The Song of Santorum
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 12:27:37 AM EST
In light of late polls apparently showing Rick Santorum "surging" in Iowa, it seems like a good moment to reprise a post from March, when Santorum visited Massachusetts.

Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) who is considering running for president, recently visited Boston, a major hub of Catholic politics and the biggest media market in New England.  While minor appearances by non-candidates don't always make the news, Santorum's remarks to a small group of Church partisans made The Boston Globe because he not only denounced our first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy in his home town, but he attacked Kennedy's historic 1960 campaign speech in which he explained his unwavering clarity regarding the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. Kennedy's position had  served as the standard for a half century of political leaders. (See Rob Boston's excellent defense of Kennedy's views on separation.)  

Santorum has been trying to rebuild his political career since being unseated by Bob Casey (D-PA) in 2006. And while he may not catch fire on the campaign trail, Santorum's bombast in Boston is certainly part of an escalating war of attrition against the principle of separation -- and it may be a bellwether for what we might anticipate in the run-up to the 2012 presidential campaign.

 

The coming battle may very well turn on the details of American history, as we shall see. But in the meantime, let's return to the beginning of our story.

The Boston Globe reported

"In remarks to about 50 members of the group Catholic Citizenship -- which encourages parishioners to speak out on issues of public policy -- Santorum decried what he called the growing secularization of American public life.

He traced the problem to Kennedy's 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, in which Kennedy - then a candidate for president - sought to allay concerns about his Catholicism by declaring, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

Santorum, who is Catholic, said he was "frankly appalled" by Kennedy's remark.

"That was a radical statement," Santorum said, and it did "great damage."

Unsurprisingly, Santorum has been a hero to the Catholic Right. According to a 2005 profile in National Catholic Reporter:  

"To us, he's the preeminent Catholic politician in America," says Austin Ruse, president of the Culture of Life Foundation, a Washington-based pro-life group. The "us" Ruse refers to are conservative Catholics, loyal to the magisterium, to this pope and his predecessor. "He's a living, breathing, daily communicant who's in the Senate leadership so all of us know that the things that we care about are discussed at the highest levels of the U.S. government," says Ruse.
   

If Santorum's Massachusetts appearance is any indication, he is positioning himself as the anti-Kennedy and the epitome of the new Catholic pol.  To better appreciate how this is so, note that his remarks are rooted in a little-noticed address he gave last fall in Houston (the text of which is featured on the web site of the neo-conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center.)  The event was evidently positioned as an answer John F. Kennedy's historic speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in which he declared that as president he would not take orders from the Pope and that he respected the doctrine of separation.

Santorum is deeply steeped in revisionist history. But let's focus on just one of his claims.  

The phrase "wall of separation"... comes from a letter written by a founder who didn't even attend the constitutional convention, Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson's famous phrase has long stood in the way of the ambitions of the theocratically inclined because the Supreme Court has found it to be useful in explaining the meaning of the religion clauses of the First Amendment.  That's why the Religious Right expends so much energy attempting to invalidate it.  

Part of Santorum's line of attack is to undermine the significance of the phrase by highlighting the fact that Jefferson was not present when the First Amendment was written.  While it is true that Jefferson was not around when the First Amendment was written, it is also true that his role as a key architect of our Constitutional approach to the relationship between religion and government is very well-supported by history.  Because this is so, facts are being selectively distorted in order to sustain a counter narrative of American history favorable to key elements of the Religious Right.  Here is how I addressed the 'Jefferson wasn't there' meme in my 1997 book Eternal Hostility:  The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy:

One Christian Right leader, John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute, wrote an influential book, The Separation Illusion, [1977] in which he attack's Thomas Jefferson's notion of the separation of church and state as the key phrase grounding the Supreme Court's understanding of the religion clauses of the First Amendment. Whitehead claims that Jefferson's views are irrelevant because Jefferson was not present when the First Amendment was written.  Christian Right activist David Barton makes the same point in his book The Myth of Separation: What is the Correct Relationship Between Church and State? [1992]

While it is true that Jefferson was, at the time, President Washington's Ambassador to France and was not personally present for the drafting of the Constitution and the First Amendment, his influence is generally acknowledged by historians. In fact, the preponderance of evidence demonstrates the centrality of Jefferson's views in shaping the framer's views of the proper relations between religion and government. In 1777, Jefferson drafted the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom which was ultimately pushed through the Virginia legislature by his close colleague, then-Governor James Madison, in 1786.  This law provided the theoretical basis for the First Amendment.  Jefferson believed that it was, along with the authoring of the Declaration of Independence and founding the University of Virginia, one of his most important accomplishments. Madison, in turn, is generally credited with being the principal author of both the Constitution and the First Amendment.

Historical distortions are a key ingredient in the success of the Christian Right to date.  This effort to somehow discredit the historical relevance of Jefferson is part of a larger effort to revise American history to suit their contemporary religious and political objectives ....

