Would Santorum put the Bible over the Constitution?

Rick Santorum campaigns Monday in  Livonia, Michigan. His mingling of church and state worries commentator Dean Obeidallah.

Story highlights

  • Dean Obeidallah: Rick Santorum annoyed the media ask for his stance on social issues
  • Obeidallah: But doesn't he get how running for president works if he raises those issues?
  • Santorum says he almost threw up at John Kennedy's stand on separation of church and state
  • Obeidallah: Santorum must clarify he will not put religion over Constitution

Poor Rick Santorum. He is very frustrated and apparently now a bit nauseous.

The "liberal elite" media are getting under his skin with their incessant questions about his views on social issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and birth control. (Santorum's opposition to birth control seems a bit disingenuous since he loves to wear a sweater vest -- which I view as a form of birth control.)

This frustration was bad enough, but his emotional state recently took a turn for the worse. On Sunday, Santorum reiterated that he "almost threw up" after reading John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech that declared a president's religious views were private and should not be "imposed by him upon the nation."

It appears that Santorum is an irritated, woozy wreck of a presidential candidate. Maybe that is why this week he requested Secret Service protection. (My question is: Who is going to protect us from Santorum?)

Dean Obeidallah

The joking and nausea aside, I can't comprehend how Santorum could be distraught when the media inquire about topics he raised? Is he confused about how this whole running for president thing works? Or does he not understand the words coming out of his mouth?

Santorum was so distressed by the "liberal" media that he took off time from campaigning last week in Michigan and Arizona and headed to Dallas seeking refuge with the least liberal elitist media person he could find: Glenn Beck.

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There, Beck and Santorum sat on couches directly across from each other, making it look less like a political interview and more like a session with "Dr. Phil." It wasn't long before Santorum opened up to "Dr. Glenn" about his feelings regarding the "bad" media: "They ask the question, 'Why are you always talking about contraception?' I said, 'Because that's all you want to ask me about.' I mean, it is frustrating. ... You can get a little frustrated."

I was hoping Beck would offer Santorum one of Dr. Phil's famed lines of advice such as: "No dog ever peed on a moving car."

Despite all Santorum's talk that our nation's and God's laws must agree and that biblical truths are the basis for his views on social issues such as same-sex marriage, he assured us during last week's CNN debate in Arizona that he does not intend to transform his religious beliefs into public policy: "Just because I'm talking about it doesn't mean I want a government program to fix it."

Sorry, you can't have it both ways. You can't try to win conservative voters by telling them that the Bible -- not our Constitution -- is the standard our laws must agree with and then try to assure mainstream Americans that you don't mean it. In the words of Dr. Phil: "That dog don't hunt."

Santorum needs to come clean with the American people. Is his allegiance to the Bible or the Constitution? Will he publicly recognize there is a separation of church and state in America? Does he believe the United States does not have an official religion?

Kennedy -- a Roman Catholic like Santorum -- was dogged by these same issues when he was running for president. Kennedy addressed this matter head-on in that 1960 speech to a group of Protestant ministers: "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. ... I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

To say Rick Santorum is no John Kennedy is too easy. It's like comparing Justin Bieber to the Beatles. But Santorum has a chance to follow Kennedy's example despite his feeling that the 35th president's sentiments in that speech almost made him want to "throw up."

To be honest, however, even if Santorum would make such a speech, it would be more challenging for him to put this issue behind him than it was for Kennedy. After all, it was not Kennedy who raised these issues but his opponents, who claimed that he would be more loyal to the pope and Catholic law than the Constitution.

In contrast, Santorum intentionally made these subjects a central theme in his campaign, often sounding less like a person running to be the leader of a democratic nation and more like someone seeking the position of pastor or the leader of a province in Afghanistan.

I believe most Americans -- including myself -- suspect that a president's faith could color his decisions on some level. But I hope that most Americans would, too, agree that a president's religious beliefs should be subservient to our Constitution.

Even Ronald Reagan stated clearly that: "Church and state are, and must remain, separate." We now need to hear that from Santorum.

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