Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum called Monday for a wider role for religion in public policy as he battled for conservative votes ahead of Tuesday’s Michigan primary.

Speaking to a suburban Detroit chamber of commerce, Santorum said the interpretation of the Constitution’s freedom of religion provision has been “turned on its head,’’ and offered his own.

“I’m for separation of church and state: The state has no business telling the church what do to,’’ the former Pennsylvania senator told about 300 local business leaders at the Livonia and Farmington chambers of commerce breakfast.

Santorum, locked in a tough fight for the key Midwestern battleground with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is campaigning as the stricter conservative. He headlined a raucous rally in Flint Sunday evening where he also faulted the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama for marginalizing religion.

And while Santorum pressed his tax plan to spur manufacturing and economic growth Monday, he did not shy away during the business group breakfast from promoting a greater role for religion.

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