There are many deceptive propaganda ploys such as Whitehead's to fire up the prospective constituencies of the Christian Right. They are often difficult to address, not only because they can be such a tangle of lies and distortions, but because few outside of their primary intended audience pay much attention.  The effect of all this is the systematic alienation of conservative Christians from mainstream society and the creation of a counterculture which believes that somehow "the truth" has been kept from them through various conspiracies.

If we follow Santorum's logic, John F. Kennedy's views on separation are invalid because Jefferson's views are invalid because Jefferson was not personally present when Madison authored the Constitution and Congress passed the First Amendment.

Whatever else we hear on such things from Santorum, we can reasonably expect to hear many more such things in the not to distant future from Religious Rightists and the pols who pander to them. (John McCain did it last time.)




Display:
I don't mean to claim that the Religious Right is losing steam. However, when Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 2008 the real reason behind the existence of the Religious Right was clearly revealed: a race/class redoubt. As a race/class redoubt, the Religious Right is not handcuffed by any religious prohibition or commandment. They don't take the religious part of their identity seriously. It looks genuine and the suckers genuinely practice it until the money runs out and the good people among them are forced to redefine their ideas of spirituality. It's the Religious Right that is racing to embrace the market Ultras - NOT the other way around. CEOs and Wall Street a**holes aren't finding Jesus - the Catholic bishops and Protestant leaders are discovering anew the anti-communist virtues of that old timey religion.

by Brian Gallagher on Sun Mar 20, 2011 at 10:41:23 PM EST
Rather, he is part of an emerging strand of conservative Catholic Christian nationalism that dovetails with earlier conservative evangelical versions.

Whatever the merits of your 2008 revelation about the nature of the Christian Right, it does not invalidate the significance of Santorum's latest project.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 11:31:01 AM EST
Parent

After several years of libertarian/paleo-conservative thought dominating the Right, Santorum's rise may be signaling the rehabilitation of neo-conservative philosophy.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:43:28 PM EST
Parent



Logic fails me how anyone can read this in the constitution and NOT see that the Government described is supposed to be secular. This is not even a 1st Amendment "issue", this is from the basic Articles (VI, to be exact): "but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States"

by Edski on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 10:38:24 AM EST
Or rather, the word "logic". As in, it's not a tool used by most religous-right adherents. For many of them, listening to the words of leadership telling them that what they wish was true actually is true, echoed by "intellectuals" like David Barton, makes the world continue spinning properly. Logic is of no use to them, as many studies recently have shown. In fact, it causes them to more fervently embrace their own "facts".

Combine that with their deeply held authoritarian stances, and you don't have a chance of getting through to them with logic or facts, no matter how obvious they seem.



by trog69 on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 02:10:01 PM EST
Parent
since there is no known way to reason with this particular group, is there are emotional argument that would work? Or is an act of God needed?

by Hirador on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 03:06:39 PM EST
Parent
A person I know refers to that as the "magic key".

Getting past their programming (and that is literally what happens in most cases) requires that you somehow stumble on the "magic key" that gets them to questioning their authorities and what they've been taught for however long they've been associating with those churches.  It differs with every person.  It's hard to find and use.

About the only thing I've found that begins to get through, but usually sets them into a screaming rage (literally) is when you use the scriptures against them to show how they're wrong.  That requires you to be very fast on your feet mentally and verbally, well read on the scriptures (and if you know Biblical Greek and Hebrew, even better).  Even then, it usually doesn't work immediately and they have to have some experiences (as I did) that showed the fallacy in some part of what they'd been taught.

In fact, using the Bible against them might prove to be physically dangerous in some instances, they might think you're "Possessed by the Devil" and try to exorcise you, or even harm you.
 

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 03:47:50 PM EST
Parent




by trog69 on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 02:18:22 PM EST
Parent




The greatest harm Rick can do to American freedom and separation of church and state is being the bottom half of a Romney ticket.  Rick is not too smart but is capable of delivering Pennsylvania to the GOP and possibly throwing the election into the House.  Guess how that will turn out?  Rick can no doubt do a Cheney type shadow government as VP and continue to be a meme bearer for General Franco lovers like Chaput in Philly (a strategic papal appointment?) who framed the official post mortem Vatican hit on JFK's theologically incorrect Houston speech and his wrong attitude toward Church dominance in the Vatican American public town square in their ideal visualization of the future.

