Santorum Wades Into Church-State Issue

GOP candidate says nothing absolute about separation of church and state.

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has added to his portfolio of controversial statements about his personal values  as he wades deeper into the culture wars. He has now harshly criticized former President John F. Kennedy for calling for separation between church and state.

It was an unexpected remark from Santorum, partly because Kennedy was Roman Catholic, as is Santorum, and JFK's comments, made in the 1960 campaign, were considered a key reason why some voters gave him the benefit of the doubt as a Catholic seeking the White House. There were many concerns from Protestants at the time that Kennedy would be unduly influenced by the Vatican, but his speech helped put them to rest.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Rick Santorum]

At the start of the 2012 campaign, it was former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, a Mormon, who was expected to cause the most controversy because of his faith. Many evangelical Christians don't consider Mormonism to be a true Christian religion.

But Santorum has turned out to be the more aggressive culture warrior on religion and other issues. Appearing on ABC's This Week Sunday, he said, "I don't believe in an America where the separation between church and state is absolute."

He added:

To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up. What kind of country do we live in where 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 [throw up].

[See pictures of Rick Santorum.]

Speaking in Detroit as he campaigned in advance of the Michigan Republican primary election Tuesday, Santorum also called President Obama a "snob" because he wants Americans to attend college. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, said, "President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to [the] test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor to try to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."

It's all part of a pattern as Santorum tries to distinguish himself from Romney as the most aggressive candidate on conservative issues and as a leader who is more in touch with working-class people.

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