Politician Stands Up for Church/State Separation

Here’s a quote that will no doubt make Rick Santorum sick to his stomach when he reads it. It’s another one of those liberal, socialist, anti-god politicians supporting the separation of church and state, the kind Santorum really hates.

We in the United States, above all, must remember that lesson, for we were founded as a nation of openness to people of all beliefs. And so we must remain. Our very unity has been strengthened by our pluralism. We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief.

At the same time that our Constitution prohibits state establishment of religion, it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral.

Who said that? Known communist Ronald Reagan.

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  • Ellie

    I think it’s quite obvious that Reagan would never be nominated by the GOP today.

  • Someone should quote this without attribution at some wingnut site and see how they react when told it’s a Reagan quote.

  • slc1

    Ah, that was just Reagan brown nosing to AIPAC.

  • Chiroptera

    I agree that this is funny.

    However, to be pedantic for a moment, I have to point out that a huge chunk of the Religious Right believe that they are standing up for religious freedom. They really believe that the courts striking down, say, the majority desire to have school kids recite state sponsored prayers is a blow against their religious freedom.

    Some are a bit more honest, like the reconstructionsizers or dominicanialists or whoever, and admit that their first obligation is to God, Constitutional principles be damned. I don’t know where Santorum lies on that spectrum.

    On the other hand, the quote does include the phrase “Church and state are, and must remain, separate.” This is awfully close to “separation of Church and State” that the Christofascists insist is nowhere in the Constitution.

    Okay, pedantry off. This quote from Reagan is pretty funny.

  • brianthomas

    Excellent find. Good, now I can add this one to my arsenal of Barry Goldwater quotes. I just wonder, while watching the modern day theocons descend into what can only be described as sheer madness, if they will end up calling Reagan a “librul” too just like they did Barry Goldwater when he started speaking out against the Religious Right.

    “A lot of so-called conservatives don’t know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.” – Barry Goldwater, 1994 interview in the L.A. Times

  • Michael Heath

    In fairness to Rick Santorum’s position which is shared by nearly all American conservatives, Ronald Reagan not only didn’t condemn policy arguments premised in Christian beliefs which were in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Reagan also frequently took that same position himself. In addition we frequently see modern-day conservatives make similar arguments to Reagan’s here as proof of their fealty to the Constitution while next making an argument in direct violation of the Constitution and the underlying values expressed in the relevant clauses.

    For example, school prayer where President Reagan lobbied for a constitutional amendment to allow the government to hold school prayer in a manner that resulted in those opposed to government-led prayers being treated as second class citizens in direct violation of the Constitution.

    I argue secularists should always reveal that religious-based arguments which conflict with the Constitution are unconstitutional and in direct opposition to our founding values. The media continually fails to note such. That religionist arguments make their advocates effective opponents of our form of government, opponents of liberty, opponents of the U.S. Constitution, and opponents to our expressed founding values where we secularists instead continue to follow the lead of the framers to attempt to ‘form a more perfect union’.

  • llewelly

    But then he supported the Global Gag Rule.

    Yes, I would much rather today’s Republicans had Reagan’s combination of half-hearted, special case support of separation of church and state, and nice rhetoric about how important it was, than the blatant theocracy advocacy of so many of today’s Republicans.

    But Reagan did support many grievous violations of church state separation, some of them at great cost.

  • Michael Heath

    A point of clarification to my above post.

    I appreciate Ed repeatedly pointing out rhetoric and even policy positions and accomplishments by President Reagan which are now best championed by President Obama and/or the Democrats and expressly opposed by today’s conservatives. Especially when Reagan’s positions are equivalent to laudable founding values. So my criticism here is not of Ed, but instead an argument that while Rick Santorum’s rhetoric is further down the slippery slope of Christianism than President Reagan, President Reagan was also sliding down that very slope. A slope filled with contradictory hypocritical rhetoric.

    I think it’s also important to point out that Barry Goldwater was no great friend of secularists either. Sure he opposed Christianists for which he should earn our kudos, but he also promoted the unconstitutional argument that states have sufficient power to deny individuals their rights protected under the U.S. Constitution. In fact Mr. Goldwater was arguably the most effective 20th century advocate of the so-called states’ rights position.

  • Randomfactor

    And Reagan in that very same speech used the Republican Party’s empty promises of opposing anti-Semitism as a partisan weapon against the Democrats.

    He also announced his administration’s support for a Connecticut law which granted the right to refuse to work on the sabbath. The law had been struck down because it put religious concerns ahead of secular ones and ahead of the concerns of employees who do not observe a particular religious day. The Supreme Court agreed that it was an establishment issue and disagreed with Reagan.

  • llewelly

    I think it’s quite obvious that Reagan would never be nominated by the GOP today.

    Half of Mitt’s problem is that he is a lot like Reagan.

    The other half of Mitt’s problem is that he is a shitty campaigner (quite the opposite of Reagan).

    In other words, I’m not convinced Reagan would have a hard time winning the current Republican primary. Sure, he’d have to move to the right, and he would need to use much more right wing rhetoric. But I believe he would have been fully capable of both of those things, had he somehow been able to run today.

