Rick Santorum, Hot Off Victory, Laps Up Praise From Santa Ana Religious Freedom Nonprofit

Last night, Rick Santorum trumpeted his solid GOP presidential primary defeats of Mitt Romney in Minnesota and Missouri and narrow win over the former Massachusetts governor in Colorado.

This morning, a Santa Ana-based nonprofit boasted that the former Pennsylvania senator was the first--and so far only--presidential candidate to sign its religious freedom pledge.

Open Doors USA, which fights the oppression of Christians in more than 50 countries and, according to its leaders, does not advocate for any particular political party or candidate, sent feelers to all presidential candidates asking them to check out their Presidential Pledge for Religious Freedom at PledgeforReligiousFreedom.com. The candidates were urged to sign the pledge if they agreed.

When the nonprofit got no response, follow-up contact was made with all candidates. On Friday, Santorum sent out a press release noting he was the first and only to sign the pledge.

The Presidential Pledge for Religious Freedom was drafted by Open Doors USA and Professor Tom Farr of Georgetown University. Candidates must agree to protect religious freedom "in full for all Americans" and to "advance international religious freedom as part of American foreign policy." The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Stuart Epperson of Salem Communications, Richard Bott of Bott Radio Network and Richard Land of the Southern Baptists Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission support the pledge.

"Open Doors USA is grateful for Sen. Santorum's principled stance on religious freedom and hope that his support for this pledge will bring more attention to an issue that has been largely neglected in the GOP presidential debates, as well as by most of the candidates in their campaigning," says Lindsay Vessey, advocacy director for Open Doors USA, in a statement to the media. "We sincerely hope other presidential candidates will join Senator Santorum in pledging their support for religious freedom in the Unites States and abroad."

Earlier today, facing 100 Christian pastors crammed into Bella Donna Chapel in McKinney, Texas, Santorum said that despite his focus on "the role of family in our society," he is not running to be "pastor in chief." He then urged the clergy to work harder--and asked for an "Amen," which he no doubt received.

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