In the Battle for Michigan, Santorum says Separation of Church and State has been “Turned on its Head”

Feb 27, 2012 2:45pm

LIVONIA, Michigan–Just hours before voters in this state go to the polls, Rick Santorum said the separation of church and state in America has been “turned on its head.”

“You hear so much about separation of church and state. I’m for separation of church and state. The state has no business telling what the church to do,” Santorum said at a Chamber of Commerce meeting, apparently referring to the requirement from the Obama administration that all institutions that provide health insurance, including Catholic hospitals, cover birth control and emergency contraception.

“But the separation of church and state that our founders believed in, which is what I just described, has now been turned on its head. And now it’s the church, people of faith who have no right to come to the public square and express their points of view, or practice their faith outside of their church,” Santorum said.

Sunday on ABC’s This Week, the former Pennsylvania senator told George Stephanopoulos “I don’t believe that the separation of church and state is absolute,” when discussing John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech about the separation of religion from government.

He also told Stephanopoulos the speech “makes him throw up.”

And on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday he got into a back and forth with David Gregory about his focus on the culture war aspect of the campaign.

“I get the question all the time, ‘Why are you talking so much about these social issues,’ as they, as, as people ask me about the social issues,” Santorum told Gregory.

He seemed to echo that back and forth when he sent a message to the reporters covering the event.

“All reporters in the back they say, oh there’s Santorum talking about social issues again. No, I’m talking about freedom. I’m talking about government imposing themselves on your lives,” Santorum said to the crowd of about 300.

Santorum is facing off in this state against Mitt Romney,who was born and raised here. His father was a popular governor. Most recent polls show the two head to head within the margin of error, making this last minute sprint for Santorum around the state crucial.

“As you can imagine, I am pretty excited to be here. This is not a place that frankly I thought we were going to be competing at the level that we’re competing,” Santorum said dressed in suit, tieless and without his signature sweater vest.

He spent most of his address talking about his economic plan and touted the Wall Street Journal’s review of it. He did go after Romney saying the election is not about “beating up your opponent or outspending them ten to one, but actually going out and running a race that elevates the discussion.”

“The Wall Street Journal calls it a bold tax plan,” said Santorum. “They don’t necessarily agree with all of it, I don’t care if they agree with all of it. This is a tax plan that isn’t conforming to any type of school of economics because America has it’s own destiny, we don’t fit into those schools, we cut our own path , we are Americans. We  can do things differently and we can be successful in doing it.”

He also hit his opponent–as he has consistently while campaigning in this state–for supporting the financial bail out or the Troubled Asset Relief Program and being against the bail out of the auto industry.

“Why are we giving away government’s role in bailing out companies? I know that’s not a popular topic here in Detroit, but at least i’m consistent,” Santorum said. He opposed both.

The “Big Three” American automakers all posted profits this year, with General Motors breaking record profits.

Santorum said he’s “looking forward to hopefully a great night tomorrow” when he finds out the results not only from Michigan, but Arizona as well and told the audience the country needs a nominee “who actually doesn’t want to run for president because they want to be the most powerful person in the world,” they want to run for president because they want to turn the power in this country back to the American people,” an apparent veiled hit at Romney.

He also said he’s the candidate that is “try(ing) to paint this positive, hopeful optimistic vision.”

But within that optimism is a fair amount of fear. On the campaign trail, Santorum has compared the state of the country to World War II and said if the nation keeps going down the path it is on it could find itself in the same situation as right before the French Revolution.

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