Ironically, Rick Santorum and religion don’t mix — at least in the context of a presidential campaign. In extolling his own personal religiosity he repeatedly insults and demeans others. Certain mainline Christian churches aren’t Christian at all, he said. His followers are those who take religion “seriously.” He is lacking in respect and restraint when it comes to matters of faith, in part because he insists on telling everyone his views on everything from contraception to Satan’s contribution to the downfall of America.

Politico reports on another religious flap: “In 2010, Rick Santorum was paid to speak to a controversial religious group unpopular with some Jewish leaders because it seeks to convince Jews to accept Jesus. The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America paid Santorum $6,000 to speak at its 2010 annual conference, according to a filing released Wednesday showing a total of nearly $95,000 in speaking fees that Santorum previously failed to disclose.”

But some of the people who do take their religion seriously, Jews in this case, were understandably offended:

Some Jewish leaders have denounced Messianic Judaism as “religious fraud” intended to convert Jews to Christianity.

Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, which was created to fight anti-Semitism, condemned the group in 2008. He had harsh words Thursday for Santorum’s appearance.

“Political figures are free to raise money from whomever they want, so long as they disclose it, but considering the role Rick Santorum sees for religion in public life, it is very distressing that he would appear on the platform of a group that teaches that Jews should convert to Christianity,” Foxman said. “His decision to appear before a group of Messianic Jews was insensitive and offensive.”

At the time of the speech Santorum was not (to my knowledge) running for president. In a sense, this makes the speech even more revealing, for it suggests his true predisposition toward the group and his lack of comprehension regarding the long and sordid history of Christian conversion of Jews. Frankly, it is possible he agrees that Christians should convert Jews. His willingness to speak to that group certainly raises that issue.

In short, once again we see that Santorum may be devout in his own faith but indifferent or dismissive of others’ religious sensibilities — or lack of religiosity.

In this Santorum lives up to his reputation as an aggressively divisive figure who either enjoys creating hot-button issues and incidents or can’t help himself from creating a firestorm. That’s fine for pep rallies for the base and book sales, I suppose. But running for president and being president require a largeness of spirit and a level of personal restraint Santorum doesn’t have. Moreover, it’s not something one learns late in life.