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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. DJL

    Maybe these religious conservatives would be happier people if they spent more time enjoying their own lives, instead of worrying about what a bunch a strangers, who they will never meet, are doing.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Ken78

      Maybe these liberal atheists would be happier people if they spent more time enjoying their own lives, instead of worrying about what a bunch a strangers, who they will never meet, are doing

      April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Liger Woods

      God prefers kind atheists to hateful Christians.

      Like you Ken.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Maybe these liberal atheists would be happier people if they spent more time enjoying their own lives, instead of worrying about what a bunch a strangers, who they will never meet, are doing"

      How about the conservative atheists, Ken?

      Also, when the self-proclaimed pious Christians stop sticking their knows in other's bedrooms, come back and (try to) make your point, such as it is

      April 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  2. lll

    Santorum said his god told him to run. What does this mean? Is Santorum turning his back on his god's wishes? Did his god change his mind?

    Or was it all delusion from the beginning?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • sam

      God is trolling his chosen people, that's all. He does that sometimes.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • J.W

      Well he did run. He just didnt win

      April 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  3. Pat

    gay republicans are just people who want to have their cake and eat it, too. Selfish folk. They should all be banned from gay establishments, since no republican has ever voted in favor of gay rights.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      it really is unbelievable. a g.a.y republican? wth? my fiance knew some. i couldn't believe it. a g.a.y voting for a republican candidate is like a black person voting for a party that believes in segregation. and black, g.a.y republicans...? black, g.a.y, female republicans.........?!? is there such a thing? republicans hate all 3 of those groups.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • closet atheist

      For what it's worth, I can kind of understand being a gay republican. Personally, I'm independent, but lean towards the right (despite my religious non-belief). The reason being that I believe the party in power has more sway over fiscal issues than social issues. The president himself could be opposed to gay rights, but not slow down the movement much. Give us a party to vote (fiscal conservative / social moderate) and we'll probably be on board...!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • RealityBites

      What!? You mean there's only one type of a gay person?
      That sounds almost as bigotted as Dan's spin on Farris representing all Christians in America.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  4. Nii

    The religious zealots are not insane. If people excuse their behavior as insanity then it is right. It is shameless bigotry. Obama n Romney? Obama is a Protestant Evangelical who rightly doesn't want his religion stopping his love. Romney may be from a different religion but assess him for ability.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • DJL

      +1 Religious belief isn't insanity; it's arrogance.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  5. winstonsmith

    People who say Obama is godless scare me. They really do. What that tells me is that these people are as far from Christian as you can be. The whole point of Jesus is that God is for everyone, that "judge not lest ye be judged," that one should be the better person and never question another's faith, merely try to lead them to the light. To call anyone Godless means you are Jesus-less, because you obviously reject his message, and I hope all judging our President's faith realize the true message of their Savior.

    I'd be fine if America was a Christian nation... a TRUE CHRISTIAN nation, as in a nation founded upon IDEAS and not the power structures that currently represent Jesus Christ. If we were more Christian maybe things would be better; we'd stop judging each other, hurling nasty attacks, making those who disagree with us into the ultimate enemy, and stop dividing people based upon religion (for example, the hatred of white America toward Islam would fade).

    April 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Ken78

      You clearly don't understand Christ's message and it is impossible to explain it to you here. But if what you said was true, you would need to ask yourself why Jesus Himself called folks names like "viper," Satan," and "whitened sepulchre." You might want to read some of Paul's letters too. I Cor. 5:1-5 and Romans 1:18-28 would be good places to start.

