Santorum: President Obama's DOMA Decision Will 'Eviscerate' Religious Freedom

March 07, 2011 1:15 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rick Santorum

This weekend, former senator and likely GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum wrote an op-ed in the Des Moines Register decrying the Obama administration's decision to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). According to Santorum, the administration's position is "absurd" and "the free exercise of religion will be eviscerated" unless DOMA is upheld:

Intellectually, morally, and constitutionally President Obama's claim is absurd. And it is a dagger aimed at the heart of a core constitutional value: the free exercise of religion.

Schools, the media, and even some politicians often like to remind us of the first part of our First Amendment - that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" - but tend to omit the remainder: "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."


I believe if two adults of the same sex want to have a relationship that is their business. But when they ask society to give that relationship special recognition and privileges, then we should be able to have a rational debate about whether that is good public policy.

We should also ensure the debate takes cognizance of its constitutional implications. And with the President's decision, the free exercise of religion will be eviscerated.

Santorum's reasoning, of course, is even more backward than his social views. In Santorum's mind, laws that don't comport with his religious beliefs infringe on his constitutional rights. He's positively undaunted by the notion that laws affirming his personal faith, such as DOMA, might violate somebody else's. 

What's more, Santorum might want to rethink his cocksure rejection of the Obama administration's legal argument. The general counsel for the ultraconservative American Family Association, Patrick Vaughan, has argued that DOMA "is probably unconstitutional" and that a provision allowing states to disregard marriages performed in other states "clearly violates the Constitution."