Monday, February 27, 2012

Examining Santorum's Vomit

Santorum recently vomited: "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute... [T]o say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up" (see his words and a "fact check" here: 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.

8 comments:

Terry said...

Good post....

Fred Neal said...

I think you completely misread
Santorum on this point. It seems your making his stance in your interpretation.
"Vomited " sounds like you really don't like him.
So please explain as breifly as possible who are you leaning toward in this election?

Adam Kohlstrom said...

Fred,

Since he is running for President, I certainly hope I have misread Santorum and that he has a better grasp of the Constitution and the "Establishment Clause" than it appears on its face.

"Vomited" was simply a play on Santorum's statement, "You bet that makes you throw up."

I don't like any of the candidates - if this is the very best America can put forward (both Republican and Democrat) we are in a sad condition.

No matter what I might feel about Santorum, he is not electable in a general election. He will not get the independent and democratic voters he would need.

The longer Santorum stays in, the greater the chances Obama will win a second term. This is why in the primaries that allow it, democrats are supporting Santorum.

Adam

Anonymous said...

Wow, I was visiting your website with an interest of visiting Street Baptist Chestnut. After viewing your venom and obvious dislike of a Christian like Santorum I guess I will continue to search. As a Pastor, I feel that you are out of line in expressing.

Adam Kohlstrom said...

@Anonymous,

You cite my "venom and obvious dislike of a Christian like Santorum." I did make a couple of play-on-words ("vomited" and "nauseous") with Santorum's own words ("You bet that makes you throw up") but I didn't consider those as venomous but rather wordplay.

The main trust of my argument challenged Santorum's understanding of church/state separation, but I didn't see that I was attacking him personally (and I hope not with anything that approached "venom" or "obvious dislike").

You are correct I do not "like" Santorum as a candidate, but as I wrote earlier in response to Fred's question: "I don't like any of the candidates - if this is the very best America can put forward (both Republican and Democrat) we are in a sad condition." And I stand by the belief that Santorum is not electable in a general election, therefore not the Republican's best candidate. While there is disappointment in those statements, I don't feel any "venom" or personal "dislike."

You mention that Santorum is a "Christian," so maybe your implication is that as a Christian Pastor I should by default support Santorum? I share the sentiment of Theologian Martin Luther: "I'd rather have a smart Turk than a stupid Christian governing me." Let me be clear: that is NOT to say that Santorum is "stupid," that IS to say that I will vote for the most qualified Presidential candidate - his or her religious beliefs being ONE of the considerations but not the ONLY consideration.

Anonymous, if you are seriously considering the church, I hope you will not make a reactionary decision based upon one blog post (or based on the fact that you and I might disagree on one political candidate). I am far more than the words in one blog post, so I hope you might move beyond anonymity and actually get to know me. I'd love to have a cup of coffee with you and talk more (my information is all on the church website).

And even if you feel you aren't interested in our church, I pray you do find a fellowship to join Anonymous, for there are many excellent ones in our area.

Anonymous said...

wow what a blog. .

Anonymous said...

Very interesting...

Anonymous said...

Good post