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OPINION

Land: Santorum should consider dropping out

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Richard Land suggested it was time for Rick Santorum to abandon his presidential campaign in an Easter Day appearance on the CBS News program "Face the Nation."
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Land said during the April 8 program the former senator has done a "remarkable job on a shoestring budget" in his run for the White House, but that he should "seriously consider leaving the race now." Land is president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

In a response to a question from Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, Land noted the decision to drop out of the presidential race is a "very personal decision" and that it would be up to Santorum to determine if and when he should bow out.

Land joined Roman Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Newsweek magazine columnist Andrew Sullivan, Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles's Sinai Temple, Sally Quinn of The Washington Post, and Luis Cortes of Esperanza, a prominent Hispanic faith-based network, in discussing the role of religion in the presidential campaign. The program was prerecorded.

The SBC's Land took issue with Santorum's recent critique of then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy's 1960 address to Houston's Baptist Ministerial Association. Kennedy, who was Catholic, explained, "I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office."

In a February media appearance, Santorum, who said Kennedy's speech nauseated him, took issue with "an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

Land, who said he had read Kennedy's speech "about 30 times," told the panel that Santorum didn't understand what Kennedy was saying in the address. Land explained there is a role for religion in politics but that it shouldn't be an "institutional role."

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Cardinal Dolan expressed concern that the notion of separation of church and state has been misinterpreted to also mean a "wall between one's faith and one's political decisions, between one's moral focus and the way one might act in the political sphere." He said it was incorrect to suggest that faith has no place in the public square.

"I think the public square is impoverished when people might be coerced to put a piece of duct tape over their mouth," he continued.

Land agreed, noting it was an early Baptist, Roger Williams, who contributed the concept of religious liberty as a major plank in America's founding. "We believe absolutely in the separation of church and state to protect the church from the state," Land said.

"There are many of us who are concerned about government intrusion on the free exercise of faith," he continued. "It never was intended to mean the separation of religiously informed morality from public policy," Land added.

Wolpe noted there are some clergy who are immediately recognizable for their political associations. "That seems to me to suggest that the person is over-identified with political causes," he said, suggesting if a person's first impression with a religious leader is their political leanings, "that's a leakage of politics into the pulpit that seems to me unhealthy."

Quinn said religion shouldn't be used as a way to influence politics and public policy. "Separation of church and state is in the eye of the beholder," she added.

"There is an enormous amount of hypocrisy," Quinn continuing, faulting those on the left and the right "where people see religion is an issue to get votes and they play on it. That is the real problem here."

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Sullivan took aim at the Southern Baptist Convention, saying it and other like-minded groups have "become self-consciously political" and "fused with one political party, the Republican Party." He said this arrangement is prompting many to "feel that faith and Jesus is about politics and power and partisanship."

Land took issue with Sullivan's portrayal of the relationship between the GOP and conservative evangelicals, noting, "Most of the involvement of evangelicals in the public realm has been defensive. It wasn't offensive."

He noted as well that the Republican Party is not the "only party that tries to claim God for themselves," listing several occasions where Democrat leaders, including President Obama, claimed Christ's support for their positions.

Dwayne Hastings is a vice president with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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