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March 28th, 2011
02:11 PM ET

Gingrich fears 'atheist country ... dominated by radical Islamists'

Newt Gingrich at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas.

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

Hours after declaring Sunday that he expects to be running for president within a month, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he's worried the United States could be “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists,” in the foreseeable future, according to Politico.

Gingrich was addressing Cornerstone Church, a megachurch in San Antonio, Texas, led by the Rev. John Hagee, an influential leader among American evangelicals. Hagee's endorsement of then-presidential candidate John McCain in 2008 was plagued by controversy.

McCain ultimately rejected the endorsement over remarks Hagee had made about the Holocaust, in which he appeared to say that Adolf Hitler had been fulfilling God's will by hastening the desire of Jews to return to Israel, in accordance with biblical prophecy.

"God says in Jeremiah 16: 'Behold, I will bring them the Jewish people again unto their land that I gave to their fathers. ... Behold, I will send for many fishers, and after will I send for many hunters. And they the hunters shall hunt them.' That would be the Jews,” Hagee had said in an earlier sermon.

“Then God sent a hunter,” his sermon continued. “A hunter is someone who comes with a gun, and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter."

McCain rejected Hagee’s endorsement of his campaign after learning about the comments in May 2008. "Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them,” McCain said at the time.

Hagee then withdrew his endorsement of the Arizona senator, which he had offered three months earlier.

One irony of McCain rejecting Hagee’s endorsement over his Holocaust remarks is that the Texas evangelist leads the Christian Zionist movement. Hagee is founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, which features Elie Wiesel and other Holocaust survivors at its events.

Here’s what Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church on Sunday evening, according to Politico:

"I have two grandchildren: Maggie is 11; Robert is 9," Gingrich said at Cornerstone Church here. "I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American."

The former House Speaker held up his own faith (he converted to Catholicism two years ago) as proof of his undying patriotism. He lashed out at the college professors and mainstream media he says are seeking to wipe out the Founding Fathers' Christian values. And he targeted the judges who he charges are effectively re-writing the Constitution.

But Gingrich was mum on his own controversial past, one of martial indiscretions and divorces that have made courting religious conservatives a tall task as he nears a likely presidential run.

Gingrich’s church appearance comes amid a broader campaign to court religious conservatives.

On Monday, Hagee released a statement praising Gingrich's appearance at Cornerstone. “It was such a great honor to welcome Mr. Gingrich to our church, and hear him describe the centrality of faith in our nation,” he said.

The statement also included praise for Hagee and his wife, Diana, from Gingrich.

“It was truly an honor to be with John and Diana at Cornerstone," Gingrich said. "Their dedication to serve is inspirational.”

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Faith Now • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Texas

soundoff (2,228 Responses)
  1. IggyDad

    Another GOP presidential candidate explodes on the launch pad.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Chad

      Awesome. Great analogy and the mental image is even better.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  2. B.G.

    silly boy, wants to be prez.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  3. JC

    I guess it doesn't even have to make sense anymore. Next he will say black is white and up is down and he would still probably get 45% of the vote if he is the republican nominee. The far right has gone off the rails in a crazy train.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  4. RepubtardianGuardian

    Well perfect timing as usual, another Repubtard uses religion to invoke the stupidity of the Repubtard/Tea Bagger masses and gain some votes from the Bible Belt. Sadly the supreme idiocy of the typical Ameroman will end up destroying themselves and their country. America was past it's expiration date anyway. Good riddance to America, and welcome the Ameroman Empire and its eventual downfall.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  5. Well Newt

    If the United States is going to be overrun with hypocrite Christians like you... I fear that a lot more than Atheists and Muslims..

    At least Christians like myself know where Atheists and Muslims stand.. Hypocrite Christians like you only stand on the side that makes you look good and makes your actions justified.. whether they are morally right or wrong..

    All you are doing is marginalizing yourself and making yourself more un-electable nationally.. hope you get the GOP nod, so President Obama can mop the floor with you and send you and your ten wives back into that hole in Georgia you crawled out of..

    March 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  6. SimonGilchrest

    Unacceptable, ignorant and non-factual. America was founded explicitly as a secular republic. You are welcome to be a Christian in America, but the government of this land has never been and never will serve religion or one god over another. Too many have fought and died for this freedom. Gingrich and his ilk are attempting to rewrite history to suit contemporary religious whims. He must fail.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  7. Kevin

    How ironic! I fear an America dominated by Newt Gingrich. Atheist shmatheist, I'm more worried about politicians than people who choose not to believe in God.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:53 pm |
  8. Nic

    Let the fear mongering begin! siggh. new day, same old sh....

    March 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  9. dohdoh2012

    Newt is just what we need to lead us – a Christian adulterer and unrepentant hypocrite. Praise God!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  10. Jesus

    I am NOT coming back if you vote for this fool!

    March 28, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
  11. Adam

    How can it be an athiest country...dominated by religion?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  12. zewt

    Hah, Gnewt says I think Im anouncing in a month (so send me money now, so I dont have to claim it towards my actual election funds.
    The is the way that slimy guy supports himself.
    And theres only one church Gnewt prays to, and it has a $ on its steeple.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  13. A

    I fear a stupid country, dominated by these a-wipes.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  14. CommonSense

    Gingrich is a poster-child for right-wing idiocy. His contradicts himself in the same sentence. "by the time they're my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists " You can't have it both ways secular are heavily religious ... ridiculous

    March 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  15. mrc

    I live in San Antonio. Hagee is an arrogant bigot that lives the high life in a million dollar home. His mega church looks like a shopping mall and he's the king of that castle. I'm not surprised Newt is trying to court him. Gingrich want's all those conservative christian votes and thinks he can influence them with scare tactics. He is just another one in a long line of possible "do as I say....not as I do" contenders for the Republican nomination. What does his newly acquired Catholic faith have to do with undying patriotism? Last I heard, freedom of religion was one of the pillars our nation stands on. I can't even imagine what a circus this next election is going to be.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  16. Chad

    How can you be a secular atheist country, dominated by radical Islamists? I'm pretty sure Islamists are religious, especially the radical ones.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Vance

      LOL!

      March 28, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • Denise

      Religious conservatives. That's an oxymoron if I ever heard one.
      They should read the Bible sometime. Like, *really* read it. Then report back.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  17. MidwstrnGrl

    All I can say is....HUH? No makie so sensie....

    March 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  18. nm

    I thought Gaddafi was crazy?

    March 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  19. Colin

    Could somebody please advise Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens that they need to grow their beards out.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  20. skeptik

    Radical Islamic atheists will take over America if you don't vote for meeeeee.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.