Santorum argues for religion in government

Eric Gay/AP

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- On the eve of the Michigan primary, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told an enthusiastic crowd at a Christian school that not only was the separation of church and state not absolute, there is a role for religious faith in the federal government.
 
Building on statements he first made over the weekend, Santorum said that the definition of the separation of church and state does not appear verbatim in the Constitution. “What does [appear] is the term 'the free exercise of religion.' Those words do appear, so religion is to be freed from the dictates of government. But … the government is not to be free of the influence of faith and people of faith,” he said.

Speaking to an audience of about 300 people at the Heritage Christian Academy, an elementary school, the former senator from Pennsylvania said that discussion of religious faith should extend to the public square. “We have an opportunity to paint another vision, one that is a welcoming … that says to people of faith, any faith, ‘Come on in, talk about it. Make your case. Make your argument to the people. I don’t have to agree with you, but I respect the fact that you’re here and you know what? Just because you have a different opinion than me doesn’t mean that you hate me, or I hate you. That’s what America’s about,' ” Santorum said.
 
Santorum’s blurring of the line between religion and government has raised eyebrows, including at The Washington Post, which published an editorial on Monday asking, “Does Mr. Santorum really understand the difference between talking about a policy and imposing his views?”

The crowd gave Santorum prolonged applause throughout his speech. Organizers said tht hundreds of people had been turned away when the school filled up, evidenced by the hordes of residents trudging away from the school in the chilly night before the event started. 

Santorum told the crowd that liberals are the real bigots in the debate over same-sex marriage because, he said, they argue that conservatives oppose gay marriage because of “hatred and bigotry.” He cited a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that California’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, and that the ban “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

Santorum said this was tantamount to the court saying, “If you believe marriage is between a man and a woman, it is either because you are a hater or a bigot.”

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