Monday, April 02, 2012

Santorum Gets it Wrong (Again)

Over the weekend, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum again attacked John F. Kennedy's famous speech on religion and politics. This is a theme Santorum keeps returning to during his presidential campaign (see posts here, here, here, and here). He almost seems to return to the subject just like, as the Bible says, a dog returns to its vomit. On Friday, Santorum released a column entitled "It Is Hard to Be Catholic in Public Life." Most of the column is actually taken from the transcript of his 2010 speech in Houston. He mainly added a new introduction (the first three paragraphs) that attack President Barack Obama for being wrong on "religious liberty" (which has become a major argument in the Republican primary). Santorum's arguments are full of historical, philosophical, and religious errors about Kennedy. His new introduction is true to form by making inaccurate claims about Obama. For instance, Santorum argued:
President Obama wholeheartedly embraces the philosophy of the left that religion should be swept from the public square and goes even further to not even respect freedom of conscience.
However, this simply is not true. Santorum may not like to hear it, but on the topic of religion and politics, Santorum and Obama are more alike than either are to Kennedy. Both Santorum and Obama often utilize confessional politics, which is part of what helped Obama in the 2008 campaign. Like Santorum, Obama frequently injects religion and religious rhetoric into the public square (albeit to support different policies). Whatever problems Santorum may have with Obama's policies, Obama's policies are not--as Santorum wrongly claims--derived from the philosophy of Kennedy's speech on religion and politics. I have studied and written about Kennedy's speech in several pieces, including my book on confessional politics, an academic study in the journal Communication Studies, and a column in the Houston Chronicle. Hopefully Santorum will think before offering additional inaccurate attacks on Kennedy's speech. And hopefully his remarks will inspire more people to actually read and seriously consider what Kennedy actually said because Santorum's campaign helps prove the wisdom of Kennedy's arguments.

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