GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Sunday that the shooting that left nine people dead at a a historically black church in Charleston, S.C., was without question "an act of terrorism," but he refused to weigh in on a renewed debate about whether the Confederate flag should continue to fly outside the South Carolina state capitol.

"I don't think there's any question when someone comes into a church for the reasons of racism and hate that they're trying to terrorize people," Santorum said on ABC’s “This Week.” "I don't think there's any question this is an act of terrorism and it's as purely evil as we've seen in this country in a long, long time."

While presidential candidates in the GOP field have universally condemned the massacre inside Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, they have frequently taken less direct positions when asked whether they believe it is appropriate for the Confederate flag to fly on State House grounds.

“I take the position that the federal government really has no role in determining what the states are going to do," Santorum said. "This is a decision that needs to be made here in South Carolina. I have my opinion. But I think the opinion of people here in South Carolina and having them work through this difficulty is much more important than politicizing it."

That position – which many critics have suggested is a way of dodging the question to avoid angering voters in early-voting South Carolina – has been echoed by several other presidential candidates since the shooting.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) doubled down on that position, which he also expressed during the 2008 election, stressing that the question is for South Carolinians to address.

"I still feel like it's not an issue for a person running for president…If the state government in South Carolina wishes to address an issue in their state, that’s fine,” Huckabee said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." “Everyone is being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president. My position is it most certainly does not.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), who is also seeking the GOP nomination for president, sought to walk a middle ground on whether the continued use of the flag should be reassessed.

"At the end of the day, it's time for people in South Carolina to revisit that decision, [that] would be fine with me. But this is part of who we are. The flag represents to some people a civil war, and that was the symbol of one side," Graham said Friday in an interview with CNN. "To others, it's a racist symbol. And it's been used by people in a racist way."

But not everyone has walked such a fine line.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Saturday reiterated his call for the Confederate flag to come down. Meanwhile, former Florida governor Jeb Bush said in a statement released Saturday that his position was clear: "In Florida we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged."

Read more:

The fight over a Confederate emblem

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COLUMBIA, SC - JUNE 27: Demonstrators protest at the South Carolina State House calling for the Confederate flag to remain on the State House grounds June 27, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Earlier in the week South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley expressed support for removing the Confederate flag from the State House grounds in the wake of the nine murders at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)