The Role of Religion in Politics

Monday, February 27, 2012

Supporters pray over Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (C) during a campaign stop at the Bella Donna Chapel on February 8, 2012 in McKinney, Texas. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images/Getty)

On Sunday, during an appearance on ABC News' "This Week," Rick Santorum pushed his socially conservative message to new heights by denouncing the separation of church and state. Specifically, he stated that John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech supporting the split "made [him] want to throw up," and began the turn away from American values. However, some historians assert that the age-old debate over the role of religion in politics is actually quite recent, and only entered public discourse with the rise of the religious right in the late 80s and early 90s.

Kenneth C. Davis is author of "Don't Know Much About History."


Kenneth C. Davis

Comments [10]

I wonder what other bits of the Constitution make Mr Santorum vomit?

Feb. 28 2012 08:23 AM

What goes unmentioned is that the "doctrine of separation of church and state" became part of American law not in the 18th Century but in 1947 by Justice Hugo Black who was reportedly an anti-Catholic bigot and member of the klan like so many other Democrats of that era and was appointed by FDR.

Feb. 27 2012 09:16 PM
David from Detroit

It is one thing to make decisions based upon moral, ethical or religious principles. It is another thing to make decisions which favor one prefered set of religious principles. That is a cover means by whIch Goverment can establish a prefered religion.

Seems as there are those who are pandering to a prefered religion in a effort to curry favor. Seem as though some religious organizations are engaging in political acts which essentially force politicians to pander.

Feb. 27 2012 05:57 PM

The problem with the discussion so far it that if fails to mention that the bill of rights and the "wall of separation" did not apply to the states until after the civil war. It was not the original model for our federal system. In the beginning there wasn't just one government but a much more powerful state government that often allowed religious influence in law.

Also, during the last 40-50 years, with the expansion of the bill of rights to include "unenumerated rights", the extension of ares of law into areas previously regarded as matters of religious has greatly expanded. i.e., contraception, abortion, end of life, marriage) etc. This has had the result of creating obligations and rights that go directly contrary to many of the country's christian citizens beliefs. This had never occurred before.

Feb. 27 2012 10:54 AM
Wayne Rice from new england

For me it is simple - don't want to run a secular business? Don't. If you already do and it offends you personally, tough - get out! These times call for a firm grip on reality in which religios speculations and musings plays no part. Speculate on the nature of life all you want but keep your restrictive insane ideas on morality out of it and out of my life; it's the law.

Feb. 27 2012 10:01 AM

This issue of religion isn't terribly important to the Republican primary; there is plenty of economic and policy news to cover.

I think that left-wing outlets like The Takeaway simply want to use the issue to scold Republicans.

I do note that The Takeaway chose to ignore this morning the comments of New York Times (Takeaway partner) columnist Charles Blow, who told Mitt Romney to "stick that in your magic underwear," in an insulting reference to Mitt Romney.

I find it fascinating that there really is an issue of religious prejudice in today's partisan politics; that is, Democrats are significantly more prejudiced against Mormon voters than are Republicans. But I don't expect to see The Takeaway cover either of those stories; an insensitive Times columnist or polling data showing Democrats as prejudiced.

Feb. 27 2012 08:46 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The Founders saw that people would believe different things and practice their faith. And they would bring it into the public square. But in the public square, reason and debate would make the decision which ideas were followed. But that an idea had it's genesis in a religious belief didn't disqualify it from the discussion, but it was subject to reason and debate.

Feb. 27 2012 08:09 AM
jim govoni

John Adams never owned slaves

Feb. 27 2012 07:14 AM

i thought i heard u say the susan b anthony house is in nyc. its in rochester, ny. please let me know
otherwise. it is a great historical site. please do a segment! thx

Feb. 27 2012 07:05 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Candidate Kennedy in Houston had to suppress fears about the Catholic influence in American politics if he were elected, and he went very far in saying that he wouldn't be ruled by the Vatican. Of course the Vatican had no desire to rule him. But he went very far in stressing that he wouldn't be even influenced by his religion, which is too far.

Feb. 27 2012 06:13 AM

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