President achieved remarkable success because his campaign was based not on money spent, but on the pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-freedom message he carried," the Family Research Council email blast said.

Religious conservatives were the key to Santorum’s unlikely rise as a serious presidential candidate. Conservative evangelicals and Catholics were drawn to Santorum as much for his personal story – he is a conservative Catholic and homeschooling dad of seven – as for his outspoken advocacy against abortion rights and same-sex marriage as a U.S. senator.

While polls showed him at the back of a seven-person pack just weeks before January’s first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, Santorum won a plurality of Iowa evangelicals, who accounted for nearly 60% of the electorate. That support laid the foundation for a first place Iowa finish.

After Santorum’s primary loss in New Hampshire to Mitt Romney - and days before Santorum would lose to Newt Gingrich in South Carolina - conservative religious activists convened in Texas and congealed behind the former Pennsylvania senator.

With strong evangelical support, Santorum went on to win primaries and caucuses in 11 states, even as Romney racked up more than twice as many delegates.

Not all conservative religious activists are as dead-set against Romney as Farris, who is also chancellor at Patrick Henry College, a school for homeschooled youth.

“Barack Obama will unite conservatives and people of faith more so than any single Republican candidate can hope to do,” said Mat Staver, an evangelical Christian who leads the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel.

But Staver said Romney would have to work hard to excite social conservatives.

“He’s going to have to make some intentional steps to reach out to evangelicals and religious conservatives,” said Staver. “It would be a mistake to assume he has every vote from evangelicals and religious conservatives locked up.”

At the moment, plenty of other conservative activists say they’re still in wait-and-see mode about the primary season.

“It’s very likely that he’ll end up the nominee, but he’s not he nominee yet,” said Steve Scheffler, president or the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, about Romney. “He was never my first choice, but I’ll support him because the alternative is something we can’t live with.

“But I’m not ready to throw my support to him yet,” Scheffler said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Politics • Rick Santorum

soundoff (1,591 Responses)
  1. Sybaris

    “Some of us just have a hard time supporting a person who said he was going to be more liberal on gay rights than Ted Kennedy,”

    Why do religious people care what other people do with their genitalia in the privacy of their own homes?

    April 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      What about those who are Religious and Gay?

      They do exist.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
    • Sybaris

      Oh Mark, they aren't "true christians" so they don't count. [/sarcasm]

      April 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Russ

      Cuz god told them its EVIL!!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • rcflyer8410

      The right question indeed. And the reason why religion is the most divisive force every manufactured. In some otherwise similar cultures – Ireland comes to mind – where families are similar and share other similar values and beliefs – religion is the one thing that sets them apart. And debating across religions is not possible – you cannot provide any type of logical or meaningful argument in defense of something that has no basis in logic, fact, or reason to begin with. It's like two kids arguing who has the better imaginary friend – the only difference, these are typically adults. And religion continues to manifest across generations as people subject their offspring to the same brainwashing. I love the statement "A Christian child" – there is no such thing as such. Perhaps a child of Christian parents. Kids are not mature enough to reasonably make these decisions. They become brainwashed and essentially forced to pursue whatever insanity their parents chose. And yes, it is brainwashing. The same reason children believe in Santa – the only difference is we eventually tell them Santa isn't real.
      Religion is peace and harmony for the ignorant and weak minded, considered outrageous by intelligent, strong minded people, and considered quite useful for those who sit in positions of power and wealth.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • RV

      I could care less what people do in the privacy of their own homes. I do care when the "life style" is being pushed in the public schools to a captured audience or given special status under the law. How about a little equality and everyone keep their agendas to themselves.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • Ken78

      Reply

      April 11, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Sybaris

      RV – I could care less what people do in the privacy of their own homes. I do care when the "life style" is being pushed in the public schools to a captured audience or given special status under the law.

