http://embed.5min.com/517282165/ Separation of Santorum and State Sometimes this blog basically writes itself. With a Mormon and a fundamentalist Catholic vying for the Republican nomination, blogging is like shooting fish in a barrel. But this post in particular just screams: “ChurchState Guy! Help us make sense of this Santorum guy!” Well, since you asked. Santorum here… Read more

http://embed.5min.com/517282165/

Separation of Santorum and State

Sometimes this blog basically writes itself. With a Mormon and a fundamentalist Catholic vying for the Republican nomination, blogging is like shooting fish in a barrel. But this post in particular just screams: “ChurchState Guy! Help us make sense of this Santorum guy!”

Well, since you asked.

Santorum here is making a claim that actually has some merit, but he’s going about it all wrong — he’s insulting one of the most honored and powerful American icons in US history: John F. Kennedy. And, his criticism is not really connected to Kennedy, but a more modern use of the idea of a “strong wall of separation between church and state”.

For one, anyone who knows anything about the first amendment knows that it does not literally say there should be a separation of church and state. That was Thomas Jefferson. Instead it declares that government will “make no law respecting the establishment of a religion; or prohibit the free exercise thereof.” Jefferson just interpreted that with a useful analogy: Religion and State are neighbors, separated by a wall. State does not tell Religion how to raise its children, and vice versa.

But Santorum’s “beef” (pardon the pun), has to do with how that is interpreted today to mean that religion has no place in public debate. In that case, he’s right. A healthy separation of Religion and State does not mean that religious ideals should not be voiced in support of public policy. It also doesn’t mean that government should enforce a strict non-religious doctrine into schools. Instead, it means almost exactly what both Kennedy said here and what Obama said here. The constitutional right to freedom of expression means exactly that religion belongs in the public sphere, but it doesn’t have a position of power or establishment within any branch of government — period.

Where Santorum oversteps is in saying religion can have some “involvement in the operation of the state.” That is just purely false. There’s a reason why journalists hold as tighly to the 1st Amendment as religious leaders do: they both have the right to speak clearly into the public sphere. But just as journalists do not have a vote in Congress, neither does the Church.

I sometimes think these politicians get a decent idea (that religion belongs in the public debate), and take it to extremes just to get attention and get people talking about them one way or another. I just would like that the conversation around Santorum and his concept of government and the place of religion be focused on the slight validity as well as the craziness of it.

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