Gingrich Differs With Santorum on JFK's Church-State Speech

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  • Newt Gingrich
    (Photo: REUTERS/Tami Chappell)
    U.S. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks at First Redeemer Church while on a campaign tour in Cumming, Georgia, February 26, 2012.
By Anugrah Kumar, Christian Post Contributor
February 29, 2012|11:02 am

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said Tuesday he disagrees with his fellow Catholic candidate Rick Santorum, who remarked that former President John F. Kennedy's speech on absolute separation of church and state makes him sick.

It was a "remarkable speech," former House Speaker Gingrich said during an interview with Fox News Tuesday.

Gingrich suggested that Kennedy's 1960 speech should be seen in the context of opposition he faced from some quarters over his being a Roman Catholic. Kennedy, Gingrich said, was merely stressing that his "first duty as president" was to do the job of president, "and I think that's correct."

Before Gingrich's disapproval came, Santorum had clarified that he was just against privatization of faith. "I wish I had that particular line back," Santorum said during the Laura Ingraham radio show Tuesday, referring to his statement to ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that Kennedy's speech made him want to "throw up."

"If you read President Kennedy's text, while there were certainly some very important things and good things he said in that, there were some things that triggered in my opinion the privatization of faith and I think that's a bad thing," the former Pennsylvania senator told radio host Ingraham. "I think we need to have a free exercise of religion in this country and it's important for those First Amendment freedoms to be alive and well in America and I think they are threatened here in America as we've seen by President Obama, not by Rick Santorum."

In his Sept. 12, 1960 speech about his Catholic faith, Kennedy said that "the separation of church and state is absolute."

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Santorum told ABC host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, "I don't believe in America the separation of church and state is absolute." He said the idea that the church can have no influence or involvement in the operation of the state "is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country." Santorum added that the First Amendment calls for free exercise of religion. "That means bringing everybody, people of faith and no faith into the public square. Kennedy for the first time articulated a vision saying faith is not allowed in the public square."

Stephanopoulos interrupted to ask, "That makes you want to throw up?" Santorum replied, "Absolutely… to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up."

Santorum then linked Kennedy's speech to the Obama administration's contraceptive mandate, which would require some religious institutions to provide health care coverage for birth controls even if their religious teachings are opposed to them. The mandate, he said, is government "imposing" its values on religion, "which, of course is the next logical step when people of faith, according to John Kennedy, have no role in the public square."

On Santorum's criticism of Obama, Gingrich told Fox News that he agrees with him. Obama's administration is "anti-religious," he said.

 

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