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Rick Santorum's Theocratic Hypocrisy

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Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum just criticized President Barack Obama for not building his policy decisions on Biblical principles. He argued that the President's agenda is "about some phony ideal. Some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology."

These bizarre comments open Santorum to severe criticism from two directions. First, if what he is saying is correct, all of us who care deeply about the United States should rejoice. Second, if he believes that the only appropriate policy positions are those based on Biblical teachings, he should be ashamed of his position supporting creationism.

Let me explain. Do Santorum and his supporters really think that the United States should become a theocracy? Frighteningly, many of them do -- as long as the theocracy is one which privileges their God. How can Santorum and his friends not see the hypocrisy of demanding Biblical adherence -- or at least their interpretation of what such adherence might mean -- while railing against the nonexistent possibility that Sharia law might be enacted in some municipality in some state?

Steve Benen who writes on this topic cogently and often said it best a while back when it was Sarah Palin rather than Rick Santorum who was promoting a theocratic vision for America: "There are some countries that endorse Palin's worldview and intermix God and government -- Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan under Taliban rule come to mind -- but they're generally not countries the United States tries to emulate."

If President Obama's policies make sound political sense, if they help people survive and thrive, if they protect our country while promoting peace around the globe, and if they are not directly rooted in one narrow interpretation of one religious text, good for him and good for us.

If Santorum really believes what he's saying on this issue why does he not follow his own advice? He is fully in favor of creationism being taught in public school science classrooms and laboratories. Back in 2001 he attempted to have Congress require the teaching of creationism in public schools all across the United States while undercutting the scientific integrity of evolution. He hasn't backed down from this position at all in his latest campaign.

The problem is, as I wrote on these pages almost two years ago, Santorum's own church, the Roman Catholic Church, is in favor of the teaching of evolution. Santorum minces no words when he declares that Catholics have to follow the teaching of their church. In an op-ed piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer in December of 2009 entitled "The Elephant in the Room: Catholics Must Heed Teachings," Santorum wrote, "Catholics must be true to their consciences. But that is not a free-floating guide that we can define ourselves. A Catholic is required to form his conscience in accordance with the church's teachings on faith and reason, and to act in a morally coherent and consistent way, both privately and publicly."

The fact is, though, that Santorum doesn't like the teachings of his own church when it comes to evolution, so he goes his separate way. And make no mistake about it, the Roman Catholic Church has come out solidly in favor of evolution. Let me quote what I wrote two years ago to illustrate this point:

Consider the conference entitled "Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life," put on by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2008. The Pontifical Academy gathered together some of the world's best scientists to discuss evolution. Pope Benedict XVI not only sanctioned the meeting, he addressed the scientists.

The sense of the meeting was well summarized by Nobel laureate Christian de Duve who wrote, "The participants unanimously accepted as indisputable the affirmation that the Universe, as well as life within it, are the products of long evolutionary histories." He also noted that "the actual occurrence of biological evolution is no longer just a theory, strongly suggested by fossil evidence, but not conclusively demonstrated by it. Evolution is now supported by overwhelming molecular proofs and has acquired the status of established fact. In the words of His Holiness John Paul II, it is 'more than a hypothesis'."

The Pontifical Academy itself, on January 24, 2009 issued a statement arising from the meeting that is as powerful as it is clear. "It is important for scientific knowledge on evolution to become integrated into our world-view and for our world-view to be steadily updated. The extraordinary progress in our understanding of evolution and the place of man in nature should be shared with everyone."

So Rick Santorum is apparently a hypocrite of the worst sort. He uses the Bible and his church for cover when he thinks it serves his purposes and he walks away from those same things when he finds them personally distasteful.

Santorum said, "A Catholic is required to form his conscience in accordance with the church's teachings on faith and reason, and to act in a morally coherent and consistent way, both privately and publicly." But he refuses to accept his own clearly stated requirement. The obvious conclusion is that the theocracy that Santorum wants to advance is one of his own design. That's even more frightening than a Biblically-based theocracy.