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ADL again slams Santorum on church-state

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Anti-Defamation League once again reprimanded Rick Santorum for his advocacy of a church role in governing.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator vying for the GOP presidential nod, told ABC over the weekend that a landmark 1960 speech outlining church-state separations by then-presidential candidate John F. Kennedy almost made him "throw up."

"To say that people of faith have no role in the public square?" Santorum said. "You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?”

In a letter, ADL national director Abraham Foxman and national chairman Robert Sugarman suggested that Santorum was misrepresenting the speech.

"The genius of the Founding Fathers was to find a way, with the establishment clause and the free exercise clause, to protect the new nation from the kind of religious persecution that had resulted from official state religions and religious wars in Europe," the letter said.

It was the second time this election season that Santorum was rebuked by the group. In January, Santorum told a caller on a talk show that "we always need a Jesus guy" in the campaign, which the ADL rejected as "inappropriate and exclusionary."

Kennedy spoke in his speech of religious institutions, not people, and said the institutions should not "impose its will." He did not reject a public role for the institutions and decried "acts against churches."

Kennedy did say in his speech that church-state separation should be "absolute," which Santorum rejected.

"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," Santorum said in his ABC interview. 

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