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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. Sean

    Maybe they can pray Obama away. Not.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  2. Strand

    Scheffler's mom is HOT!

    April 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Strand By Your Man

      Yeah, but the show your mom does with the horse . . . WOW! That's even hotter

      April 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  3. patiat

    My goodness...that Farris guy's #1 issue with Romney is that he's more tolerant of gays than Ted Kennedy? That's it for him? That's #1???? Something that has absolutely no effect on him whatsoever, and it's his #1 motivator to distrust Romney? I just don't get it.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  4. swschrad

    treatment. religious conservatives need to go for professional treatment. Jesus would not be pushing ALEC bills.

    April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  5. Jt_flyer

    Religious conservatives will go where they always go. To church and stay out of politics. I hope you've learned a lesson. We must always maintain the separation of church and state. The American people will not vote for a religious leader just because we happen to share the same faith.

    1.  History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government.  This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purpose.  Thomas Jefferson

    2. "The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs." -Thomas Jefferson

    3. "It is too late in the day for men of sincerity to pretend they believe in the Platonic mysticism's that three are one, and one is three; and yet the one is not three, and the three are not one- Thomas Jefferson

    4. "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be cla.ssed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors."- Thomas Jefferson

    5. "There is not one redeeming feature in our supersti.tion of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites."- Thomas Jefferson

    6. "Lighthouses are more useful than churches."- Ben Franklin
    .
    7. "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."- Ben Franklin

    8. "I looked around for God's judgments, but saw no signs of them."- Ben Franklin

    9. "In the affairs of the world, men are saved not by faith, but by the lack of it."- Ben Franklin

    10. "This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it"- John Adams

    11. "The New Testament, they tell us, is founded upon the prophecies of the Old; if so, it must follow the fate of its foundation.'- Thomas Paine

    12. "Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."- Thomas Paine

    13. "I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."- Thomas Paine

    14. "Take away from Genesis the belief that Moses was the author, on which only the strange belief that it is the word of God has stood, and there remains nothing of Genesis but an anonymous book of stories, fables, and traditionary or invented absurdities, or of downright lies."- Thomas Paine

    15. "All national inst.itutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."- Thomas Paine

    16. "It is the fable of Jesus Christ, as told in the New Testament, and the wild and visionary doctrine raised thereon, against which I contend. The story, taking it as it is told, is blasphemously obscene.”- Thomas Paine

    17. "Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society."- George Washington

    18. "The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession."- Abraham Lincoln

    19. "It may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to unsurpastion on one side or the other, or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded agst. by an entire abstinence of the Gov't from interference in any way whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and protecting each sect agst. trespa.sses on its legal rights by others."- James Madison

    20. "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."- James Madison

    21. "Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man"- Thomas Jefferson

    April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Aezel

      Oh what? All the founding fathers weren't brainwashed Christians like all the right wingers say? They were LYING!?!?!?

      Surprise surprise.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Doc M

      Thanks for the brilliant and insightful post!

      April 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  6. *frank*

    What's the guy in the top left doing with his hand?
    Is he preparing to fire some kind of holy ray?
    Does he think he's one of the X-Men?

    April 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • cecilia

      I think they are praying for the President to vapor lock – sort of like "heal" in reverse

      April 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  7. spockmonster

    especially white evangelicals, who are uncomfortable with Mitt Romney.” ... saw him as representing this positive role for faith and values in a society.”

    Hello, this is a free country, it was never a Theocracy, and our Founding Father fought against Religion in Government just as they fought against every other form of Tyranny. Your religion is not my law. White evangicals are a minority of Archie Bunker shallow-thinking bigots who are against every person who is not a straight god-fearing and white. That is why Santorum failed – not because of any other reason other than his only support is from a tiny minority of fascists.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  8. aaron

    ok, i saw this question and could not wait to respond. um, lets see, where can religous conservative nutjobs go...how about to hell? since they are the only ones that believe in it.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Jesus C.

      Canada is nice this time of year.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Bob

      Such hatred. What happened to understanding and acceptence of everyone?

      April 10, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Thanks but we've already got more religious assholes, including a mental midget, Bush wannabe prime minister, than we need in Canada.

      April 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  9. jon

    Our motto may sound familiar remember "anybody but Bush"? Well now it's anybody but Obama

    April 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • bob dole

      It's not "anybody but Obama"...it's RON PAUL 2012 or TYRANNY.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • spockmonster

      ummm, bush was in his second term, so your motto could only have been "anybody but bush" if you are an idiot.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
  10. jaintn

    I don't care where they go, as long as they GO.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  11. R J Vincent

    Back under the rocks they live under, I would hope.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Bob

      Such hatred. What have they done to you? I'm glad you are better than them.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  12. BobZemko

    Jesus, save me from your followers.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • cecilia

      Amen

      April 10, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  13. What puzzles Pipe-Dreamer now?

