Rick Santorum Misleads Public On The Issue Of Religious Freedom


Santorum Blames ‘Secular Statists’ For GOP Failures

In an interview with the Family Research Council, Rick Santorum said that the reason the GOP is doing badly is because secular statists have effectively silenced the religious arguments on nearly every issue.

Santorum asserted that even churches weren’t allowed to preach their own faith, interlacing that statement with the five pastors in Houston, Texas that have had their sermons subpoenaed after a religious group tried to repeal an equality law the city had passed in May of this year.

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Conservatives, of course, were outraged, saying that this was just another example of government trampling on religious freedom.

It is fabulously more complicated than that. This isn’t a case of the state forcing churches to adopt pro-homosexual doctrine or silencing them on the issue of homosexual equality; it’s the possible direction lorded by the church leaders that collected about 50,000 signatures of the needed 17,269 signatures on a petition to have the measure included on November’s ballot to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) — the city threw out thousands of the signatures because they were “invalid” and therefore the repeal will not appear on ballots.

In return, Alliance Defending Freedom sued the city, which prompted the city of Houston courts to subpoena the sermons of pastors. The term “sermons” was later specified to those which were directly related to the petition process. In short, the city thinks pastors instructed their parishioners on how to cheat or to directly sign the petition.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker told The Houston Chronicle:

‘We don’t need to intrude on matters of faith to have equal rights in Houston, and it was never the intention of the city of Houston to intrude on any matters of faith or to get between a pastor and their parishioners,’ Parker said. ‘We don’t want their sermons, we want the instructions on the petition process. That’s always what we wanted and, again, they knew that’s what we wanted because that’s the subject of the lawsuit.’

It is illegal for churches to direct their parishioners on political matters because of their tax-exempt status. It would not be protected speech under the First Amendment because churches are not supposed to meddle in matters of the state.

Rick Santorum weighed in on that topic saying:

‘There is a growing hostility to religion and the hostility comes from this fact: There is a growing consensus in this country that there needs to be a separation of church and state. That is not in the Constitution, it’s not the law of the land, but what this perception leads to is, well, okay if there’s a separation of church and state, then anywhere the state is, anywhere the government is, faith can’t be. Well, 200 years ago that wasn’t a big problem, if that was our founders vision, which it was not.’

I’ll call your bullshit Rick, and raise you the Johnson Amendment. The First Amendment combined with the Johnson Amendment essentially are the separation of church and state, though this remains in dispute.

Here is the First Amendment, just so we’re all on the same page:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

However, leading church members on a political crusade is not protected speech, because churches essentially are agreeing to a separation because of their protected tax-exempt status under IRS code, 501(c)(3).

To enjoy tax-exempt status, no substantial part of the organization’s activities may involve attempts to influence legislation. If, say, five pastors were to direct their parishioners to sign a petition because they didn’t want “icky” gay rights protected, the church would lose protected status and therefore would be in violation of 501(c)(3).

The kicker? Churches were exempt from HERO in the first place.

This is a direct attack on public policy, not an attack on religious freedom. The ordinance itself had no influence on church affairs.

Santorum continued on FRC’s radio show:

‘These secular statists do not want the competition that comes from the church. So they are going to do everything they can to marginalize them, to force them out of the public square, to be quiet.’

Golly, this sounds familiar! It’s like that time all the religious organizations had the power to marginalize homosexual people’s lives to keep citizens from obtaining full rights on the mere basis of who they chose to love. Only, it’s not like that at all, because a minority group obtaining equal rights that have little to no effect on your rights — besides the right to keep ignoring that the LGBTQ community exists as fellow human beings — is not actually persecution. If you want to know what being kept silent really means, ask any gay man over the age of 60 the definition. I’m willing to bet it doesn’t feel like being on a conservative radio show with thousands of listeners.

Until the Houston court hears the case, HERO will not be enforced.

H/T: Right Wing Watch Photo: JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-News, 2012

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