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Newt Gingrich says that despite Falwell's death, it's still possible to convert whole nation

In Liberty University commencement address, former speaker assails "radical secularists"

by, May 29, 2007

Following a May 19th commencement address at Liberty University that was part paean to the Christian school's deceased founder Jerry Falwell and partly an argument that the US was founded on religious tenets, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that the opportunity to "covert all America" survives Falwell.

At a news conference following the commencement, Gingrich paid tribute to Falwell's legacy, saying: ''Anybody on the Left who hopes that when people like Reverend Falwell disappear, that the opportunity to convert all of America has gone with them, fundamentally misunderstands why institutions like this were created.''

Gingrich is frequently mentioned as a contender for the Republican presidential nomination. Both the Washington Post and the Associated Press reported his statement about converting "all America." The AP report was published widely. But there's been little discussion of or comment on his remark.

So, we phoned Gingrich Communications, based in Washington DC, and asked Joe DeSantis, Gingrich's spokesperson for websites to answer four questions. Not hearing back from DeSantis, we emailed him the questions. That brought an email in return, saying talk with Rick Tyler, Gingrich's spokesman.

We called Tyler and emailed him these questions. He did not respond.

  1. Has it been accurately reported that, after the commencement address, Speaker Gingrich said at a news conference, as quoted in several AP reports: "Anybody on the Left who hopes that when people like Reverend Falwell disappear that the opportunity to convert all of America has gone with them, fundamentally misunderstands why institutions like this were created" ?
  2. Does Speaker Gingrich believe, as the transcript of his address suggests, that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation (as opposed to a secular nation)?
  3. Should he decide to try for the presidential nomination, how will the concepts Speaker Gingrich expressed in the commencement address play with voters and media in primaries in blue or marginally red states?
  4. Is my recollection correct that, when he led Congress, Speaker Gingrich did not move or cause to be moved any legislation advancing the ideas he expressed in the commencement address? If I am correct, why not? What was the difference between then and now? If I am incorrect, I'd greatly appreciate an example or two of the legislation.

Even without the conversion statement, Gingrich's commencement address should have been enough to raise eyebrows. In addition to his widely quoted (albeit unremarked) exhortation to confront "the growing culture of radical secularism," he also said:

When our Declaration of Independence asserts “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”, it makes some key assumptions.

It assumes that God is sovereign over the universe.

It assumes that God created man.

And Gingrich portrayed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a somewhat fundamentalist Christian: "FDR, the greatest Democratic President of the 20th century, believed in good and evil and believed his generation faced a war between Christianity and paganism," said Gingrich.

At another point the former speaker stated:

The American [as opposed to the "Islamist," whom Gingrich castigated in the preceding paragraph] believes that all men and women —all—have equal rights, because that is the will of the Almighty and it is God that endows them. Indeed, we believe that no person stamped in the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.

Robert Parham, director of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville, called Gingrich's conflation of the Declaration of Independence and the Bible an inauthentic civil religion.

No one else seems to have gotten very excited about the former Speaker's statements.



Seed Newsvine


You will find our page of reports on Rev. Jerry Falwell's death here and our page of reports on and after his funeral here.

Liberty University Commencement Address

Newt Gingrich, Gingrich Communications, May 19 2007

(As prepared for delivery)

Jerry Falwell, Jr., Jonathan Falwell, Dr. Godwin, Provost Rist, members of the Board, faculty, administrators, distinguished guests, and, most of all, the Graduating Class of 2007. As I look out upon you I am deeply grateful to Dr. Falwell for inviting me to come and bear witness to our need to rediscover God in America. It is in response to his call that I ask you to hear this witness. Continue.

Gingrich: Challenge 'radical secularism'

Associated Press, USA Today, May 19, 2007

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Liberty University's graduating class Saturday to honor the spirit of school founder Jerry Falwell by confronting "the growing culture of radical secularism" with Christian ideals. Gingrich, who is considering a 2008 presidential run, quoted Bible passages to a mournful crowd of about 17,000 packed into the university's football stadium four days after Falwell's death.

Despite the somber tone of the day, graduates who covered the football field chanted "Jerry! Jerry!" in tribute to Falwell.

"A growing culture of radical secularism declares that the nation cannot profess the truths on which it was founded," Gingrich said. "We are told that our public schools can no longer invoke the creator, nor proclaim the natural law nor profess the God-given quality of human rights. Continue.

Gingrich Assails 'Radical Secularism'
In Speech, Ex-Speaker Praises Falwell, Offers No Hints About His Political Plans

By Michael D. Shear, Washington Post Staff Writer, May 20, 2007

LYNCHBURG, Va., May 19 -- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich decried a "growing culture of radical secularism" Saturday morning as he hailed the life of Liberty University's late founder, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, in an address to the school's 2007 graduating class.

In a speech heavy with religious allusions but devoid of hints about his presidential ambitions, Gingrich drew applause from the graduates and their families in the school's 12,000-seat football stadium when he demanded: "This anti-religious bias must end."

"In hostility to American history, the radical secularists insist that religious belief is inherently divisive," Gingrich said, deriding what he called the "contorted logic" and "false principles" of advocates of secularism in American society. Continue.

A flawed vision of an American theocracy

Opinion article by Robert Parham, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 22, 2007. Robert Parham, an ordained Baptist minister, is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics in Nashville.

With the Rev. Jerry Falwell now passed from the scene, Newt Gingrich wants America to believe the Moral Majority founder entrusted him to bear this witness.

In his Liberty University commencement address Saturday, Gingrich conflates the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. He fashions a civil religion, which is an inauthentic religion, in the search for power. Continue.