Monday, February 27, 2012

Santorum Doesn't Believe in Absolute Church/State Separation

Culture Vulture
Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week that he does not believe in an absolute separation of church and state.

He made the comments in reference to a discussion about John F. Kennedy's famous speech to a group of Baptist ministers in 1960 that came at a time when people were concerned that a Catholic like Kennedy would allow the Vatican to control policy in the United States.

Kennedy's excellent speech mollified many concerns and helped to carry him to a victory in the 1960 race over Richard Nixon.

Santorum told Stephanopoulos that he read the speech and "nearly threw up."  Santorum goes on to selectively quote the Constitution and the First Amendment on the free exercise of religion.  That's absolutely incorrect.  The Constitution does not simply permit the free exercise of religion.  Let's look at the whole thing, though, shall we?

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

This provides the basis of the idea of the separation of church and state and to leave out the first part of the Amendment is cherry picking.  It is protecting the people from the Congress making a law saying, for example, that Catholicism will be the law of the land and that no one can have any other religion.  Santorum either has no concept of what the Constitution says, or, more likely, doesn't care.

Listen to Kennedy's words for yourself.  This is the kind of radical thinking that makes Rick Santorum "nearly throw up."



I respect Rick Santorum for being a good father and for not running from his personal convictions, but I believe now more strongly than ever that he's not fit to sit in the Oval Office.

7 comments:

Doug Indeap said...

Separation of church and state, a bedrock principle of our Constitution, is hardly "absolute"--at least not in the cartoonish sense Santorum supposes President Kennedy meant in his 1960 speech. Kennedy did not remotely suggest that faith is not allowed in the public square. In asserting otherwise, Santorum sets up a silly "straw man" against which he then boldly battles. What nonsense.

It is important to distinguish between the "public square" and "government" and between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The constitutional principle of separation of church and state does not purge religion from the public square--far from it. Indeed, the First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

Nor does the constitutional separation of church and state prevent citizens from making decisions based on principles derived from their religions. Moreover, the religious beliefs of government officials naturally may inform their decisions on policies. The principle, in this context, merely constrains government officials not to make decisions with the predominant purpose or primary effect of advancing religion; in other words, the predominant purpose and primary effect must be nonreligious or secular in nature. A decision coinciding with religious views is not invalid for that reason as long as it has a secular purpose and effect.

The Constitution, including particularly the First Amendment, embodies the simple, just idea that each of us should be free to exercise his or her religious views without expecting that the government will endorse or promote those views and without fearing that the government will endorse or promote the religious views of others. By keeping government and religion separate, the establishment clause serves to protect the freedom of all to exercise their religion. Reasonable people may differ, of course, on how these principles should be applied in particular situations, but the principles are hardly to be doubted. Moreover, they are good, sound principles that should be nurtured and defended, not attacked. Efforts to undercut our secular government by somehow merging or infusing it with religion should be resisted by every patriot.

Insurance blogger said...

As for public funds paying for contraceptive, the Church is adamant that such a law encroaches on their members' beliefs--this is true at least with Catholics who believe that wearing a condom is murder.

Your comment about the Amendment forbidding Congress to act favorably towards a religion or religion as a whole makes clear where the church is coming from.

Paul K. Ogden said...

But the fact is we just had a President dictating to the Catholic Church what its policy should be regarding birth controt. It's not a view I share, but government has no business interferring with the Catholic Church telling it that its views are unacceptable.

Separation of church and state is a two way street.

Greg Purvis said...

@Paul Ogden: NO we had a President who said that Catholic theology would not control government policy. It is the Catholic Church's dogma that they wish to enforce, whether or not their members want to follow it. Many, if not most, of the employees of Catholic universities and hospitals (many of whom are not themselves Catholic) currently have contraceptive coverage via their employer-provided health insurance. The Catholic Church wants to take that away, because their own American congregants do NOT follow Church dogma on this subject.

Some "conservatives" talk a lot about "big government", until it comes to using "big government" to enforce religious dogma with which they agree. Good for President Obama for protecting individual choice in this matter.

Anonymous said...

98% of Catholic women of child bearing age use some form of contraception. The president is listening to the rank and file, grassroots Americans.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Greg,

It doesn't matter that most employees might not be Catholic. They are still working at Catholic institutions.

Obama's policy is still government telling a religious group which practices are acceptable and which are not. What's next...the Catholic Church going to lose its tax exemption because it doesn't allow women to become priests?

Liberals are all for the wall of separation between church and state, unless it involves government interferring in religion, then there is no wall. And of course to liberals, the Free Exercise clause doesn't exist.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon,

It doesn't matter if 99.99999% of Catholics use birth control in contravention of the Catholic teaching. It is simply not the role of govenment to second guess religious tenets and overrule them if people in that religion are not following those religious tenets. It's amazing that liberals are so quick to embrace government interference into religion.