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Santorum discusses religious freedom with students

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Students packed into a ten Hoor lecture hall Monday night to hear former senator and former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum discuss the future of religious liberty in the United States.

Santorum, former senator of Pennsylvania, said that the current political climate has caused people of faith to withhold their thoughts and opinions on controversial issues, such as same-sex marriage and abortion, out of fear they may be labeled hateful or bigoted.

He said that he views freedom of religion to be the “trunk from which all other freedoms branch from” and that it should also grant the right to speak freely about one’s religion and beliefs, even when those beliefs are contested by others.

“When we see the reaction across this country, particularly on college campuses, of people being offended or trying to restrain or restrict religion and faith to just the four walls of the church or your own closet where you may pray, (this) is abhorrent to the American experiment,” Santorum said.

Santorum encouraged people to voice their beliefs even when they may not welcome hostility from those who disagree, and said being afraid to tell the truth is a “road to chaos.” He added that welcoming other opinions and listening to one another, even in disagreement, is the key to heal the division of the current political climate. 

After his speech, Santorum answered questions from audience members that both agreed and disagreed with his stances, but Santorum said that he appreciated that all sides remained respectful and everyone’s voice was heard.

“It was probably the most civil of all of the meetings of any campus I’ve been to,” Santorum said. “Obviously there were people who disagreed with me but everyone was incredibly civil and it turned out to be a terrific night.” 

Joseph Ballard, president of the University of Alabama chapter of Young Americans for Freedom, said that he was pleased with the turnout to the event and that attendees asked engaging questions on serious subjects.

“I think this was fantastic,” Ballard said. “It was very civil and a lot of people got to ask questions and there was a mix of people who agreed and disagreed with him and I think that’s what’s important when we have a speaker like this come to campus.”

Cody Leach, a sophomore political science major at the University of Alabama, said that he worked for Santorum’s campaign in 2012 and that his “godliness” is part of what drew Leach to the event.

“Senator Santorum has a career of fighting for those without a voice,” Leach said. “He’s just such an incredible person and I’ve had such an honor seeing him through CPAC and he doesn’t just fight for the values that he believes in, but he also lives out those values.”  

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Santorum discusses religious freedom with students