      Good luck.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  6. Frank

    Fudge religion. And by fudge, I don't mean a tasty chocolate confection.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Rick Santorum

      You mean the frothy kind?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  7. David

    I have something to say to Michael Farris.... I am gay and I am not a liberal. There are a lot of gays and lesbians out there with republican values. The republican way should not be dictated by evangelicals. True Republicans are Economy first. If you want religion in politics start your own running party.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Ken78

      No. Values first. Until you get that right, nothing else matters. If you promote the gay agenda, you can never be a conservative and frankly, the GOP should toss you from the party for its own survival's sake.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
    • sam

      Don't pay any attention to Ken, David – he's been wandering around in here stinking up the place with nonsense all day.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • QS

      That's what I don't get....'economy first' and being conservative – it's an oxymoron at this point.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • Liger Woods

      You are right about that, but the evangelicals have hijacked the party. Until someone with some sense takes it back, that is how you will continue to be viewed.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • rightytighty

      Its a collaberated effeot by a dishonest media to divide America for the sake of votes. Only fools rail on about this type of commentaries.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Ken78

      @Liger Woods: Yeah. That must be why the party is about to nominate a man who supports abortions and proudly boasted that he was more liberal on gay issues than Ted Kennedy. Some hijacking.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Liger Woods

      @ Ken – face it Ken, evangelicals are in the minority of the conservative party, but have, by far, the loudest voice. That's how someone like Santorum, who represents less than 5% of the country on his issues, was actually considered as a nominee.

      But the rest of the country has realized that, just because you are loud and obnoxious, does not mean you're right – hence Romney's nomination.

      Hopefully this is the last gasp for the nut job fringe of the Republican party. Most moderates are aching for the GOP to actually nominate someone worth voting for.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  8. David

    It's Economy first. Social issues should be on the back burner and religion is a social issue in itself. Anyone who is questioning what to do since there is no real religious conservative should really question their loyalty to this wonderful country.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Independent

      Yep. As Bill would say “It’s the economy, stupid.” Too bad Barry won't listen.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  9. Joink

    They will vote against the communist/Marxist/socialist Obama. Too bad many of the religious blacks won't do the same.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Independent

      Yep, liberalism trumps race............ and religion. The Jewish prove that.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • J.W

      Oh wow he is not just a socialist but a communist too now?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • just sayin

      Quit posting random crap on a forum and get a job.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      OBAMA! woohoo! 4 more years!

      go cry in a corner, republicans. sowwy, you don't get to have a theocracy and force everyone to your bronze age belief system. EAT IT!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Liger Woods

      You should really look up the words Marxist, communist and socialist.

      And maybe go get that GED.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  10. Thomas

    I do not care what religious leaders do.

    We all pay for stuff we don't want. Tell you what. Pay me back for those unnecessary wars, I will personally spring for rubbers for everyone.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Joink

      How is it on OWS, yea, I think I saw you doing the bunny hop. Get a job.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Payers Change Things

      Proven.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  11. MNTaxpayer

    With Santorum suspending campaign, some religious conservatives wonder how to proceede ?

    It's pretty simple in the short term, they will vote for Romney. In the long term they need to start understanding that not everyone in the country shares their beliefs and they will have to accept that this is not a theocracy just yet, and maybe take a broader view of the candidates.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Michael in Houston

      very well said

      April 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Ken78

      No we won't vote for Romney. Indeed, if forced to choose I would vote for Obama over Romney. True Christians do not believe in killing their fellow man. Romney talks like he wants to get us into another war and slaughter thousands of more folks in Iran – just like W. That is a lot less likely with Obama. True Christians also believe in helping those who are less fortunate. Obama is much more likely to make that a policy of our government than richy-rich Romney who – let's face it – just does not like poor people.

      No, if the GOP ever wants to win the WH again they are going to have to nominate someone who will appeal to social conservatives. Because the Dems already have the gay vote and the abortion vote all locked up, and folks like me are never going to vote for a pro-abortion, pro-gay, Presidential nominee.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • @youignantdotcom

      "True Christians do not believe in killing their fellow man."

      Crusades???