    Where's the beef? What's your problem,,,, too many shoes to fill? Go daddy longlegs go! I fight for the users! Let the force be with you Luke! Live long and prosper! Who's your momma now?

    April 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  14. sftommy

    If the Christian Conservatives look to the teaching of Jesus they will support President Obama and his policies of Christian compassion rather than the GOP policies of fear and greed.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • 316

      What? the Dem' UNchristian practice of giving to those who are not working from those who are working diligently. 2 Thessalonians 3:10, "For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat." and
      “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). Stealing from those who have to give to those who won't is sin.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • aaron

      so true. this FACT is what makes most of us so furious. even the religous nutjobs aren't doing it right.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  15. reason

    Instead of trying to find another religious candidate these conservatives should evaluate their beliefs.

    The gods of all organized religions, if true, would all be horribly unjust and evil deities to send billions of people to eternal suffering for choosing the wrong one or being born in the wrong place. Looking at organized religion objectively, they are myths from iron age societies that were trying to explain the world, and there is virtually no chance any one is truth.

    Rationally speaking if there is a just god and an afterlife, you will be judged on how you live your life. Rejecting reason and deluding yourself in blind faith does not help your case.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4or90cmyhk

    April 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Michael

      The gods of "all organized religions" do not send vast droves of people to hell. Mormons believe that virtually everyone goes to heaven. Not such a bad god, after all.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • reason

      Most organized religions. 🙂 Thank you for the feedback.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • HelloHowareyou

      Actually Mormons believe that good people go to paradise, bad to prison, or hell. But after that, once sins are paid for, etc, there is an end to hell, and even the lowliest of sinners will eventually earn a place that is pleasant (except the very very few who despite knowing better will still choose to not get along with others and follow common rules of decency). Many feel it would be unjust to send anyone to an eternity of hell for mistakes made in ignorance here, often when no true religion is even offered to a person that ends up sinning.

      But the truth is that truth is truth, and an religion that claims to be truly inspired, will ultimately not get in the way of things that are true in science or other areas.

      Now, religion has bred ignorance, but science has bred conceit. I can tell you that there is such a thing as inspiration, and we will all go to a good place after we die. But as for this race, it is ignorance to go against a candidate because he is Mormon, yet that is exactly why a great many have. Mormons aren't perfect, but they are often good honest people. Say what you will, but their missionaries pay their own way, and almost every position in the church is 100% volunteer work. They only get paid, if it is absolutley needed to get someone for that job. Janitors get paid, bishops do not.

      But enough about that. I woud not vote against someone because of religion, unless it was violent, or directly got in the way of the job and the decisions they have to make. This just is not the case with mormonism.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • 316

      Islam: irrational. Christianity: rational and real. You should lose sleep that you are foolish enough to say in your heart "there is no God." We all have sins which need someone to cover. Either I will forever, or I get a forever person to pay in my place who, oh by the way, does not have his/her own sin problem to address. Enter Jeshua the Messiah, the God-man. Please don't turn down His offer to take your place. Islam does not have any atonement for our sins. It's some random cr*p shoot of a capricious god who may or may not give you paradise. the God of the Bible offers eternal security to those who accept the one and only payment in Messiah Jesus.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  16. Randi

    I'm Christian and conservative. My vote has been for Romney. It really is disappointing when someone that is called a "religious conservative" take a letter that is almost 20 years old and say "see.... this is what he is." Times change and so do we, we grow, we learn and we make changes when we see the truth. I wasn't always actively pro-life or pro-family, but life lessons changed me, as they have Mitt Romney.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Thomas

      Yeah, right.

      April 10, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
  17. JJ

    This question is ridiculously easy to answer. If you believe man can never go against god's will, stay home on election day and pray.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  18. Duke

    Maybe the conservatives will give up on the USA and start a new country somewhere. After all that is what the Pilgrims did centuries ago, and for the same reason – their crazy conservatism did not fit in. Sad that all the habitable places are taken.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Ghotistyx

      I don't really think they need a habitable place. As a matter of fact, a place without food, shelter, and hostile natives would be historically ideal – they can repress each other all they want there! Perhaps we can send them to Rwanda or Somalia? They need good, conservative christian values there...

      April 10, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Fox me? Fox you!

      Yes! They can call it "Jesusland!" The rest of America can join Canada and prosper accordingly.

      April 10, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  19. Yo

    religion is religion, politics are politics. Do not mix them. Palin is crazy , because she mixed them a lot. Politics has special business deal with american issues such how to reduce the rate of unemployment and .... and blah blah....

    April 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
  20. snaporaz

    Romney not only is a Mormon, but during his time at Bain Capital, he essentially served as a High Priest of Mammon. Something for Christians to consider.

    April 10, 2012 at 5:50 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.