      LOVE this!! ^^^^

      It's not like there's:
      God on our money
      Televangelists 24/7 on TV and radio
      Moments of silence (prayer) before public events
      Bibles in every motel room
      A church every 6 blocks in every U.S. city over 100,000
      Christian TV networks
      Discounts on insurance for being christian
      Christian bookstores in every town with a population over 5,000
      Christian billboards along highways
      Christian holidays recognized by the government
      Religious organizations are tax free.

      All this in a country where over 75% claim to be christian.

      Yeah, I can see where the "lifestyle" is being pushed down your throat

      April 11, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • Help Me, Rhonda

      Well said, RCFlyer!

      April 11, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  2. TJeff1776

    You've got that right. Especially these Southern Baptist Convention evangelicals . What a bunch of hypocrits !!! The famous
    Evangelist DR. OLIVER GREENE(look him up on Google) once stated " I absolutely will not spill my religious convictions over into matters of State AND will not tolerate the State spilling over into matters of my church." END OF QUOTE::: Now just look at how these preacher are interfering in political life. PERHAPS someone can explain to me......IF Church spills into matters of State........ then whats going to keep the State from spilling into matters of Church.. We may very well be witnessing the end to seperation of Church and state. AND when it happens, it will require a lot of bloodshed similar to the Protestant Reformation to right THAT wrong.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  3. Joshua

    Maybe they can talk Romney into banning all birth control. He has already lost the woman vote anyway. Might as well lose the mainstream vote also.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  4. yuri pelham

    Bill Weld for VP

    April 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
  5. flickerman

    I'm for Liz Cheney. Beautiful and intelligent.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Cindy

      She also burns books.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • Joshua

      Beauty is a quality we should all look for in a VP.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Olympia Snow and Colin Powell ticket 🙂

      April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • CheneyIsARichard

      Liz Cheney is a disgusting, corrupt, heartless shrew. That fish gone bad.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  6. Cindy

    They need to stay home and attend to their own soul and leave everybody else's soul up to God.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  7. Southern Guy

    How stupid can a person possibly be? The nut-case conservatives crack me up. What a bunch of babies. I hope they don't vote, and lose the election.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  8. nolimits3333

    Science flies you to the moon.

    Religion flies you into buildings.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • guaraya

      Real original. Religion does't fly people into buildings– hate-filled people with warped minds do.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • RV

      Obama flies you into economic collapse. Enjoy the ride.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • J-Pap

      Boom. Quote of the year!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Sybaris

      RV – Obama flies you into economic collapse. Enjoy the ride.

      What, is the stock market ticker broke on your news page?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • J-Pap

      Like the same hate filled people that hate gays, hate that a woman should have a right to choose who, when and for what reasons she should give birth. The same hate filled people that can't vote for one guy because he's mormon and not an evangelical yet they claim to believe in the same GOD Give me a break. WAKE UP. The conservative right is dying. You can't stop it no matter how many kids brainwash by home schooling. At some point, people wake up.

      Born again? More like duped again.

      If you are typing on CNN comments and you are a hard core bible thumper you are already a hypocrite, cause science brought you the computer not GOD. And if you had your way, the earth would be flat, the sun would revolve around it and you'd think the stars are angels that are too far away to see.

      As for Santorum, GOOD riddance. We don't need a white, religious Taliban.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  9. Vasi

    Rick’s defeat is an unmistakable command from god he he wants his followers to keep religion out of politics and that he is 100% for the separation of church and state. That’s why he sent all the other anointed candidates down in defeat. That’s why he sent Pat Roberson down in flames during his presidential bid too.

    It is obvious that God wants us to use our good Christian living as an example to attract people and bring them into the fold by demonstrating that they want to follow our way by their own choice, as Jesus did, because it is the best way. God continues to give us signs that he does not want us to seize power and force people into compliance like the Pharisees or for that matter Stalin

    April 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • J-Pap

      yawn. So if Santorum won, it was GOD's choice. Now the he lost it was GOD's will. You have one life. Why think in circles when you can wake up.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  10. DarkBronzePlant

    Keep looking, social conservatives and right-wing religious fundamentalists, for an alternative to Romney. Do not accept him as your nominee!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Ken78

      We don't.

