Religious leader to Santorum: Exit the race

(CBS News) Richard Land, a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, said Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum should think about leaving the presidential race.

In an interview which aired Sunday on "Face the Nation," Land said that Santorum, who is trailing front-runner Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican nomination, "ought to seriously consider leaving the race now."

"In eight years, he'll be three years younger than Romney is now," Dr. Land, who is friends with Santorum, told host Bob Schieffer. "But you know, running for president is a very personal decision; when to get out is a very personal decision, and he's going to have to make that."

Santorum has been seeking the advice of conservative leaders, some of whom he met with in the Washington, D.C. areas last week to determine his campaign strategy moving forward. On Saturday Santorum's campaign dismissed any indication that he might exit the race.

In addition to offering advice to Santorum, Land defended the Southern Baptist Convention's alignment with the Republican Party.

"We didn't make abortion on demand illegal in every state in the country and strike down the laws against abortion in all 50 states," he said. "We didn't seek to erode the expression in the public square by people of faith."

During the religion roundtable discussion, Land and journalist Andrew Sullivan, out with a new article in Newsweek "Christianity in Crisis," who said the politicization of religious groups, including the Southern Baptists, interferes with the message of faith.

"I think they're muddying the real, radical truth of Jesus which is, we will gain power by giving it up," Sullivan said. "That we do not seek in the public sphere to have any power but to be powerless. And Jesus was absolutely a-political. Anti-political, given the chance to be political, he's only on the cross because he refused politics."

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The heated exchange between Sullivan and Land included politicians invoking God in political speeches and churches making political endorsements in church services.

"Let's stop the hypocrisy of one party being welded to one religious (group). The religious left is the Democratic Party of prayer," Land said.

Sullivan responded: "The religious Right is infinitely more powerful and controls all of the Republican Party in a way that the religious Left has nothing like [within the Democratic Party]."

The roundtable also included Luis Cortes Jr. President of Esperanza; Rabbi David Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles; and Sally Quinn of the Washington Post's On Faith website.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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