The problem with Rick Santorum is not his faith

wrote a couple weeks ago about the Obama administration’s mandate that contraception be covered by insurance plans provided by Catholic-associated organizations.  The outrage on the right about the mandate was almost universally centered around the idea that it was an attack on the freedom of religion.  As I argued in my previous post, these critics were missing the point entirely.  Mandates like this one had nothing to do with religion, and were wrong regardless of whether they violated religious or secular liberty.

Now many on the right have inexplicably chosen big-government “conservative” Rick Santorum as their standard-bearer.  Despite his awful fiscal record, being named something other than Mitt Romney has allowed Santorum his time in the spotlight.  And he has enjoyed every minute of it, offering soundbite-worthy quotes at nearly every event.  Many of these statements have brought to light his very extreme views on social issues.

Predictably, Santorum’s views on things like abortion, homosexuality, and contraception have caused an uproar amongst those who do not share his worldview.  Santorum has been savaged for things he has said both recently and in the past.  Whether or not you believe him to be a sexist or a homophobe, it’s clear that his opinions are not shared by millions of Americans, and in fact cause great offense to many.

Yet again, conservatives are missing the point.  Religious conservatives like David Limbaugh have taken to blogs, papers, and Twitter to decry what they see as bigotry against those of faith.  To them, the real problem that people have with Santorum is simply that he’s a Christian/Catholic who adheres to his faith.  Of course, the simple reality is flying right over their heads.  The problem with Santorum’s views is NOT simply that he has them - many leaders and commentators have strong faith.  The problem is that he sees it as his job to make the rest of us follow his.

For instance, just a few days ago the top article on the issues page at Rick Santorum’s campaign website was concerning pornography.  It has since been moved, but Think Progress was able to get a screencap.  The article itself is still there, and it’s worth a gander.  Here is a sample of what Santorum sees as a valid role for the President:

For many decades, the American public has actively petitioned the United States Congress for laws prohibiting distribution of hard-core adult pornography.

Congress has responded.  Current federal “obscenity” laws prohibit distribution of hardcore (obscene) pornography on the Internet, on cable/satellite TV, on hotel/motel TV, in retail shops and through the mail or by common carrier. Rick Santorum believes that federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced.  “If elected President, I will appoint an Attorney General who will do so.”

Note that he’s not talking about child porn, which 99.99% of people are okay with banning.  This is about good old-fashioned adult porn, which Santorum views as something that ought to be regulated by the government.

Now, most Americans are okay with porn, but also respect the views of those who see it as immoral and harmful.  I have no problem if you want to block it from your computer or try (however futilely) to prevent your children from seeing it.  But when someone says that that is the job of Congress, I cringe.  It’s the perfect example of Rick Santorum wanting to impose his views, in this case that porn is bad, on all of us.

So could we please stop pretending that the problem we have with Santorum is just his faith?  Sure, there are some that hate him for it, be they anti-Catholic or broadly anti-religion.  But the vast majority of people are fine with whatever someone believes personally, provided they keep it to themselves.  I realize that it’s tempting to want to portray yourself as persecuted, but let’s not miss the obvious here.  The uproar is about how Santorum’s faith would impact me, as a secular American, not over him simply believing in Roman Catholicism.

I would even go further to say that there is nothing at all wrong with being a social conservative.  Libertarians and social conservatives will very often disagree, but we both add something to the discussion.  I have no problem if you want to say that we should show respect for tradition, or slow down before we make a change.  You can make your case in the public arena.  And if you wish to live your life a certain way, or by a certain faith, that is perfectly fine.  What is not fine is trying to make me do that as well.

And that’s the problem with Rick Santorum and people like him.  It’s not that he sticks to his beliefs (in fact, that’s rather admirable).  It’s not that he speaks of demons and spiritual warfare.  It’s not even that he has disdain for certain “immoral” lifestyles.  The problem with Rick Santorum is that, to him, these are matters of public policy.  And I’ll oppose anyone, of any faith, who seeks to regulate morality.

 


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