Mohler Sides with Santorum Against Kennedy

We’ve written a few times before about Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The last time was here: Albert Mohler Defends Genesis Again.

Although we disagree with Mohler’s rejection of science, we’ve always expressed our respect for the way he justifies his position solely on theological grounds, and never disgraces himself with the nonsense of creation science. In our last post we said:

We think he’s wrong to do so [reject science], but he keeps his views within his faith, and — unlike a certain Seattle think tank — his life’s mission isn’t to crush science and establish a theocracy.

Now we have to retract our remark that his mission isn’t about establishing theocracy. That’s because of a new column he wrote which appears at the CNN website: Santorum’s right, JFK wrong on separation of church and state. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Over the weekend, Santorum told ABC’s “This Week” that reading the text of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association made him physically sick: “I almost threw up.”

You can see a video of Santorum’s remark here, together with Kennedy’s speech. Let’s read on from the Mohler’s article:

Explaining what made him almost throw up, Santorum pointed to a statement Kennedy made early in the speech: “I believe in an America where separation of church and state is absolute.”

Santorum retorted, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

You can always spot a theocrat by hia position on the First Amendment. Mohler continues:

There can be no “absolute” separation of church and state. Such an absolute separation would, in theory, prevent any conflict or controversy between religious bodies and government. As just about any edition of a major newspaper makes clear, these conflicts occur over and over again.

It’s true that such conflicts continually recur, but that doesn’t argue against an absolute separation of church and state. Rather, it points out the problems inherent in mixing the two.

Now we will digress for a moment to remind you of one of our former posts, in which we gave James Madison’s position on this subject — which just might be more authoritative than Santorum’s or Mohler’s. Madison, as you know, was the author of the First Amendment. In a letter to Robert Walsh written in 1819, Madison said:

The Civil Govt, tho’ bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

And in 1822, in his Letter to Edward Livingston, he wrote:

Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty, & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Govt. & Religion neither can be duly supported. Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst. And in a Govt. of opinion, like ours, the only effectual guard must be found in the soundness and stability of the general opinion on the subject. Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

Okay, you know Madison’s thinking on the subject, and you know what Kennedy and Santorum said. Here’s more from Mohler:

That argument [for absolute separation] worked for Kennedy in 1960 when he was running for president against anti-Catholic prejudice. It does not work when we have to engage in the hard process of establishing public policy.

That depends on the policy to be established, doesn’t it? Moving along:

The secular left is deeply committed to their idea that public arguments must be limited to secular reason, with religious beliefs and arguments ruled out of bounds.

[...]

Santorum is surely right when he spoke of these things as “absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

Again, that depends on the candidate’s vision for the country. If he wants it to be theocratic, then yes, the First Amendment (properly understood) is “absolutely antithetical” to that vision. Another excerpt:

The very fact that, in 2012, a presidential candidate from one party can create instant headlines by arguing against a speech made by a presidential candidate of the other party, more than 50 years ago, should be enough to convince any fair-minded American that we still have much work to do as we try to reason with each other about these questions.

Indeed, there is much work to be done. That work should start with teaching the proper meaning of the Constitution. Anyway, now you know that Kennedy’s position on church and state — which is also Madison’s position — makes Santorum throw up. And Mohler agrees with Santorum. That’s too bad, really. We used to respect Mohler.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “Mohler Sides with Santorum Against Kennedy

  1. “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”
    He then said:
    “This is the First Amendment. The First Amendment says the free exercise of religion.”
    So, I think when Santorum says church-state separation is antithetical to American Values, blah blah, he means that he interprets the “free exercise” clause of the 1st amendment to mean that church/religion has an unlimited right to involvement wherever it thinks proper, even government. He means our notion of church-state separation is antithetical to his notion of the 1st amendment. To him, there is no contradiction with the establishment clause, because he interprets it to mean involvement of government in church affairs is forbidden, but not vice-versa. This way, he can have his Constitution and eat it, too.

  2. Excuse the quote mining but I like the Ronald Reagan quote regarding the topic:

    We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate.

