Rick Santorum: Separation of Church and State Not Absolute

AP

Rick Santorum said Sunday he doesn’t believe the separation of church and state is “absolute” and reiterated past comments that he almost “threw up” after reading a speech on the subject by former President John F. Kennedy.

“The first substantive line says ‘I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.’ I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum said on ABC’s ‘This Week.” “The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

Santorum, a Catholic, has been very open about the role of religion in his life and in his political beliefs.

“The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion and that means bringing everybody, people of faith and non-faith into the public square,” he said. “Kennedy for the first time articulated the vision saying, ‘No, faith is not allowed in the public square, I will keep it separate.’ Go on and read the speech, ‘I will have nothing to do with faith. I won’t consult with people of faith.’ It was an absolutist doctrine that was foreign at the time of 1960.”

Pressed further by host George Stephanopoulos that he almost “threw up” over the speech, Santorum didn’t back down.

“Absolutely, to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up,” Santorum said. “What kind of country do we live in that says only people of non-faith can come in the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up and that should make every American.

Referring to the recent controversy over President Barack Obama’s mandate that all insurers must cover the cost of contraception services, Santorum continued: “You are seeing from a president someone who is now trying to tell people of faith that you will do what the government says, we are going to impose our values on you. Not that you can’t come into the public square and argue against it, but now we’re going to turn around and say we’re going to impose our values from the government on people of faith which, of course, is the next logical step when people of faith — at least according to John Kennedy — have no role in the public square.”

Kennedy’s speech, delivered on the campaign trail in 1960, came at a time when Kennedy was facing voters wary of his Catholicism. Despite Santorum’s repeated characterization, the phrase “public square” does not appear, and much of the speech is devoted to Kennedy’s assurances that his religion would not be a factor in his leadership — namely, “request[ing] or accept[ing] instructions on public policy from the Pope.”

Watch Santorum’s full interview below, via ABC. Comments about the separation of church and state begin at the 13:00 mark:

Rick Santorum: Separation of Church and State Not Absolute