Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Would Santorum put the Bible over the Constitution?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
February 29, 2012 -- Updated 0000 GMT (0800 HKT)
Rick Santorum campaigns Monday in Livonia, Michigan. His mingling of church and state worries commentator Dean Obeidallah.
Rick Santorum campaigns Monday in Livonia, Michigan. His mingling of church and state worries commentator Dean Obeidallah.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Rick Santorum annoyed the media ask for his stance on social issues
  • Obeidallah: But doesn't he get how running for president works if he raises those issues?
  • Santorum says he almost threw up at John Kennedy's stand on separation of church and state
  • Obeidallah: Santorum must clarify he will not put religion over Constitution

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah is an attorney turned comedian and commentator. He has appeared on Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil" special, ABC's "The View" and HLN's "The Joy Behar Show." He is co-executive producer of the annual New York Arab-American Comedy Festival and co-director of the upcoming documentary: "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- Poor Rick Santorum. He is very frustrated and apparently now a bit nauseous.

The "liberal elite" media are getting under his skin with their incessant questions about his views on social issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and birth control. (Santorum's opposition to birth control seems a bit disingenuous since he loves to wear a sweater vest -- which I view as a form of birth control.)

This frustration was bad enough, but his emotional state recently took a turn for the worse. On Sunday, Santorum reiterated that he "almost threw up" after reading John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech that declared a president's religious views were private and should not be "imposed by him upon the nation."

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

It appears that Santorum is an irritated, woozy wreck of a presidential candidate. Maybe that is why this week he requested Secret Service protection. (My question is: Who is going to protect us from Santorum?)

The joking and nausea aside, I can't comprehend how Santorum could be distraught when the media inquire about topics he raised? Is he confused about how this whole running for president thing works? Or does he not understand the words coming out of his mouth?

Santorum's college and religion claims
Santorum calls Romney 'a joke'

Santorum was so distressed by the "liberal" media that he took off time from campaigning last week in Michigan and Arizona and headed to Dallas seeking refuge with the least liberal elitist media person he could find: Glenn Beck.

There, Beck and Santorum sat on couches directly across from each other, making it look less like a political interview and more like a session with "Dr. Phil." It wasn't long before Santorum opened up to "Dr. Glenn" about his feelings regarding the "bad" media: "They ask the question, 'Why are you always talking about contraception?' I said, 'Because that's all you want to ask me about.' I mean, it is frustrating. ... You can get a little frustrated."

I was hoping Beck would offer Santorum one of Dr. Phil's famed lines of advice such as: "No dog ever peed on a moving car."

Despite all Santorum's talk that our nation's and God's laws must agree and that biblical truths are the basis for his views on social issues such as same-sex marriage, he assured us during last week's CNN debate in Arizona that he does not intend to transform his religious beliefs into public policy: "Just because I'm talking about it doesn't mean I want a government program to fix it."

Sorry, you can't have it both ways. You can't try to win conservative voters by telling them that the Bible -- not our Constitution -- is the standard our laws must agree with and then try to assure mainstream Americans that you don't mean it. In the words of Dr. Phil: "That dog don't hunt."

Santorum needs to come clean with the American people. Is his allegiance to the Bible or the Constitution? Will he publicly recognize there is a separation of church and state in America? Does he believe the United States does not have an official religion?

Kennedy -- a Roman Catholic like Santorum -- was dogged by these same issues when he was running for president. Kennedy addressed this matter head-on in that 1960 speech to a group of Protestant ministers: "I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. ... I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

To say Rick Santorum is no John Kennedy is too easy. It's like comparing Justin Bieber to the Beatles. But Santorum has a chance to follow Kennedy's example despite his feeling that the 35th president's sentiments in that speech almost made him want to "throw up."

To be honest, however, even if Santorum would make such a speech, it would be more challenging for him to put this issue behind him than it was for Kennedy. After all, it was not Kennedy who raised these issues but his opponents, who claimed that he would be more loyal to the pope and Catholic law than the Constitution.

In contrast, Santorum intentionally made these subjects a central theme in his campaign, often sounding less like a person running to be the leader of a democratic nation and more like someone seeking the position of pastor or the leader of a province in Afghanistan.

I believe most Americans -- including myself -- suspect that a president's faith could color his decisions on some level. But I hope that most Americans would, too, agree that a president's religious beliefs should be subservient to our Constitution.

Even Ronald Reagan stated clearly that: "Church and state are, and must remain, separate." We now need to hear that from Santorum.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNNOpinion.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Get all the latest news at CNN's Election Center. There are race updates, a delegate counter and much more.
A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
November 8, 2012 -- Updated 1841 GMT (0241 HKT)
Democratic and Republican congressional leaders continue to sharply disagree over the key issue of whether top tax rates should be raised to help resolve the looming crisis.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 1924 GMT (0324 HKT)
In a historic turnaround, the ballot box is showing America's shifting attitudes about same-sex marriage.
Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
November 8, 2012 -- Updated 0919 GMT (1719 HKT)
The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
November 7, 2012 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.
November 8, 2012 -- Updated 0034 GMT (0834 HKT)
Democrats will retain their control of the Senate after winning several closely contested races on Tuesday.
ADVERTISEMENT