Rick Santorum, referring to a speech by then Senator John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960, said the speech made him want to vomit because Kennedy used the term “absolute” separation of church and state.
The speech was not, as Santorum protrayed, anti-religious, but a powerful statement in favor of religious freedom, as this excerpt indicates (emphasis mine):
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote–where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference–and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew–or a Quaker–or a Unitarian–or a Baptist.
It is a fair criticism that separation of church and state, a judge-made doctrine, has been overdone in a secularist attempt to drive religion from the public square. In some cases that secular drive reaches levels of anti-religious absurdity.
But that is not what Kennedy was doing in defending against claims he would take orders from the Pope.
Kennedy’s speech in favor of religious freedom was not vomitous, at all. It reminded me more of Washington’s letter to the Tuoro Synagogue of Newport Rhode Island, which I have quoted more than once here.
Santorum’s hyperbolic rhetoric is one of the reasons “I’d have to think about it” if there is no third surge for Newt and the choice came down to Romney or Santorum.