Republican presidential primary hopeful Rick Santorum says he doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, noting that a speech on the topic by former President John F. Kennedy makes him want to “throw up.”
“I don’t believe that the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum said in an interview today on ABC’s “This Week” program. “The First Amendment means the free exercise of religion and that means bringing people and their faith into the public square.”
Santorum, 53, made the comments in an interview from Michigan, where he is campaigning ahead of the Republican primary this week. Polls show a close race there against Mitt Romney, who spent his boyhood in the state and where his father, George, was governor and an automobile company chief executive officer.
Santorum said Kennedy’s 1960 speech in Houston about the separation of church and state was an “absolutist doctrine” that he disagrees with.
“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? What makes me throw up is someone who is now trying to tell people that you will do what the government says,” Santorum said. “That now we’re going to turn around and impose our values from the government on people of faith.”
Santorum said “there are people I disagree with. Come into our town hall meetings and let’s have a discussion. Air your ideas and why you believe what you believe.”
“That’s what America is all about — bringing in that diversity,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “What we saw in Kennedy’s speech was just the opposite — and that’s what’s so upsetting about it.”
Santorum also addressed the issue of religion and the role it should play in government during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press" today.
Deeply held convictions should be part of the “public square,” Santorum said.
“The idea that people of faith should not be permitted in the public square to influence public policy is antithetical to the First Amendment,” he said. “This idea that we need to segregate faith is a dangerous idea, and we’re seeing the Obama administration not only segregating faith but imposing the states’ values, now, on churches, which is even a bigger affront to the First Amendment.”
When host David Gregory asked whether he would impose his religious beliefs on society, Santorum responded, “These are my personally held religious beliefs. There’s no evidence at all that I want to impose those values on anybody else.”
Santorum said he will continue to talk about the role traditional family life plays with respect to the economy, adding, “That is not something that is some sort of religious idea. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was talking about that in the 1960s.”