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Can religious conservatives learn to love Newt?
February 27th, 2011
02:27 PM ET

Can religious conservatives learn to love Newt?

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

There was one name on almost everyone's lips when I atteneded CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., four years ago: Newt Gingrich.

The man who engineered the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, ending two generations of Democratic control, didn't throw his hat into the ring for 2008, but there are signs he plans to do so for 2012.

And that raises a critical question: Can religious conservatives learn to love a man who is twice divorced, carried on an affair while criticizing Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky and battled House ethics panel allegations throughout his four years as Speaker of the House?

John McCain proved in 2008 that a Republican can capture the party's nomination without religious conservative fervor at his back. He also showed how hard it is to win the White House without it.

Perhaps with that in mind, Gingrich is quietly emphasizing his 2009 conversion to Catholicism to certain voters, making appearances at right-to-life organizations, touring a film he produced about Pope John Paul II, and admitting there are things in his past he isn't proud of.

He's making headway with at least some potential supporters, such as veteran anti-abortion activist Jack Willke, the New York Times reports Sunday.

The money quote, from Willke's wife Barbara:  “His Catholicism certainly sounds legit, and even more so since (his wife) Callista is in the picture now.”

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Newt Gingrich • Politics • United States

soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. teepee

    I think I can beat Newt...

    February 28, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  2. john leddy

    what? newt gingrich converted to catholicism in 2009. they sure are hard up for members! don't they consider that he is "living in sin" with his third wife? oh, mabye they gave him,for a fee, one or two of those catholic divorces that they call annulments. i doubt that many of those narrow minded protestant fundamentalists will consider voting for a man who will be kissing the pope's (they call him the anti-christ) ring.

    February 28, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  3. Jose M. Pulido

    Yeah right, Newt Gingrich is so religious now. This alleged perversion...I mean conversion to Catholicism is the peak of his hypocrisy; it is a ruse to lead the American people believe he is now religious that now he can be president. Not for nothing it reads in the Bible (paraphrased) that no one must take the name of God in vain as Newt Gingrich is likely to be doing.

    February 28, 2011 at 4:20 am |
    • LVillas

      His perversion was not his conversion to Catholicism but to use religion for his own personal gain. He uses the religious right for his own personal gain and uses God's name in vain, that is his perversion!

      February 28, 2011 at 5:05 am |
    • teepee

      Isn't greed an ugly thing?

      February 28, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  4. MikeHouston

    If Gingrich runs, with or without the support of the religious right, and if he somehow manages to actually win, then our
    country will finally have ceased being a representative democracy. We would then be, truly, a corporate oligarchy-a nation
    ruled by the rich for the rich. And it would be time to drag this 73 year old USAF vet hide out of this country.

    February 28, 2011 at 4:20 am |
  5. Frankie

    Wow, Roop Gill. I think you've been eating too much Fruit Loops lately (you are what you eat).

    February 28, 2011 at 3:39 am |
    • Carmen

      What are you trying to say; that Roop Gill is Fruit Loops? Fruit Loop Roop? I like it.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:53 am |
  6. Elphaba

    I don't think Newt can pull it off. Didn't Jerry Falwell say that all Catholics and Jews are going to hell? Jerry is dead now, but his lacky, Pat Robertson is still stirring up $h1t among the religeous right. But then again, christians are the most hypocritical people I've ever dealt with. They're change their stance for their "good old boy".

    February 28, 2011 at 3:34 am |
    • LVillas

      Catholics said the same thing when King Henry was excommunicated from the Catholic Church when they refused to give him a divorce. The same was said when the Pope and Catholics excommunicated Protestants for their refusal to obey the church,they were excommunicated from the original church and they and their offspring to burn in hell. Falwell and Robertson and the religious right make their own rules for their own benefit, they use religious right rhetoric to scare and intimidate their opponents!

      February 28, 2011 at 5:01 am |
  7. Vito

    The religeous right is still here, hiding among us. Some call themselves conservatives; some say they belong to the Tea Party. Make no mistake, they may no longer parade their self righteousness in front of every camera they can find, but they're still here; hiding; lurking. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    February 28, 2011 at 3:28 am |
  8. Roop Gill

    It is Mr. Gingrich's Democratic right and freedom to pursue office for the purposes of increasing the quality of life for all Americans. In fact he should be encouraged to run for President as this is a very positive step forward for America. It will mean that despite any of his above mentioned transgressions, his rights as an American allows him to bid for the Office of The President. This will also mean of course that religion will no longer be allowed to influence the affairs of the State in any form. For if it did, it would mean that religion can trump any American's right to run for office. And which religion would be setting the standard for America's moral compass? This is problematic because of the freedom to practice any religion one chooses. This is why Freedom in America was instilled by the Founding Fathers so that religion would not be allowed to infringe on the Government's ability to ensure that no American is left behind in terms of their standard of living, compared to any of their fellow citizens. America must move forward.

