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Super Tuesday: Churches that embrace Santorum, Gingrich drive youth away

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (both Catholic) make regular campaign stops at evangelical churches and are often met with raucous applause. But such displays of partisan faith are partly responsible for the recent mass exodus of young people from Christian churches.

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Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop at the First Redeemer Church Feb. 19 in Cumming, Ga. Mr. Santorum and fellow presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich (both Catholics) have made regular campaign stops at evangelical churches. Op-ed contributor Jonathan Merritt explains that such mixing of religion with partisan politics is helping to drive young people away from churches.

Eric Gay/AP

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In a sleepy town 30 miles north of Atlanta, former Sen. Rick Santorum stands behind the pulpit of an evangelical church to deliver a hard-hitting speech on religious liberty and conservative values. His rousing delivery Feb. 19 convinced more than a few attendees. “He sealed the deal,” a 58-year-old retired secretary told The Washington Post.

One week later, Newt Gingrich would stand on the same sacred stage to lecture congregants on how America’s “secular left” wars against religious persons. The thrice-married former speaker of the House nurtured no illusions regarding his own sanctification. “I don’t come here as a saint,” Mr. Gingrich said. “I come here as a citizen who has had a life that at times has fallen short of the glory of God who has had to seek God’s forgiveness and had to seek reconciliation.”

Though both presidential hopefuls are Roman Catholic, they have made regular campaign stops at evangelical churches. Their presence is often met with raucous applause. But as it turns out, such displays of partisan faith are partly responsible for the recent mass exodus of young people from Christian churches.

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