Fact check: Santorum's take on JFK, religion).
Santorum was referencing JFK's famous words, spoken Sept. 12, 1960: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the president — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him."
So what is Santorum advocating? There are many countries in the world today with NO separation between church and state. Countries like Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Oman and Iran are theocracies - imposing Sharia (Islamic) law upon their people. Is Santorum ready for: "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is NOT absolute; where a Muslim Imam would tell the president — should he be Muslim — how to act, and would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where Mosques and Islamic schools are granted public funds and political preference, and where man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him." He must take his words to the logical conclusion.
Santorum completely misunderstands and misrepresents the concept of church/state separation (and also President Kennedy's statement). People of diverse religious faith, and of no faith at all, have always been welcome to participate in the public square. In fact, it is both impossible and un-American to demand anyone "check his or her religious beliefs" before entering the public square or the voting booth. The political process will never be (and should never be) completely void of religious influence because we are religious people.
However, the government should not play favorites and should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." (U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression). Moreover, for those who serve in government, "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" (U. S. Constitution, Article Six).
It is appropriate and permissible that religion participate in the public square for yes, religion influenced the founding of our nation. However, while the U.S. may have been founded on Biblical principles and ideals, that does not mean the U.S. was founded as a "Christian Nation." George Washington was President when the Treaty of Tripoli was signed on November 4, 1796 but it was our second President, John Adams, who signed it into effect on June 10, 1797. Article 11 of that treaty clearly states: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."
Santorum also spoke about the intentions of our founding fathers. The chief architects of the Constitution, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, were neither eliminating religion from the public square nor were they founding a Christian Nation. James Madison, drafting his preliminary proposals for a Bill of Rights, wrote in 1789: "The civil rights of none shall be abridged because of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner or in any pretext, infringed." Thomas Jefferson famously wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
Our Constitution guarantees that the voice of religion cannot (and should not) be silenced from the public square but neither should any one religion be the only voice in the public square. As Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently said, "The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state."
It is rhetoric like Santorum's that personally makes me a little nauseous.