      April 11, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • MNTaxpayer

      I wonder, Ken, how you feel about the death penalty?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
  12. Michael in Houston

    You evangelicals should spend less time worrying about gays and more time wiping the brow of a dying AIDS patient. You should spend less time trying to control what women decide to do with their own bodies and more time supporting them and assisting them with their children.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  13. National Day of Prayer on Election Day, November 6, 2012

    Several leading religious conservatives have opted not to vote, and instead make election day a National Day of Prayer, where they will lead their followers in praying for the salvation of the country. I for one will be out there with the millions of others, lighting candles, singing hymns, and abstaining from voting to show the Godless Democrats the power of prayer and talk about family values and the faith that made this country strong. Join us. God Bless America

    April 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Ken78

      Can you cite any weblinks for that? TIA!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Thomas

      I wish I could believe you. But unfortunately, I don't.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • RKen

      Not supporting your choice of presidential candidate makes you "Godless?"

      What a close-minded, ignorant little world you live in. I certainly thank God that you're (and apparently those of similar views are) not voting.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • J.W

      Wouldnt a better way to hurt the 'Godless Democrats' be to vote for a republican?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • just sayin

      Maybe start off those prayers by asking your god why he has forsaken you by making you choose between a Mormon and a black guy for president, huh?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • tffl

      Any chance you can get _all_ evangelicals to do that? In fact, how about all "social conservatives"? That would really show those Democrats!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • DJL

      "justsaying" said: "Maybe start off those prayers by asking your god why he has forsaken you by making you choose between a Mormon and a black guy for president, huh?"

      ROFL!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Michael in Houston

      Please make certain you dont block the entrances into the polls for those of us voting. Also, while you are in prayer for us "Godless" believers, ask God to open your own hearts to understanding that just because someone votes differently then you do (or in your case "dont") they are still precious to God.
      You have alot of nerve...your like a modern day pharasee

      April 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Liger Woods

      God prefers kind Atheists over hateful Christians.

      Like yourself.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  14. Debby

    So don't vote for Romney religious conservatives and have 4 more years of Obama. Conservatives not supporting their own party is just awful.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      Yay Obama!!! Whoohoo!!!

      Eat it, Republicans. You know Romney's got a snowball's chance in Hell! Haha.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • Veritas

      That's my hope. I hope all the religious conservatives don't vote and don't support their own party. Stay home Repugs! Stay home fundaMENTALists!

      April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Thomas

      I like that.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • @youignantdotcom

      Supporting a party just because of their general political ideology is foolish. Its time everyone start looking at issues instead of blue and red.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • closet atheist

      @ youignant.... I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, these idiot republican candidates insisted on making this a social agenda. They have shot the party in the foot this year. Being a fiscal conservative, it makes me ill.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  15. tony

    Go on believeing their incredible fantasies and lies, and vote accordingly. Onward to the Banana Republic of the USA!!!

    Less government, a large, eternally rich aristocracy ad dynasties , no-middle class, 500 million serfs and no democracy.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Independent

      Yep. Welcome to Obamaland.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Thomas

      Sorry, not-so-independent. You got it backwards.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  16. Ken78

    Why do so many atheists seem to spend so much time posting in a Belief Blog?

    You don't see me posting in some "Atheism Blog" or "Going to Hell" blog.

    I think there are a lot of scared folks with guilty consciences posting here. Let me clue you in. No matter how hard you try and how much you try to tell yourself that you are OK, it won't work. Down inside, that soul that you deny exists . . . it keeps reminding you that you are in deep, deep trouble. That empty void you feel and that you keep unsuccessfully trying to fill with material possessions, s__, friendships, booze, work . . . nothing will ever fill it. That is your subconscious telling you that when you try to convince yourself that you are nothing more than the smartest animal . . . the only rational way that you should behave is AS an animal, and that this means that your entire life is meaningless, and that there is absolutely NO basis for whatever moral compass you are trying to use. Pay attention to it.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • sam

      Why can't you be a better troll? We have high standards for trolls in here and you're not cutting it anymore.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • QS

      We mainly do it to refute the inane religious mumbo-jumbo that you've deftly illustrated in your comment. 🙂

      April 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      First, atheists are interested because your bronze aged religion is guiding politics in this country. When you vote Bible and it does things like curtail the civil rights of people because they happen to be gay, or takes away a woman's reproductive rights, or forces your mythology to be taught in science class it effects us directly – so you'd better believe we care. Your irrationality and delusion harms the society you live in.

