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Time for an exorcism? Santorum's 'Satan speech' comes back to haunt


The following Postmedia News story ran in the Feb. 22, 2012, edition of the Calgary Herald. Political scientist Matthew Wilson provided expertise for this story.

February 24, 2012

By Sheldon Alberts

WASHINGTON — The devil, you say.

Just when it seemed the Republican presidential race couldn't yield any more true surprises — or become any more surreal — suddenly Satan is part of the political conversation.

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is coming under new scrutiny over an old speech in which he said the United States was under threat from Lucifer himself.

"Satan has his sights on the United States of America," Santorum told a Catholic university audience in 2008.

"Satan is attacking the great institutions of America — using those great vices of pride, vanity and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that (have) so deeply rooted in the American tradition."

The remarks, publicized this week by the conservative Drudge Report and by liberal websites, have sharpened the focus on religious and cultural issues within the GOP just as the party's presidential contenders grapple with how to respond to an improving U.S. economy....

"Santorum is a Catholic who speaks a language that evangelicals are comfortable with, whether it is talking about spiritual warfare or whether it is talking about the moral decline of America," said Matthew Wilson, who teaches religion and politics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

"These are themes that resonate with evangelicals." 

But Santorum could benefit from "message discipline" to lessen the risk of alienating moderate Republicans or independent voters he will need to woo if he wins the Republican nomination, he said. 

"What a large number of Americans want from a president is innocuous Christianity," Wilson said. "They want a president who professes a religious faith without any hard edges — a president whose religious faith is worn rather lightly."

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