Santorum Says Separation of Church and State Isn’t Absolute

Republican presidential primary hopeful Rick Santorum said he doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, noting that a speech on the topic by former President John F. Kennedy makes him want to “throw up.”

“I don’t believe that the separation of church and state is absolute,” Santorum said in an interview today on ABC’s “This Week” program. “The First Amendment means the free exercise of religion and that means bringing people and their faith into the public square.”

Santorum, 53, made the comments in an interview from Michigan, where he is campaigning ahead of the Republican primary this week. Polls show a close race there against Mitt Romney who spent his boyhood in the state and where his father, George Romney, served as governor and an automobile company chief executive officer.

Santorum said Kennedy’s 1960 speech in Houston about the separation of church and state, was an “absolutist doctrine” that he disagrees with.

“To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? What makes me throw up is someone who is now trying to tell people that you will do what the government says,” Santorum said. “That now we’re going to turn around and impose our values from the government on people of faith.”

Santorum said “there are people I disagree with. Come into our town hall meetings and let’s have a discussion. Air your ideas and why you believe what you believe.”

“That’s what America is all about -- bringing in that diversity,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “What we saw in Kennedy’s speech was just the opposite and that’s what’s so upsetting about it.”

-- Editors: Ann Hughey, Andrea Snyder

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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