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Religious leaders say on Easter that faith and politics are inseparable

Influential pastor Rick Warren defended the place of religion in politics during a television interview that aired Sunday morning, arguing that “faith is simply a world view.”

Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., a mega-church with a weekly attendance of 20,000, and the best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life.”

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“I certainly believe in the separation of church and state. I do not believe in the separation of faith and politics,” Warren said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Everybody has a world view. So we’re saying that only those with religious world views aren’t welcome at the table?”

Warren made his statements only a few weeks after a Pew Research Center survey showed 38 percent of Americans -- an all-time high -- believe political leaders spend too much time talking about religion. A majority, 54 percent, said churches should stay out of political debates.

Warren made the case that religious beliefs cannot be separated from policy decisions but also said politicians should not try to force others to conform to their own doctrines.

“Everybody’s world view informs how they vote on any particular policy,” Warren said. “I’m in favor of everybody being able to come to the table with a world view. I do not believe in imposing what I believe on everybody else.”

The role of religion in politics has been a subject of debate during the presidential election. The three leading Republican candidates have described a “war on religion” in America.

Rick Santorum, a Catholic, has been particularly vocal about what he sees as a cultural effort to squeeze faith out of the political arena. He said last October that President John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech about faith in public life made him feel sick.

“Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up,” Santorum said during a speech in New Hampshire.

Defending his comment in February, Santorum said “the idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.”

Kennedy, also a Catholic, delivered a speech during his presidential campaign to address public concerns about the impact his faith would have on his policy decisions.

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him,” Kennedy said.

Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, said on Sunday that both Kennedy and Santorum make valid points.

“I would’ve cheered what John Kennedy said; he was right,” Dolan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “That having been said, I would also say that Senator Santorum had a good point because unfortunately what John Kennedy said ... has been misinterpreted to mean that a separation of church and state also means a cleavage, a wall, between one’s faith and one’s political decisions.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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