    In practically every state they have run in, Newt and Santorum have flubbed a dozen or so delegates simply because they couldn’t find someone to handle the bureaucracy correctly. Mitt is just kind of riding that advantage, but Reagan would have taken it and beat them with it. Reagan was actually quite good at capitalizing on the weaknesses of his opponents, and also good at deflecting criticism (especially valid criticism). Yes, he’d be sharply criticized for having said many things right wingers would perceive too secular, or liberal. But he would handle that flack a lot better than Romney, even though he’d get more of it.

  • Randomfactor

    I think it’s quite obvious that Reagan would never be nominated by the GOP today.

    Sure he would. They’d just hand him a different script these days, is all.

  • Michael Heath

    I think it’s quite obvious that Reagan would never be nominated by the GOP today.


    Sure he would. They’d just hand him a different script these days, is all.

    I agree it’s likely that President Reagan could very well be a player within today’s conservatism where his positions would be more reflective of modern-day conservatism. However it’s ahistorical to argue that President Reagan merely followed a script blessed by some nefarious powers you fail to name.

    Many of President Reagan’s most distinguishing accomplishments were implemented to the great ire of mainstream conservatives – his rejection that mutually assured destruction was viable policy, engaging directly with the USSR in hopes of ultimately eradicating nuclear weapons, that the USSR could very well implode, that a progressive tax scheme where the highest income earners should realize a higher effective rate greater than working class Americans, compromising with liberal Democrats on budgets which had him increasing taxes in order to better manage debt being a handful of examples which were not trivial policy matters. In fact around the midpoint of Reagan’s first term conservatives were considering running an opponent in the ’84 primary because of their increasing frustration the president so frequently implemented policies antithetical to conservatism.

  • Freeman

    What right-wingers love and loved about Reagan wasn’t his political views, it was his political assets and how they could be used to win big at the ballot box. Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

  • sanecitizen

    Magnificent find. Since Ronald Reagan has been elevated to demi-god status in the right-wing pantheon, how can they argue with this? To deny Reagan is thus tantamount to blasphemy. Brilliant.

  • patrickadkins

    Hi Ed,

    You and I actually agree on Rick Santorum.

    See here:


    I am a Christian, I make zero apologies for that; however, I believe Santorum to as dangerous as or more dangerous than Rick Perry. He is a true blue Christianist Theocrat. Those people worry me worst than radical Muslims. Because for intents and purposes; they are the moral equivalent of such.

    Also too, I would like to apologize to you for acting like an idiot. It was unbecoming of someone who is supposed to be of the Faith. It is something that I fully admit of not being very good at; I have reasons for that, but I won’t clutter up your comments section with it.

    I wish you well on your new project.


  • patrickadkins

    oops! Worst = Worse

    More coffee…

  • tomh

    I think Reagan’s most lasting legacy is that he is really the one who brought the religious right into political prominence. Which is ironic, since he has a claim to being the least churchgoing president in history. But his famous 1983 speech, pandering to the National Association of Evangelicals, marked a turning point in their involvement in the Republican party. (He also coined the phrase, “evil empire” in that speech.) Things have been downhill ever since.

  • I as an atheist do not believe in hell, but there are times I wish there were.

    And this is one of those times.

    I know ronnie ray gun did not say that in the last few days.

    Because, if there were a hell Ronnie would be there for sure.

    And I believe he would be to busy skull fucking Andrew Breitbart to make any kind of coherent statement.

    May they both rot in hell,,,,,LOL

  • Ichthyic

    President Reagan was also sliding down that very slope.

    I have to agree with Heath here; this use of a quote from Reagan seems eerily similar to creationists quotemining Einstein or Darwin to support the false notion they were Christians.

    Some of us who lived in CA recall HOW Reagan got himself noticed; he was originally a stooge for the McCarthy panels.

    He was not a man for fair and equal treatment, THAT is the true irony of this quote.

  • Ichthyic

    I think Reagan’s most lasting legacy is that he is really the one who brought the religious right into political prominence.

    no… the neocons of the time, the ones that made Reagan their stooge, long before had realized the value of the religious right as a voting block.

    it’s just during Reagan’s administration that the strategy was embraced publicly.

    But yeah… downhill from there indeed.

  • Who Knows?

    Santorum doubles down on crazy.

    Once the U.S. Constitution is amended to prohibit same-gender marriages, “their marriage would be invalid,” the former Pennsylvania senator said Dec. 30 in an NBC News interview.

    “We can’t have 50 different marriage laws in this country,” he said. “You have to have one marriage law.” Rick Santorum

    Read more

  • Michael Heath

    Rick Santorum says:

    We can’t have 50 different marriage laws in this country. You have to have one marriage law.

    I agree with Mr. Santorum. In fact the Constitution already and clearly obligates this from our government, just not the way Mr. Santorum fantasizes.

  • Gregory

    I posted this quote, sans attribution, to a chat board that has recently become overrun with theoconservatives. They howled their outrage, right on cue. I then posted a link to the speech, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/RR10_26_84.html. So far, none of the theocons have responded.

    I suspect that their heads blew up.

  • Was this before or after he told the Christian Coalition: “I know you can’t endorse me, but I want you to know that I endorse you!”

    Reagan — and most politicians — was a man of convenience. He said what was most effective given his context, not necessarily what he really believed.