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Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 7, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com
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Santorum defends religious freedom in front of hostile pro-gay crowd at George Washington U

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 2, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Former Republican senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum offered a vigorous defense of religious freedom amidst fierce challenges from pro-homosexual college students at a recent speaking event.

The Young America’s Foundation (YAF) of George Washington University hosted the senator March 30, and the event personified the country’s contentious split over homosexual “marriage” and religious liberty.

“The only sensitivity training we need is to respect every person,” Santorum told the roughly 200 students in attendance, according to The College Fix. “Tolerance is the most misused word in the English language.”

About half of the audience came in support of Santorum’s appearance while the other half was there to challenge him.

YAF, a socially conservative student group, had refused to take part in the student association’s recent mandatory LGBT sensitivity training, making the group a target for campus ridicule. Name-calling ensued, with liberals labeling YAF a hate group and a cancer, and comparing it to ISIS, as well as demanding its funding be revoked.

The pro-homosexual campus contingent criticizing YAF also took issue with its “refusal to use preferred gender pronouns,” saying this “should be considered an act of violence and a violation of the non-discrimination clause required in all GW student organizations’ Constitutions.”

Santorum had planned to address the YAF’s position on sensitivity training during his appearance, and with the invitation for him to speak fueling the fire, it was feared there would be protests at the event.

Security was tight as Santorum entered the fray Monday night, with backpacks, purses, and protest signs prohibited. A message was posted outside the venue stating that anyone disrupting the event would be removed by campus police.

Alternating applause came from the contrasting groups throughout the night as Santorum spoke or was challenged.

“Tolerance means you can say really horrible nasty things that I hate and offend me,” he told GWU students. “That’s how we get along. You have a right to be mean – a right to be nasty to people. That’s how this country works, because we have thick skins and we aren’t offended.”

Santorum opened by discussing conservative principles, the Iran nuclear weapons issue and Indiana’s recently adopted religious freedom law, the latter drawing one student to downplay the issue’s seriousness and argue that businesses should be compelled to serve everyone.

“People aren’t dying in America because of this,” the student said.

“Should a gay or lesbian-owned print shop have to print signs for the Westboro Baptists that say ‘God hates fags’?” Santorum shot back.

“If they have the money to pay, they should,” the student responded.

“Should a Jewish print shop have to make signs for the KKK? Should a kosher deli have to serve non-kosher food?” Santorum countered. “It’s a two-way street. Tolerance is a two-way street. If you’re saying that ‘your religious liberties are not as important as my fill in the blank,’ then I’ve got a problem with that.”

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A female student self-identifying as a “proud and confident lesbian woman” asked Santorum why he was denying her rights to marry the love of her life and to adopt her future children, “both of which I will do.”

“I don’t come in and say ‘because you have a different point of view, you’re denying me my view of marriage,’” Santorum told her. “You’re expressing your opinion – you have a right to do that, and I have a right to do that.”

Traditional values have been the target of assault in the past on campus at GWU.

Homosexual groups pushed for “gender-neutral housing” on campus, which was passed in 2010, resulting in students’ ability to share dorm rooms with anyone they want, regardless of gender.

Two homosexual students tried to oust a Catholic priest from the University’s Catholic Newman center in 2013 for his preaching that homosexuality and abortion are sinful. The couple’s campaign to remove the priest prompted Cardinal Donald Wuerl to call the effort “totalitarian” when celebrating Mass on campus during the controversy.

Vandals destroyed a university-sanctioned memorial for abortion victims repeatedly in 2014. The displays were sponsored by YAF.

During his GWU appearance, Rick Santorum stressed for students the importance of equal time for all voices in a debate. “No matter what your passion is on the issues,” he said, “we need to have a system that says everybody’s allowed in.”

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