      I will be voting, but writing in my neighbor as I have done in the past when the two parties offered two atheist abortion supporters.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Southern Guy

      I just love guys like Ken 78. He doesn't even know how ridiculous he sounds! Wahhhhhhh!! HA!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • just sayin

      Guys like Ken tend to have a wide stance.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:00 pm |
    • J-Pap

      We need to abort more idiots like Ken78.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Mac Smith

      Now, with that said, let me say this (since no one is publically bringing this up; will the social and religious conservatives stick to their core Christian values or will they bend these values to support a Republican candidate/ nominee whose religion contradicts their Christian beliefs?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
  11. Dave R.

    It wold be great if someone would explain how the separation between church and state can be maintained if religious views are allowed to influence politics? Prople can have any religion they want just don't try to cram it down my thoa through legislation..

    April 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Ken78

      It wold be great if someone would explain how the separation between church and state can be maintained if atheism is allowed to influence politics. Prople can be atheists all they want just don't try to cram it down my thoat through legislation.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • RV

      Meanwhile liberals try to cram the gay agenda down everyone's throat through legislation. Can't have it both ways.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      When politicians come to legislate they bring their agendas and who they feel they are into their choices. From racial to gender and even military service. Try this, if a person who was in the military service bring that aspect of their lives into their choices of Government? When feminist politicians declare that they will press for not, better politicians but specifically "women" politicians, it is the same.

      You complaint is understandable but as much as much as politicians claim that they represent all of the people there will always be one group or another that will declare that some act or law is being jammed down their throats.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:04 pm |
  12. RV

    Liberals should be happy about the upcoming election. Given the likely match up, it's a win/win for them.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • xmxm

      Yes, I'm happy.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
  13. jb

    "Home School Legal Defense" Give me a break! I guess you have a right to keep your in a cave to learn, but I'm not sure how he/she might grow up.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Ken78

      Hopefully not an atheist like you.

      Atheism is most destructive belief-system in recorded human history.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      "Atheism is most destructive belief-system in recorded human history."

      nah, i am sure religion in general has that sewn up, though it might be pushed by the belief-system that claims that a shiny yellow metal dug from the ground is apparently worth fighting over as well.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
    • ithink122

      Ken78

      Across the span of history, more people have died or been killed in the name of God then for any other reason. And you say Atheism is destructive?

      April 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • DarkBronzePlant

      Sure, Ken. Belief in an angry fairy god, fear of burning in hell, hating gays, oppressing women, and shunning science is a far healthier belief system!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • sam

      Ken...go be a bitch somewhere else. The big kids are trying to have a discussion.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ken78

      So much ignoarance . . . .

      Do some research on how human rights were protected in pre-Christian western societies . . . and in places today like China, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Cuba . . .

      Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Castro, Kim . . . all atheists. All. And no, Hitler was NOT a practicing Christian. Getting a few water drops sprinked on your head in a Catholic church as a baby does not make one a Christian. Hitler was an atheist. Like Obama. History is your friend.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • just sayin

      Ken done had his learnin' at home, most likely, like The Frothy One's kids.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Gandhi

    "Social conservatives see denying equal treatment to law-abiding citizens as one of their most important issues. Just in case you guys weren't aware... when you're whining about your waning influence in society, culture, and politics, this is why. You're on a bigot's crusade, and the rest of us want nothing to do with it. Your desperate defense of traditional marriage is nothing more than thinly-veiled hated of what you don't understand. Get over it. There are more important things to worry about than others' bedrooms. You claim that your religious literature teaches this, failing to understand that your religious literature advocates a great many things you don't condone, nor would accept in a civilized society. What you see as the "rules of your religion" are no more than transient social constructs. They will change, as they always have, to suit the social evolution of humanity. It's just a matter of time. What will you choose, hatred or acceptance?"

    excellent post!