    All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to to speak of and act on their belief.

    At the same time that our Constitution prohibits state establishment of religion, it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral.”

    Too bad Santorum never got the memo but I guess he was too busy pandering to the Republican fringe.

  3. Santorum rants: ““I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.” When Santorum says “church”, which church is he speaking of? Many of his loonier colleagues claim that Obama is a closet muslim – if they were so, under Santorum’s professed belief, an Islamic president should allow his religion to influence and be involved in the operation of the state. Or how about Romney’s Morman faith – if he is the nominee, will Santorum encourage readings from the Book of Mormon at capitol events?

    Oh, yeah, Santorum is a member of the one true faith, and all others are not really a “church” as defined in the first amendment.

    <Moehler opines: “The secular left is deeply committed to their idea that public arguments must be limited to secular reason, …” Is there no “secular centrist”, or “secular right”, anymore? Is “secular reason” now a political position, and not simply clear thinking? The fact is, evangelicals may dominate a certain part of the Republican party, but they are not the entire party – maybe not even 50%. Moehler seems to this his victory is complete (to quote Vadar) but outside of the separate universe inhabited by evangelicals, the country is still a secular nation, and as far as I can tell, wants to remain so.

    Here’s a little secular thinking…why not eliminate the property tax exemption for churches? That would do wonders for state budgets, and indirectly relieve some of the pressure on the federal government, thus reducing the deficit. Think of all the teachers and other workers recently laid off that could be rehired, helping the job situation, reducing entitlement spending, etc. Those are all excellent Republican goals. Seems like a ripe time to shore up the old wall separating church and state and end the religious exemption from property tax.

  4. ……..And Mohler agrees with Santorum. That’s too bad, really. We used to respect Mohler.

    The Catholic and Protestant fundies have agreed to work together
    to retake their white’s only House. So it is no surprise at all that
    Mohler would go along with Santorum. After all, he was their pick
    at the Texas Mafialike meeting.

  5. “We used to respect Mohler.”

    Ugh, who’s we, paleface. (Punchline to the old Lone Ranger and Tonto joke)

    Mohler is as two-faced and duplicitous as any religious fanatic. Just recently he was interviewed by the insufferable Barbara Haggerty on NPR and he was all milk and honey, let’s all get along and, mercy, me, how did you ever get the idea I was anti-science? Oh, Ah loves me some science and mo’ science is even bettah science!

    Total rubbish.

    Mohler is a complete biblical literalist to the point that he fired Dembski (speculation on “fired”) for breaking dogma with “millions of years” and “metaphors.” Shortly after Dembski’s dressing down, or carving up, at the hands of his boss, Mohler, Dembski recanted everything but I’m sure it stuck in his throat knowing how thin-skinned and proud is our Dembski. I can just imagine Dembski sulking in the seminary cafeteria doodling a picture of a donkey with Mohler’s face on it only to find Albert standing right behind him. Could have happened! More likely than the flood, actually.

    Nope, Mohler is an authoritarian creep who deserves ridicule, not respect. And if you think I’m harsh, if memory serves, Dawkins said of Kurt Wise (famous for stating that even if all the evidence in the universe was against him, he would still believe in the inerrancy of the Bible), “No I don’t admire him for saying that. He’s a disgrace to the human species.”

    I think Mohler gets off lightly with “creep!”

  6. Doc Bill says: “Mohler is as two-faced and duplicitous as any religious fanatic.”

    I respected his avoidance of creation science. That hardly matters, now that I see he’s a theocrat.

  7. This opinion by a Southern Baptist surprises me. From my youth I remember a discussion among the grown-ups in the family concerning the policy maintained by the local Baptist hospital of declining to accept public funds. Hospital administrators feared government support would mean government control. My Baptist relatives admired this stand.

