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Santorum: Voters should get 'nervous' about Obama on religion

Escalating his attack on President Obama over matters of faith and politics, Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum said Monday that Obama had been "particularly weak" in protecting religious liberty around the world and compared him to "tyrants" who want to limit the role of faith in their citizens lives.

The former Pennsylvania senator made the remarks in a speech to several hundred students at Hope College, a Reformed Church school in Michigan, which holds a crucial Republican primary next Tuesday. Santorum spent the afternoon and evening appealing for support in the state's conservative western half.

Referring to the Obama administration, Santorum said: "You can see why they don't stand up for religious liberties. It's pretty obvious that they don't think religious liberties are particularly a high priority. When you have the president of the United States referring to the freedom of religion and you have the secretary of State referring to the freedom of religion, not as the freedom of religion but the freedom of worship, you should get very nervous, very nervous.

"Because there's a lot of tyrants around the world who will talk about freedom of worship, but they won't talk about freedom of religion. Freedom of worship is what you do within the four walls of the church. Freedom of religion is what you do outside the four walls of the church. What the president is now seeming to mold, in the image of other elitists who think that they know best, is to limit the role of faith in the public square and your role to live that faith out in your public and private lives.

"This is a very dangerous thing, so it's not surprising to see that the president has done virtually nothing in calling out China in its repression of religion."
Santorum went on to deplore "the persecution of the Coptic church" and the decline of Christianity in Iraq, where it "has almost been wiped out."

"We've had a president for three years who says nothing, does nothing, allows it to occur," he said, biting off his words for emphasis. "No, this president has not stood up for human rights and has not stood up for religious liberty."

Santorum also returned to another socially conservative theme that he had mentioned at almost every recent stop in neighboring Ohio, which holds its primary March 6: what he described as Obama's "assault on all religion in America."

He pointed to the Hosanna-Tabor case, decided earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, in which the Obama administration argued that there was no "minister exception" to the nation's anti-discrimination laws.

Under that doctrine, which the Supreme Court rejected in a unanimous decision, the government "could force this church to hire ministers who didn't subscribe to the beliefs of the church, otherwise they would be discriminating against them in employment practices," Santorum said. "So the United States of America could tell your church who could preach to you on Sunday, even though that person doesn't agree with the belief structures of your church. This happens in China.  Not in America."

paul.west@latimes.com

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