by Mike McShea on Mon Jan 02, 2012 at 04:23:49 PM EST
There are still a number of Pennsylvania residents who remember how Santorum ripped off the Penn Hills School District. And there are plenty of us who stand ready to remind those who have forgotten. See here for details: http://motherjones.com/politics/2012/01/rick-santorums-school-sca ndal

by MLouise on Thu Jan 05, 2012 at 05:22:36 PM EST
Parent



WWW Talk To Action


Cognitive Dissonance & Dominionism Denial
There is new research on why people are averse to hearing or learning about the views of ideological opponents. Based on evaluation of five......
By Frederick Clarkson (148 comments)
Will the Air Force Do Anything To Rein In Its Dynamic Duo of Gay-Bashing, Misogynistic Bloggers?
"I always get nervous when I see female pastors/chaplains. Here is why everyone should as well: "First, women are not called to be pastors,......
By Chris Rodda (39 comments)
The Legacy of Big Oil
The media is ablaze with the upcoming publication of David Grann's book, Killers of the Flower Moon. The shocking non fiction account of the......
By wilkyjr (29 comments)
Gimme That Old Time Dominionism Denial
Over the years, I have written a great deal here and in other venues about the explicitly theocratic movement called dominionism -- which has......
By Frederick Clarkson (35 comments)
History Advisor to Members of Congress Completely Twists Jefferson's Words to Support Muslim Ban
Pseudo-historian David Barton, best known for his misquoting of our country's founders to promote the notion that America was founded as a Christian nation,......
By Chris Rodda (34 comments)
"Christian Fighter Pilot" Calls First Lesbian Air Force Academy Commandant a Liar
In a new post on his "Christian Fighter Pilot" blog titled "BGen Kristin Goodwin and the USAFA Honor Code," Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan......
By Chris Rodda (32 comments)
Catholic Right Leader Unapologetic about Call for 'Death to Liberal Professors' -- UPDATED
Today, Donald Trump appointed C-FAM Executive Vice President Lisa Correnti to the US Delegation To UN Commission On Status Of Women. (C-FAM is a......
By Frederick Clarkson (32 comments)
Controlling Information
     Yesterday I listened to Russ Limbaugh.  Rush advised listeners it would be best that they not listen to CNN,MSNBC, ABC, CBS and......
By wilkyjr (31 comments)
Is Bannon Fifth-Columning the Pope?
In December 2016 I wrote about how White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who likes to flash his Catholic credentials when it comes to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (16 comments)
Ross Douthat's Hackery on the Seemingly Incongruous Alliance of Bannon & Burke
Conservative Catholic writer Ross Douthat has dissembled again. This time, in a February 15, 2017 New York Times op-ed titled The Trump Era's Catholic......
By Frank Cocozzelli (14 comments)
`So-Called Patriots' Attack The Rule Of Law
Every so often, right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan lurches out of the far-right fever swamp where he has resided for the past 50 years to......
By Rob Boston (18 comments)
Bad Faith from Focus on the Family
Here is one from the archives, Feb 12, 2011, that serves as a reminder of how deeply disingenuous people can be. Appeals to seek......
By Frederick Clarkson (43 comments)
The Legacy of George Wallace
"One need not accept any of those views to agree that they had appealed to real concerns of real people, not to mindless, unreasoning......
By wilkyjr (11 comments)
Betsy DeVos's Mudsill View of Public Education
My Talk to Action colleague Rachel Tabachnick has been doing yeoman's work in explaining Betsy DeVos's long-term strategy for decimating universal public education. If......
By Frank Cocozzelli (24 comments)
Prince and DeVos Families at Intersection of Radical Free Market Privatizers and Religious Right
This post from 2011 surfaces important information about President-Elect Trump's nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. -- FC Erik Prince, Brother of Betsy......
By Rachel Tabachnick (32 comments)

Respect for Others? or Political Correctness?
The term "political correctness" as used by Conservatives and Republicans has often puzzled me: what exactly do they mean by it? After reading Chip Berlin's piece here-- http://www.talk2action.org/story/2016/7/21/04356/9417 I thought about what he explained......
MTOLincoln (48 comments)
Fear
What I'm feeling now is fear.  I swear that it seems my nightmares are coming true with this new "president".  I'm also frustrated because so many people are not connecting all the dots! I've......
ArchaeoBob (31 comments)
"America - love it or LEAVE!"
I've been hearing that and similar sentiments fairly frequently in the last few days - far FAR more often than ever before.  Hearing about "consequences for burning the flag (actions) from Trump is chilling!......
ArchaeoBob (29 comments)
"Faked!" Meme
Keep your eyes and ears open for a possible move to try to discredit the people openly opposing Trump and the bigots, especially people who have experienced terrorism from the "Right"  (Christian Terrorism is......
ArchaeoBob (72 comments)
More aggressive proselytizing
My wife told me today of an experience she had this last week, where she was proselytized by a McDonald's employee while in the store. ......
ArchaeoBob (28 comments)
See if you recognize names on this list
This comes from the local newspaper, which was conservative before and took a hard right turn after it was sold. Hint: Sarah Palin's name is on it!  (It's also connected to Trump.) ......
ArchaeoBob (32 comments)
Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (34 comments)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (24 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (22 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (24 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (25 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (25 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (33 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (32 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (30 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.