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This Week in God, 12.6.14

Rick Santorum has a bold, new argument: the separation of church and state is not an American principle -- it's a communist principle. Wait, what?
Former US Republican Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013.
Former US Republican Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013.
First up from the God Machine this week is a provocative argument from one of the more high-profile figures from the world of religion and politics.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who's reportedly gearing up for another Republican presidential campaign, told a right-wing audience this week that "the words 'separation of church and state' is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That's where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours."
To be sure, Santorum has never been a fan of the First Amendment principle -- he once said the argument makes him want to "throw up" -- but to suggest church-state separation is communist is pretty outrageous.
Simon Brown's reply summarized things nicely.

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. 

As for the constitution from the USSR, it copied a variety of our First Amendment principles -- including freedom of speech and press, which the Soviets promptly ignored -- but it obviously doesn't mean our First Amendment is communist.
But even putting all of that aside, what I'd love to know is what Santorum would, if he had the power, replace the American tradition with. If the Pennsylvania Republican could, he'd apparently knock down Thomas Jefferson's church-state wall in its entirety. Fine. But what exactly would he prefer as an alternative? Does Santorum see theocracies abroad as a superior model?
Also from the God Machine this week:
* What a bizarre case out of Colorado: "A federal judge last week rejected a newly-elected Republican Colorado state representative's claim that the U.S. navy violated his religious freedom. Gordon Klingenschmitt, who once tried to perform an exorcism on President Obama, claimed that he was wrongfully dismissed as a Navy chaplain for attending in a religious event."
* According to research published by the Public Religion Research Institute, 77 percent of the nation's white evangelical Protestants believe recent natural disasters are more related to the Biblical "End Times" than climate change (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip).
* Busy days at the Vatican: He has dismissed and demoted cardinals, bishops and the Vatican secretary of state, and now Pope Francis's reformist zeal has claimed a new scalp – the head of his own private army, the Swiss Guard (thanks to my colleague Ron Dodd for the heads-up).
* This story out of Georgia is a lawsuit waiting to happen: "There will be no mosque in Kennesaw. At least not right away. The Kennesaw City Council voted on Monday to reject the request of a group of Muslims seeking to establish a worship center in the city. Anti-Islamic demonstrators outside of Kennesaw City Hall made it clear that they believe an Islamic worship center is not welcome in Kennesaw."
* These cases never go well for the plaintiff: "A federal judge in Connecticut has rejected the arguments of a home invasion killer on death row who complained that the food he is being served in prison is not kosher."