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Santorum, under fire for Satan comments, recalls Reagan's 'courage'

February 22, 2012|By Mitchell Landsberg
(AP Photo/Eric Gay )

Reporting from Tucson — The evil empire is back on the national stage.

Nearly 30 years after President Reagan first spoke about the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," Rick Santorum brought it up Wednesday -- in apparent reference to a flurry of attention being given remarks he made four years ago about the devil.

First, some background.

In 2008, speaking to students at a Catholic school, Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., Santorum spoke of a satanic assault on the United States.

“The Father of Lies has his sights on what you would think the Father of Lies would have his sights on: a good, decent, powerful, influential country -- the United States of America,” he said, according to a tape of the remarks on the university website. “If you were Satan, who would you attack in this day and age? There is no one else to go after other than the United States.”

In the same speech, Santorum seemed to suggest that mainline Protestant churches have been influenced by Satan and are no longer Christian. He said the devil had exerted control over academia and then began attacking Christianity. “And of course,” he said, “we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is a shambles, it is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”

Excerpts of that speech began showing up on liberal websites such as RightWingWatch.org in recent days. On Tuesday, after it had been featured on the Drudge Report, Santorum was asked about it by CNN after an appearance in Phoenix. “I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil,” Santorum said in response to questions from CNN. “If somehow or another because you’re a person of faith and you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president.”

"If they want to go ahead and dig up old speeches to a religious group they can go right ahead and do so. I'm going to stay on message. I'm going to talk about the things Americans want to talk about," he added.

Santorum is Catholic and frequently speaks of his faith as being fundamental to his life and political views.

On Wednesday, speaking at a tea party event in Tucson, Santorum diverted from his usual rhetoric about foreign policy to talk about “those who seek to oppress – yes, evil forces around the world.” He then brought up Reagan, saying: “Ronald Reagan was courageous enough to go out and speak out about the forces of evil, not just around the world but, by the way, in this country. … Why? Because America stands for something. We stand for goodness, we stand for freedom, we stand for human rights, we stand for the dignity of every human person. That is who we are.”

mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com

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