Rick Santorum: Separation of Church and State ‘Makes Me Want to Throw Up’

Rick Santorum on Sunday took on separation of church and state.

“What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?” Mr. Santorum said on the ABC News program “This Week.” Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

With two days left before the high-stakes Republican primaries in Arizona and Michigan, Rick Santorumdelivered a full-throated defense of religion in public life on Sunday, appealing to the social conservatives who have revived his presidential campaign, reports The New York Times.

“I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state are absolute,” he told ‘This Week’ host George Stephanopoulos.

“The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up,” Santorum said.

Appearing on “This Week,” Mr. Santorum was asked about several of his recent comments, including why he derided President Obama — whom he called a “snob” — for encouraging all Americans to attend college.

Santorum kept up his tough social conservative message, with attacks on Obama and former President John F. Kennedy.

“There are lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams,” Mr. Santorum said.

According to Reuters,  Santorum also said Obama’s goal “devalues the tremendous work” of those who do not attend universities.

“We have some real problems at our college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people who, you know, who may not agree with the politically correct left doctrine,” Santorum said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

“And one of the things that I’ve spoken out on – and will continue to speak out – is to make sure that conservative and more mainstream, common-sense conservative principles that have made this country great are reflected in our college courses and with college professors. And at many, many, and I would argue most institutions in this country, that simply isn’t the case.”

His rival Mitt Romney, who has struggled to persuade conservatives of his ideological commitment, made his own, subtler case to the same constituency on Sunday.

“But, you know, if you look at my record in Massachusetts, I’m a solid conservative — a committed conservative with the kind of principles I think America needs,” Mr. Romney said on Fox News Sunday, ticking off his record of cutting taxes, enforcing illegal immigration laws and opposing same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, polls show the candidates running roughly even in Michigan, as well as nationally, and the question for both of them is how Mr. Santorum’s provocative and assertive outreach to the religious right will resonate with voters, both in the contests this week and in the dozen on “Super Tuesday” on March 6.

Santorum’s rise and Romney’s weakness have sparked speculation about more contenders jumping into a Republican race that could last all the way to a brokered convention in August. The Michigan result could shift that speculation into overdrive, says Reuters.

“A Santorum win in Michigan takes all of the talk about a new candidate or a brokered convention and puts it on steroids,” Republican strategist Todd Harris said.

If Romney pulls out a victory in Michigan and in Arizona, where he has a more comfortable lead in polls, he would regain command of the frequently shifting race but could still face a long nominating battle that could extend into June.

Some recent polls show Romney, who has unleashed a flood of negative attack ads on Santorum, taking a slight lead in Michigan. He overcame what had been a big deficit after Santorum swept three contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado earlier in the month.

After Tuesday, the Republican race quickly goes national with 22 contests in March, including 10 states on Super Tuesday on March 6. That could bring Romney’s financial and organizational advantages to the fore.

But the Super Tuesday contests include conservative states like Tennessee, Oklahoma and Georgia, where former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is making a stand. They could give Romney’s rivals enough momentum to extend the campaign.

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