Senator Santorum: Candidly Contemptuous of Church-State Separation

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum has big plans for the wall of separation between church and state - mainly, to demolish it.

In a recent New York Times Magazine profile, Santorum was frank in outlining his wall-bashing scheme for writer Michael Sokolove. As one of the Senate's leading proponents of President George W. Bush's "faith-based" initiative, Santorum plays a key role in the effort to win Congressional approval for bills that would funnel tax dollars to religious groups that offer social services.

The administration argues that religious groups should be allowed to use the federal grants in nearly any way they see fit, including hiring individuals to operate the programs on the basis of religion. Santorum agrees and explained why he would continue to fight for passage of the administration's faith-based scheme.

Santorum may have been too honest. He admitted there is a religious goal behind the initiative, telling Sokolove, "The whole idea of funding people of faith is not just to provide good human services. It's also to provide good human services with that additional touch, if you will, with that aspect of healing that comes through that spiritual intersection."

Beyond subverting federal civil rights laws, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, among other factors, the faith-based initiative would provide little or no oversight on how religious groups operate their programs. Indeed, the administration argues that religious groups can operate federally funded social service programs in pervasively sectarian settings.

Again, Santorum says that's the way it should be. He told the newspaper's magazine that faith-based social service providers should in fact be permitted to proselytize by reading religious passages from the Bible during those services.

"Here you have a book that's been pretty well tested over time," Santorum said. "So to say, here are some passages from the Bible that may help you, I don't necessarily see that as a negative."

The story quoted Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn, who accused Santorum of seeking to impose his "religious dogma through law and legislation on everybody in America."

Several of the nation's Founding Fathers on numerous occasions asserted that the First Amendment establishes a separation of church and state. They insisted that religious groups should pay for their own projects and not turn to the taxpayer for help. Santorum wants to change that.

The senator's contempt for the fundamental American principle of church-state separation, of course, has endeared him to the likes of James Dobson and Jerry Falwell. Those two, including a slew of other Religious Right leaders, doggedly and disingenuously argue that the nation's founders actually intended America to be a "Christian nation" - even though that sentiment appears nowhere in the Constitution.

Those Americans not longing to live under a Christian theocracy are becoming increasingly alarmed about the musings and actions of Santorum and his supporters. Polling showed that many Americans viewed as offensive the government-led effort to intrude into the tragic family matter involving Terri Schiavo.

In the Senate that ignoble effort, as noted the Times piece noted, was led by Santorum.