Santorum Talks About Faith-Based History, Populism, and Conscience Rights at CPAC

Santorum Talks About Faith-Based History, Populism, and Conscience Rights at CPAC

Former Sen. Rick Santorum hit all the major issues and talked about the need for Republican unity at CPAC Friday, and gives every appearance of testing the waters for a presidential run in 2016.

Shortly into his speech, Santorum winged Sen. Ted Cruz and several other Tea Party favorites. The former Senate Republican Conference Chairman cautioned that Republicans “need to be really careful not to attack those on our side out of a sense of purity unless absolutely necessary.”

Santorum also faulted the GOP for its messaging, recasting issues in populist terms such as speaking about creating manufacturing and blue-collar jobs rather than dwelling on tax cuts for employers or emphasizing cutting government. “We have to let people know that we think good jobs are better than food stamps.”

A devout Roman Catholic, he noted that Pope Francis has not modified a single doctrine of the Catholic Church but draws vastly larger crowds than his predecessor. The 2012 presidential candidate credits the pontiff’s large crowds to his connecting with the common man.

He then turned to broad, long-term cultural trends, echoing the frustrations of many in terms of what society needs to instill in the next generation: “What do we say America is?”

“Who are we? Do we remember the pilgrims as real human beings… who suffered horribly?” asked Santorum. “They suffered religious persecution… they lost spouses and children.”

According to the senator, these stories are part of our national identity and teach the principles that propelled the United States to such success. “Americans used to know these stories… about our greatness.”

Santorum cast America’s history in faith-based terms: “God had his hand on this country.” Citing one of the pivotal moments in American history, he gave as an example of this providence George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Night in 1776, an attack that historians agree seemed an almost impossible feat yet one which turned the course of the Revolutionary War.

Santorum also rallied to the defense of people of faith who are increasingly besieged by political and media elites, mainly on the coasts but increasingly even in the heartland. Santorum lambasted those who deride people of traditional Christian faith as “crazy evangelicals,” noting that these were the people who led the anti-slavery movement, and that a century later, the civil-rights era was sparked by another serious Christian named Rosa Parks.

Quoting the well-known line from Abraham Lincoln, Santorum pivoted to current social issues with, “We should not pray that God is on our side, but that we are on God’s side.”

He then struck a chord that just in the past few months has become vitally important to people of observant faith, speaking of First Amendment rights of conscience. He sided with business owners who are being sued for conducting their businesses consistent with their faiths, emphasizing that government “can’t tell us what we do when we leave church.”

He specifically referenced recent lawsuits and fines being imposed on Christian-owned businesses that decline on First Amendment grounds to participate in same-sex marriage ceremonies or give free birth control or abortion-inducing drugs to employees under Obamacare.

Though the senator did not mention these specifics, the Supreme Court is going to hear two challenges to this Obamacare regulation on Mar. 25 and also decide this month whether to hear a case from a Christian photographer who declined to take a job making a celebratory photo-shoot of a same-sex commitment ceremony.

Santorum insisted, “The government must say out of the marketplace of ideas and beliefs.” Making the point that such precedents could later be used to coerce people to act against their beliefs on any issue – not only religious beliefs but political beliefs as well – he added, “It threatens to undo all freedoms for every American.”

Rick Santorum didn’t make any announcements at CPAC, but it’s likely we just heard what would be the broad themes of a second presidential campaign.

Ken Klukowski is senior legal analyst for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @kenklukowski.


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