    If it can, then America can regain lost ground in terms of respect of the international community. To look to America as the leader it should have been a long time ago, and needs to be now. But unfortunately the country is mired in such steep Bi-Partisanship, the climb to the summit looks impossible. The Republican Right must look to 1 John Chapter 4: Verses 7 & 8 for the answers. This is the only link to the Bible that is needed. Mr. Gingrich should be allowed to run and be respectfully reminded that his freedoms and rights afford him his chosen career path whenever he brings up ethics rooted in religion. The positive impact America can have on the world is still possible…..

    February 28, 2011 at 3:23 am |
    • TiAmo

      "It is Mr. Gingrich's Democratic right and freedom to pursue office for the purposes of increasing the quality of life for all Americans."

      Are you serious? Newt Baby is a Republican. The only people whose quality of life he wants to help increase are his own life and the rich people who run corporate America.But you almost had me there when you sneaked the word "Democratic" in there. Nice try, though. I'll give you that.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:47 am |
  9. Rick Watts

    Newt Gingrich: Charlatan. Hypocrit. Bigot. Pharisee. Demagogue. Typical Republican. Wrong for American values. Wrong for America. Wrong for me...Just plain...wrong!

    February 28, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  10. Cat MacLeod

    All he has to do is stage some miraculous conversion and the people who talk to invisible men will eat it up. The Republican plutocracy has been loosing it's ability to play the religious right for suckers but I'm betting they'll pull another one out of the bag.

    February 28, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  11. The Rev'd Father Raymond H. Burgoon-Clark

    If the so-called "religious" reich embraces thrice-married serial adulterer Gingrich simply because he's conservative, anti-gay, etc., then they are bigger hypocrites than I thought they were, if that's possible.

    February 28, 2011 at 3:11 am |
  12. Tommie

    They say "You're only as failthful as your options." Newt will have alot of options if he became president.

    I wonder how the religious right could justify a vote for a guy whose history directly opposes their beliefs? Oh, that right, the unborn.

    February 28, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  13. buckup

    can a fascist who is pseudo-religious, self righteous and obsessed with power, attract a flock of religious fascists? most definitely

    February 28, 2011 at 3:10 am |
  14. Smiley

    Sounds like an April fools joke and April Isn't even here yet.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:56 am |
  15. Scott

    Well if George Bush can, I would think just about any sinning idiot should be able to.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:53 am |
  16. don211

    What a scary idea! Give the Boot to Newt

    February 28, 2011 at 2:53 am |
  17. Joe

    How many times did the man cheat on his wives ?

    February 28, 2011 at 2:39 am |
    • teepee

      I needs more than 3 hands to count...

      February 28, 2011 at 6:08 am |
  18. NHop

    The religious right is overwhelmingly Protestant and - to put it mildly - not fond of Catholicism. Newt's conversion to the Roman church will not endear him to the evangelicals.

    February 28, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • Jay

      Exactly – wasn't Ted Kennedy a catholic? and they sure loved him.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:00 am |
    • Z

      Kennedy was also not conservative.

      February 28, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  19. Jose

    Luckily the religious right is dying off slowly but surely...

    February 28, 2011 at 2:09 am |
    • Justina

      Only in the West, not elsewhere. The reason the West is going down.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:35 am |
    • Justina

      American Evangelical Christians still have much strength and beauty. The Lord bless you! Sufferings await ahead of us, but it's honor to suffer for our God and make sacrifices to push for justice for everyone on earth. American Christians, fight with courage and obtain victory at the end.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • Jose M. Pulido

      Newt Gingrich is no moral compass for the USA. He is an adulterer who acussed former president Bill Clinton of allegedly having an affair while he himself was having one. He think we, as Americans, have a short memory and that we have forgotten his questionable conduct and his cruelty toward Democrats. Forget it! We need honorable leaders with a clean record and dignity.

      February 28, 2011 at 4:07 am |
    • Robert

      @ Justina – Do you realize you sound like Bin Laden and his ilk?

      February 28, 2011 at 6:25 am |
  20. Anti-Wert

    Really Wert? You've been drinking the kool-aid Rush has been selling for way too long.... I guess his extra pain pills ended up in the drink.....

    February 28, 2011 at 2:03 am |
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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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.