Campaigning in Iowa in December, Santorum said Obama and his allies have “secular values that are antithetical to the basic principles of our country.” In Des Moines a few days later, he said the same people adhere to a “religion of self” rather than one based on the Bible. Speaking to a group of ministers in Plano, Tex., earlier this month, Santorum argued that the left is “taking faith and crushing it.”
In Tucson on Wednesday, Santorum said the president is “systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian values of America.”
Santorum has regularly argued on the campaign trail that Obama and his allies’ views on abortion, same-sex marriage and the proper role of government prove they have distinctly secular values — and that the election offers a key and perhaps final chance for religious people to fend off their intrusions.
The relationship between religion and government has emerged as a flash point in the presidential campaign in recent days after an effort by the Obama administration to require religious institutions to include contraception in health insurance plans for employees. All of the Republican candidates objected to the effort, which the administration tweaked after a massive outcry, especially from Catholics.
But even in a nominating process heavy on Christian themes, Santorum, who is Catholic, stands out for his comfort in embracing religion. His contention that government is intruding into religious liberty predates the Obama decision.
After he made the “phony theology” remark, Santorum said he was discussing the president’s environmental policies, not questioning his Christian faith. And Hogan Gidley, a Santorum spokesman, said the media are more focused on such comments than voters are. Gidley said news stories have put too much emphasis on Santorum’s comments about religion and not enough on his views on job creation, improving manufacturing and slowing government growth. And, he said, they fail to properly cast them as part of Santorum’s “overarching theme” about the role of government.
“He discusses religion in a broader context, that we are given rights, we are endowed by our Creator with rights, and those rights are being taken away when government grows in size,” Gidley said. “People clap for that. They don’t gasp. People say, ‘Yes, our rights do come from God and yes, the government is taking them away.’ ”
During his December stop in Marshalltown, Iowa, Santorum made his case in typically emphatic terms. Opposition to abortion, he suggested, is the only logical conclusion of core American beliefs. He raised the promise, made in the Declaration of Independence, that all people are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.