Right-Wing Firebrand Rick Santorum on His New God Doc

For his next act, the former presidential contender reinvents himself as the conservative Al Gore

One Generation Away is a new documentary about “religious freedom”—the hot conservative rallying cry of the moment—and comes off as a kind of evangelical version of An Inconvenient Truth. It argues that the right to practice religion is currently under threat in the United States. But the film’s version of religious freedom is a decidedly Christian one: It will be released this September not in theaters, but rather in thousands of churches across the country.

That’s the distribution model for Echolight Studios, a “faith and family” production company headed by Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator (he lost his seat in 2006) and 2012 Republican presidential candidate. Santorum has a knack for incendiary statements and promotes an uncompromising brand of ultra right-wing orthodoxy. For instance, during a 2011 interview, he said, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country.” A year later on the campaign trail, he caused an uproar when he attacked John F. Kennedy for a famous 1960 speech that advocated for the separation of religion and politics. “To say that people of faith have no role in the public square?” Santorum said. “You bet that makes me want to throw up.”

One Generation Away takes a milder tone but is no less brazen. It revolves around several major court cases. There is Hobby Lobby, in which the owners of a private company refuse to provide contraception coverage for their employees. There are bakers in Oregon who decline to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. And there are cheerleaders in Texas who defy authority and paint signs with biblical messages on them for football games. All of them are depicted as being unjustly persecuted. For example, after the bakers refuse to whip up a cake for a lesbian couple, they’re removed from referral lists and ultimately the cake shop is forced to close.

In every situation, familiar conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Tony Perkins—the leader of the Family Research Council, which is considered an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center—are rolled out to indict religious discrimination. These crusaders are pitted against the usual liberal suspects: a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a couple of professors.

We spoke with Santorum about what religious freedom actually means.

Does One Generation Away advocate for a particular point of view?

No question. We come down on one side.

So why bother putting the ACLU lawyer or the liberal professor in the film at all?

It’s important for Christians—because the movie is being shown in churches—it’s important for them to see why people want to change America.

Did you find their arguments compelling?

The answer to that is no. They believe their freedoms are the highest freedoms, but that doesn’t mean they’re right for society.

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