As the Michigan Republican primary fast approaches, national and local newspapers — including The Michigan Daily — have honed in on the two candidates who have emerged as the frontrunners: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
Most recent polls show Romney and Santorum in a statistical tie in the race for the Michigan primary. Romney, Detroit-born and son of a former Michigan governor, beat John McCain in the Michigan primary four years ago. However, four years and one very different auto industry later, the sentiment of many Michigan voters toward Romney has changed.
Speculative poll results for the Michigan primary, combined with a recent three-state sweep, merit Rick Santorum a closer look. But the more I see, the less I like —not because he goes against my personal political views (though that may have something to do with it), but because the religious views he has expressed throughout this campaign are ones which no serious candidate for the presidency should ever get away with saying.
As a deeply religious candidate, it’s not surprising that religion plays a prominent role in Santorum’s campaign, especially as he tries to secure the evangelical and right-wing vote. However, when discussing his Christian faith, Santorum has made claims that are utterly false.
In a 2011 campaign rally in South Carolina, Santorum claimed, “The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. And that is what the perception is by the American Left who hates Christendom.” According to the “Encyclopedia Britannica,” the Crusades were a series of “military expeditions” whose “objectives were to check the spread of Islam” — the Crusades as a “fight of Christendom against Islam” is a historical truth, not a leftist lie.
If a student at the University made a claim identical to Santorum’s in an academic paper, he or she would undoubtedly face consequences. Such a reality implies that, as students, we are held to a higher standard than a candidate for presidency.
Propelling Santorum’s religious campaign are claims that Obama’s administration has been an “assault on all religion in America.” In a speech at Hope College in Holland, Mich, this Monday, Santorum said, “What the president is now seeming to mold, in the image of other elitists who think that they know best, is to limit the role of faith in the public square and your role to live that faith out in your public and private lives.” This claim comes after a comment Santorum made Saturday, calling Obama’s beliefs, “some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology.” If anyone is making an assault on religion here, I would say it’s Santorum.
Santorum asserts that his statement was not really about Obama’s religion but rather “about his world view, and the way he approaches problems in this country. I think they’re different than how most people do in America.” Equating a difference in approach to “the problems in this country” with a “phony theology” is extreme. Furthermore, as a citizen of a country whose government was established on the premise of separation of church and state, I take major issue with Santorum criticizing Obama for making decisions that aren’t “based on the Bible.” When one religious ethos begins to dictate America’s actions, the country ceases to be a democracy. It’s a theocracy.
In a recent blog post on The New York Times’ website, Santorum’s campaign has been called one of “religious supremacy.” In light of his recent statements on religion, that sounds about right.
It isn’t the first time in this campaign that a candidate has made offensive remarks (see: Rick Perry). However, these statements speak not only to Santorum’s close-mindedness as a candidate, but show his campaign to be one disproportionately concerned with religion in this country. As I said before, America is a democracy, not a theocracy. If Santorum’s campaign gave half the attention to America’s more imminent problems — like healthcare and economic reform — as it did to the faith of its citizens, perhaps he could gain a following composed of more than just right-wing Christians.
Sarah Rohan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.