  8. Ceteris Paribus

    @Retired Prof: The Southern Baptist Convention of 2012 is not the same Southern Baptist Convention of your youth. In 2000, after watching two decades of an internal battle over the creedal foundations of the sect, Jimmy Carter cut his ties with the SBC saying “I have finally decided that, after 65 years, I can no longer be associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.” In 2005 Carter wrote a book, “Our Endangered Values”, describing the dangers posed by a growing anti-democratic theocracy which had been openly infiltrating the SBC and US politics for two decades. (In 2006 Republican Senator John Danforth wrote a book on a similar theme: “Faith and Politics”

    It is no surprise that Santorum and Mohler have thrown in together in this political season to criticize Kennedy. What else could anyone expect from these apocalytptic cultists? Kennedy was a Roman Catholic, and the church and state separation that Santorum and Mohler agree with is the separation of the capital “C” Catholic church from government, and not the lower case “c” of their own evangelical fundamentalist Protestant churches.

    What we are facing now is the harvest of a couple of decades of fundamentalist revisionist history that still holds on to their pre-revolutionary war vision that the new world was intended to be the place where Jesus would arrive to found the Kingdom of God as promised in the apocalypses of Daniel and Revelations. By definition, a kingdom is not a democracy.

    And Santorum and Mohler will welcome conservative Catholics such as the US Bishops to join in the fight. After all, they hold the same view of the menial status of women as do Santorum’s clique. But after the KOG is established, the Catholics will be thrown under the righteous protestant church bus wheels along the Jews that the theocrats happily support with their passion to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and initiate the apocalypse.

  9. Ceteris Paribus

    Note: Santorum is himself a Roman Catholic. I was off the mark on statements above about church and state separation views depending on whether church is capitalized or not. But I still stand by my assumption that the KOG protestants regard conservative Catholics as useful idiots. It is in the same dismissive mode as the fundamentalists treat their conservative Jewish compatriots.

  10. SC wrote: I respected his avoidance of creation science. That hardly matters, now that I see he’s a theocrat.

    And, SC, I respect your point of view. In fact, I used to be a defender-ish of Kurt Wise for being an “honest” creationist, being out of the closet, so to speak.

    However, after hearing Dawkins’ condemnation of Kurt I have changed my opinion. I can no longer “respect” willful ignorance. Douglas Adams created the “B Ark” for a reason.

  11. It would be interesting to see Santorum confronted with Madison’s writings in an on-air debate. He most likely really would be sickened.

  12. aturingtest

    Ed says:
    “Moehler seems to this his victory is complete (to quote Vadar)…”
    I have to admit- it took me a while to figure out who Vadar was.
    The rest of your comment is spot on. I”ve been posting in comments sections of Yahoo articles on this subject for a couple of days now, and asking the same question: which friggin’ church? Christianity is not the monolith these people seem to assume, for the sake of their argument, that it is. I like the idea of taxing churches (all of ‘em) too. If they want their church to have a say in government equal to everybody else, they should be prepared to shoulder an equal share of the burden of it.
    I find it kind of ironic, but not really surprising, that fundagelicals are prepared to today embrace Santorum for endorsing the thing they feared in JFK fifty years ago. Any port in a storm, I guess.

  13. Many good comments; Santorum, Mohler, et al are not only willfully ignorant but also dangerous. As noted, they are all for a theocracy as long as it’s their theology. It should be noted that the fight for the separation of church and state started centuries ago with the Anabaptists. Then the church and state were one, and one’s “faith” and church membership were akin to one’s nationality. The Anabaptists were hunted down, tortured and murdered for their apostasy of claiming that one’s faith should be a conscious adult decision. Most Amish, Mennonites, Brethren, Hutterites today continue upholding the fundamental notion that the church and state should be separate. These groups are also considered outsiders and fringe by the Southern Baptists and other fundy evangelicals. Jimmy Carter once said that if he weren’t a Baptist, he’d be a Mennonite….not sure what became of that.

  14. @Doc Bill:
    >”However, after hearing Dawkins’ condemnation of Kurt I have changed my opinion. I can no longer “respect” willful ignorance. Douglas Adams created the “B Ark” for a reason.”

    Just be sure to keep your telephones properly sanitized.