      Second, please don't project your feelings of emptiness onto me. I am perfectly content and happy in my non-belief – MUCH happy now than when I was a Christian. Staying awake at night as a child fearing the devil and hell like a monster in my closet and being guilt racked just for being human is no way to live your life. I'm a better person as an atheist than I was a Christian, because I know now that this is the only life and only world we're ever going to get – so we'd better make the most of it and cherish it and improve it whenever possible.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      Ken...maybe you should show us on the doll where the nasty atheist touched you.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      atheism stories go to the belief blog, thus do we also. use your head. derp!

      and too bad statistics don't back you up the moral compass thing. 10% of the country is non-believer, but only .2% of the prison population is non-believer, showing that the more you do NOT believe in god, the less crime you commit. the atheist divorce rate is lower than the christian divorce rate also. more non-believers tend to go on to higher education too. and atheists know more about the bible than christians, show in study after study - showing that we make informed decisions. also shows the more of the bible you read, the less you believe. so do your homework before you post ignorant dribble.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Steve the Atheist

      Thanks Dr Phil. Have you tried praying that we go away?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Macman

      Emptiness? Really? I wasn't raised with any kind religion (or anything against religion either. It was just not a topic in my household), and I haven't felt that there's anything absent in my life. When I got old enough to understand the religious beliefs of others, my response was more along the lines of, "Huh. That's weird" than, "This is what I have been missing!" It's just not a factor in my existence or something that I even think about unless someone is trying to proselytize me or I read stories like this. And for the record, I'm a fairly average surburban father of two with a wife, a career, and a mortgage. I just don't believe in any deities.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Ken78

      Macman,

      If you are just a smart animal . . . have you ever bothered to THINK about why you do what you do? Does it make ANY sense? Or are you just a programmed robot, behaving the way you were "programmed" (raised) to behave without sitting down and thinking if it makes any sense at all given your fundamental belief about your nature as an animal with a short time to live and then eternal death? For what possible reason should you ever behave what is commonly referred to as "kindly" to a stranger? Why give money to folks you don't know and means nothing to you? What kind of animal does this? How is this supported by the laws of nature? What DO you believe? And why?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • MNTaxpayer

      The headlines for the articale lead me here, thats all. And why is so much of the beleif blog about ploitics?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Macman

      Ken 78,

      Does being decent to others really require the existence of a deity? Do you really believe that humans are so weak that they can't coexist with each other in a civilized manner and work toward the betterment of human society without the threat of punishment by a god? If belief really dictated morality, shouldn't our crime rates be lower? Last I checked, all of the people filling our prisons weren't atheists. I'm not claiming that atheists are perfect either. We're all human, and we all make choices about our actions. My sense of right and wrong has not been dictated to me by religious dogma, but that does not mean that I do not have a sense of morality.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

    Remember: Man cannot usurp God's will. This coming election the religious right must do their duty and PRAY, not vote!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  18. Jokesterer

    WWJVF? (Who Would Jesus Vote For?)

    April 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • Independent

      None of them.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Mark Davis

      Obama, for sure. He's the only candidate I've seen who embraces the teachings of Christ, versus the teachings of Rush Limbaugh. Get with it Christians. Most of you seem to be on the wrong team.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • MNTaxpayer

      Is he registered?

      April 11, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  19. Kimo

    God save us from religious zealots.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  20. DJR

    Support by the religious sector of the nation will depend on Romney's choice. His decisions. Unlike the liberal scenario of what ever is popular today, Christian response, behavior and law is written, and only needs to be implemented and followed. who the earthly leader is matters not.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Theism is not healthy for your sanity and other reasonable things

      Yes, that's just what we need, bronze aged laws written by desert dwelling primitives.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • winstonsmith

      Yeah I know... justice for all people, freedom for all people and equality are popular now, but the Bible doesn't condone any of those things, so screw it, right?

      April 11, 2012 at 2:57 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.