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Rick Santorum has sought to project a sunnily suburban, regular guy appeal as he vies for the GOP presidential nomination. But whenever I have seen him during the campaign, there seems to be a seething and loathing just beneath the surface that he has to struggle to keep from leaking out.  

But back in 2008, while a senior fellow of the neoconservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, we got a glimpse of what it is that is so churning under his public face.  In a speech, he quietly explained to students at Ave Maria University, in Naples, Florida  that Satan, the "Father of Lies", is destroying America.  Part of Satan's effort, according to Santorum, has been to so transform the mainline Protestant churches in America -- that they are no longer even Christian.  

This may come as a surprise to the 45 million people of the member communions of the National Council of Churches, such as The Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA).  But Santorum's view that the mainline churches have gone the way of Satan is unambiguous -- as is his suggestion that his own Catholic Church remains Satan free.  

Kyle Mantyla at RightWingWatch has posted an audiotape and transcript of Santorum's speech at the school, which was  founded by Domino's Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan.

Here is the section where Santorum denounced the historic Protestant churches:

And so what we saw this domino effect, once the colleges fell and those who were being education in our institutions, the next was the church. Now you’d say, ‘wait, the Catholic Church’? No. We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic, sure the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it. So they attacked mainline Protestantism, they attacked the Church, and what better way to go after smart people who also believe they’re pious to use both vanity and pride to also go after the Church.  [Emphasis added]
How bad is this?  Well, let's consider that it cannot be construed as a slip of the tongue or an offhand remark.  This is part of a formal presentation that is still posted on the web site of Ave Maria University.  

I cannot recall any major pol challenging the legitimacy of anyone's religious traditions in the U.S. -- let alone demonizing some of the central religious traditions in the history of the country.  This is of a piece with the far right attacks on Muslims, atheists and Jews -- and should be denounced in the same terms.

This is what religious bigotry looks like.  

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 08:05 PM PST.

Also republished by Street Prophets .

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