Soviet Smear: Santorum Spreads Old Lie Linking Church-State Separation To Communism

Here’s a newsflash for Santorum: Williams, Jefferson and Madison were not communists. Madison died in 1836. The first Soviet Constitution was ratified in 1918. It’s not hard to figure out that Madison had nothing to do with it.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) once said of himself and his Religious Right allies: “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side….” After Santorum’s recent comments about church-state separation, it’s not hard to see why. During a conference call with members of extremist pastor (and failed Virginia political candidate) E.W. Jackson’s STAND America, Santorum propagated an old, tired lie about the First Amendment.

“[T]he words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union,” he said. “That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours.” (Thanks to People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch for the audio.)

While the U.S. Constitution does not contain the phrase “separation of church and state” and the old Soviet Constitution did proclaim that “the church is separated from the state,” Santorum could not be more wrong.

As famed church-state lawyer Leo Pfeffer once explained: “It is true, of course, that the phrase ‘separation of church and state’ does not appear in the Constitution. But it was inevitable that some convenient term should come into existence to verbalize a principle so widely held by the American people….” In other words, church-state separation is a summary of the Constitution’s religion clauses. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Roger Williams was talking about church-state separation in 1644. More than 100 years later, key founders like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson championed the idea. Madison, who is widely considered to be the “father of the Constitution,” was a primary drafter of the First Amendment. In a document known as the “Detached Memoranda,” Madison wrote, “Strongly guarded…is the separation between religion & Gov’t in the Constitution of the United States….”  

Here’s a newsflash for Santorum: Williams, Jefferson and Madison were not communists. Madison died in 1836. The first Soviet Constitution was ratified in 1918. It’s not hard to figure out that Madison had nothing to do with it.

The Soviet Union was a massive failure run by a lot of evil people, but its constitution contained some lofty ideas, some of which the reds clearly swiped from us. The document guaranteed freedom of the press, speech and assembly. It also promised: “The equal rights of citizens of the USSR are guaranteed in all fields of economic, political, social and cultural life.” Of course, we know it was all just talk. These measures weren’t actually put into practice.

Why does anyone even want Santorum’s opinion, anyway? He has risen through the ranks of the Religious Right thanks to his positions on “culture war” topics like abortion, same-sex marriage and prayer in schools. Along the way, he has made some pretty extreme statements, telling rape victims to “make the best out of a bad situation” by not aborting a fetus if they get pregnant, and claiming that business owners who refuse to serve same-sex couples are being sent to “re-education camps.”

But nothing he says is new, and yet he is a regularly featured speaker at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., and at other Religious Right confabs.    

Despite that niche popularity, Santorum hasn’t held any public office since 2006. But it’s not for lack of trying. He lost his senate seat eight years ago by a whopping 17 percent and failed to secure the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 – even though God wanted him to run. He has flirted with the idea of running for president in 2016, but has not yet made a formal announcement. (No word yet on where God stands on that decision.)

In recent years, Santorum has been running a film production company that makes Christian movies. That’s where he belongs, not in public office. Anyone with such a poor understanding of the U.S. Constitution has no place in government.