News Release

Romney, Santorum and Separation of Church and State

FREDERICK CLARKSON, frederick.clarkson at gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Clarkson is author of the book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy and editor of the Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America.  He is founder of the interactive group blog “Talk to Action.”

He said today: “The question of separation of church and state has been a defining issue for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Both have given speeches in Texas to echo and answer John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 campaign speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association that has been the model for how pols balance religion and public life for a generation. Both embraced the rhetoric of the religious right.

“Rick Santorum has made denunciation of Kennedy’s statement ‘I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute’ — a centerpiece of his campaign.

“When Santorum came to the Boston area last year, he denounced Kennedy before a Catholic audience. He blamed Kennedy for the alleged secularization of public life, calling Kennedy’s statement “radical” and that it has done ‘great damage.’

“Romney as a Mormon faced a similar obstacle to his candidacy that Kennedy faced in 1960. In his Texas speech in 2007 he sought to turn secularism into a bogeyman: ‘In recent years,’ he declared, ‘the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. … It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism.'”