Faith, politics, and JFK


Former Sen. Rick Santorum recently took aim at public officials who want to keep their faith in the closet.

While delivering a speech at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, he cited by way of example former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who famously supported abortion laws in spite of his Catholic faith. Cuomo declared that his personal opposition to abortion wouldn't guide him when it came to public policy.

"Cuomo's safe harbor is nothing more than a camouflage for the faint of heart-a cynical sanctuary for concealing true convictions from the public, and for rationalizing a reluctance to defend them," Santorum said.

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The former senator from Pennsylvania also took issue with a 1960 presidential campaign speech delivered by John F. Kennedy in an effort to dispel fears that the pope might influence him. "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," Kennedy pronounced. But according to Santorum, those words "sealed off informed moral wisdom into a realm of non rational beliefs that have no legitimate role in political discourse. On that day, Kennedy chose not just to dispel fear, he chose to expel faith."

Santorum went on to explain that the original intent of "separation of church and state" was to protect religion from the government, not government from religion. He asserted that Kennedy's speech marked a turning point in how people interpreted that concept: "Kennedy's misuse of the phrase constructed a high barrier that ultimately would keep religious convictions out of politics in a place where our founders had intended just the opposite."

Santorum believes that faith feeds virtue, and a society without virtue is a frightening prospect to contemplate: "Virtue requires faith because faith is the primary teacher of morality. That is not to say that one cannot be virtuous without faith, but for society as a whole, faith is the indispensable agent of virtue."

How sad that in today's society religious faith and those who practice it are often viewed not only with suspicion, but also with contempt.

Marcia Segelstein
Marcia Segelstein


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