    April 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Ken78

      Enjoy hell.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Steve

      See you there, Ken!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • xmxm

      Ken, hell does not exist. When your time comes prepare to die into nothingness.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
    • Southern Guy

      Uh-oh. Ken has decided that Ghandi is going to hell!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • TR6

      @ Ken78: “Enjoy hell”

      Since you, those like you, televangelists, child buggering priests and the 95% of the entire prison population of the world (since they are Christian too ) will all be together in heaven. I’m thinking being in hell, with the likes of Gandhi, Einstein and Mark Twain, will be quite an honor.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ,

    April 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Alfred E Neuman

      Avoid fake Jesus posts demand provable facts not BS

      April 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      like rain dances change the weather .

      April 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
  16. Leigh

    These religious conservatives are truly certifiable if they ever believed Santorum had a chance not only for the nomination, but for the Presidency. You need moderates and Independents to win a general election, not just religious conservatives. Moderates and Independents were largely ready to vote for Barack Obama over Santorum. Most sane people do not want a theocratic kook in the WH who will transform this country into a Christianized version of Iran where gays are imprisoned and women treated like the chattel of their menfolk.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Greg s

      I didnt realize a president had that kind of power, Pretty amazing!

      April 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  17. ithink122

    “He was never my first choice, but I’ll support him because the alternative is something we can’t live with." -Steve Scheffler, president or the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, about Romney

    Really? You really think another 4 years of Obama being president will literally kill you?! I guess we're all just incredibly lucky none of those doom and gloom scenarios conservatives have been feeding us for the past 4 years have come true yet, huh? Honestly, drop the hyperbole already. If elected or re-elected, neither Obama nor Romney will destroy the nation. Your last chance for a truly conservative candidate who would significantly differ on major issue that you had to run against Obama just dropped out. Because when you really look at the issues and not just the rhetoric, pandering and propaganda, Romney has more in common with Obama then he does with Santorum, Gingrich or Paul. Look at Romney's record, and not just what he's said he will do if elected in the past 2 years, and you'll be hard pressed to argue.

    Personally, I'm voting for Obama because he is who I have supported from the beginning. But if Romney is elected, I do not think it will literally be the end of the world. In fact, if anything, Romney has shown that he is a weathervane, following the policies of whatever is popular with the people he is either representing or campaigning at. While not the ideal candidate, this is encouraging since there has been a continuous shift in this country for a long time towards more progressive or liberal policies in social, economic and political issues. While he certainly wouldn’t be my first choice, I would probably end up happier with a Romney win then conservatives will when they finally get to see what he actually chooses to do and support if elected.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Greg s

      No it wont kill us but theres no doubt he will double our national debt again like he did in his first term, He will destroy the second amendment, Hes creating his own personnel Army under the control of the Surgeon general funded by the healthcare bill,I know that sounds out there but its in the bill, Section 5210,
      So Obama to us is pretty much the end of America as we know it.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm |
  18. Ken78

    It's not rocket science.

    Socially Conservative GOP Nominee: Reagan; W – Victory

    Socially Liberal GOP Nominee: Ford; Dole; McCain; Romney – Defeat

    We are not going to vote for a man who is in favor of easy abortions and who proudly boasts that he is more pro-gay-agenda than Ted Kennedy.

    Apparently, the GOP elite would rather see a Democrat elected than a socially-conservative Republican. They are going to get their wish. Again.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
    • Ken78

      I find it hilarious, ironic and not surprising that the word "h0___se__al" triggers a filter here that automatically blocks your post. You MUST and WILL use the approved word – "gay."

      April 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Reagan wouldnt pass today as social conservative, he wasnt right wing enough.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
    • sam

      It's the -s.e.x- portion of the word that causes the filter, you douche.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • Steve

      Exactly...Reagan would be considered a RINO, and W was the dumbest president ever (maybe).

      When I say dumb, I am not being insulting, it is actually an observation of what he has said, and his complete lack of a grasp of the english language.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • Get Real

      Ken78, "a filter here that automatically blocks your post. You MUST and WILL use the approved word – "gay."

      We cannot say, "J.apanese" either... we MUST refer to them as slant eyes!

      (apologies, J.apanese friends, this comment was for illustrative purposes only)

      April 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
    • Greg s

      Look who wrote this, The editor of the Belief column for CNN, he may claim to be many things but a religious conservative working for CNN come on, Trully you cant believe he would vote for anyone other then Obama, This belief column is all about non belief, In a round about way it tears down God and Christ. One column after another. Religious conservatives are scared to death of Obama, They will vote for Romney because he is the less of two evils.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm |
  19. John

    This is all a game to see if they can blackmale Romney into picking a conservative VP but everyone knows that would be an idiotic thing to do. All you have to do is look at McCain. The far right will vote for the Republican nominee no matter who it is and no matter who else is on the ticket because they hate Obama so much. The only chance Romney has is to chose a running mate who is NOT far to the right and is generally liked by all.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Ken78

      Wrong. We didn't vote for McCain and we won't vote for the pro-abortion Romney either. Two terms for Obama.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • yuri pelham

      I believe people obsessed with the abortion issue such that it is the number 1 issue when choosing a president are insane.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • Greg s

      Hilary!! That would do it, Its also believable that Romney would try it.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Russ

      I hope he picks Palin. That couric interview is too funny even today. – glazed eye stare – "OMG OMG OMG!! ACH! I have to READ to be vice president?!?! They never told me THAT! AHHHH $#@W#@$#@!!" He will probably be forced to pick some bible pounding idiot that doesn't make him look elitist and scares the heck outa everyone else cuz they couldn't handle being the county dog catcher let alone vice president.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  20. Phattee

    They could actually adopt the teachings of Jesus Christ and love their neighbors. Just a suggestion.

    April 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • richunix

      But which one? With so many religions to choose from and they all SAY they are right:

      Mormons, Islam, Hindus, Christian, Jews, Buddhist…the list is endless

      April 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
    • johnp

      Most do try. See just like all creation it is a struggle to love everyone. I do want to say though that many of you of all races and creeds claim they love their neighbor – but only in words. It is why we Christians point out that we need Jesus. Jesus was the only perfect man to live (He was God and Man) and sffered God's wrath in our place, because not one of us could dare claim to be perfect as Jesus was. Most of us Christians know we are not perfect, we try to be , but all thanks to God Jesus was on our behalf.

      April 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • sam

      @ johnp Doesn't an omnipotent god who is disappointed in us and decides that "someone's gotta die for this" and makes a son to die in our place seem just a little puerile to you?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm |
    • sippyjuice

      @johnp Maybe that is the problem with Christians, they are trying to be perfect. Do they know what "perfect" is? If their answer is about some all powerful invisible being in the sky then maybe thats where the disconnect happens. I think people take their religious beliefs too seriously. It's just a belief, no proof needed, and if enough people believe it too then you feel more comfortable about expressing that belief to other people. But really it's like the belief in the tooth fairy when you were a kid. You really thought that money came from the tooth fairy for a while, then, you grew up. "Eternity is a long time, especially when you get towards the end" – Woody Allen

      April 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Greg s

      You want Christians to love they neighbor and if they don't there a hypocrite, while you do whatever the hell you want to.
      Now where is the fun in that.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
    • johnp

      Repling to Sam: Not at all. God created us then loved us enough to give us a choice to love Him. Still does but instead of making it so hard for us by needing to be perfect – God sent His Son to the world to give us an easier way. That is the Love of God towards those He created – you simply need to trust God, in what Jesus was sent to do.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:24 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.