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 • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Texas

soundoff (2,228 Responses)
  1. ummm

    "MARTIAL indiscretions"?!?

    and of course:

    atheism = islamic extremism? i can't quite put my finger on it, but something seems off here....

    March 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      I dunno, his type are known for warmongering, so "martial indiscretions" could potentially apply...

      March 28, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  2. Chris

    Did he actually say "....a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists..." How can a country be both secular and dominated by some religion? Either this guy is stupid or he is pandering to ignorant rednecks who can't think for themselves. I'm betting he is not as stupid as he seems. That said I agree with half of what he said. no doubt the US is already mostly a secular country and will become more so in the future.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  3. Jo

    No need to fear an external Islamic Taliban. It's already here inside the US in the form of the ultra-right wing Christiban. Jesus must be sooooo unhappy with his American flock. Sooooo unhappy.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  4. Patrick B

    The GOP has – unlike anyone else – hijacked religion to push their agendas. I highly doubt most 'cons in office are 1/10th as religious as they proclaim. Religion sure is a good smokescreen and PR tool for them though!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  5. RedShoes

    Hasn't this joker cycled through yet? We are subjected year after tortuous year to his limited edition-intelligence. Somebody please put a sock in it for him.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  6. John

    Good ol Newt...what an alarmist. It really rich that this serial adulterer is worried about anything to do with religion and God. Newt, you have NO credibility on this one. Your time is up. Go away. I think our Forefathers broke away from England in part because they were tired of having God and religion shoved down their throat. Yet, Americans, who don't ready and have no memory or inclination to the real history (as opposed to the one made up by Newt and Sarah and Michele), would not know this. Newt along with the donald, sarah and michele should have a sitcom of their own. They are just that bad and that laughable.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  7. Rik

    Ol' Newt, the original draft dodger. That is all I have for this Turkey!! Oh, and his daddy was a colonel!!! Why do Repugnuts pretend to be Christians????

    March 28, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  8. macbaldy

    The US is the most religious country in the developed world. Uncle Newt is pulling that congregation's leg.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  9. San Jose girl

    How about a Christian Republican country dominated by serial adulterers and child molesters?

    March 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  10. brian in ca

    I fear Gingrich, the cheating right wing amoral guy, who says anything that will get him support. Talk about a huge lack of morals...look no further than the Newt.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  11. Kaffir

    a porkchop a day keeps the muslims away.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  12. Raj

    I want him to debate Hitchens. I haven't seen some good comedy in a while.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  13. Keith Snyder


    March 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  14. Smokey

    How could America simultaneously be an atheist/secular country, and one dominated by radical Islam? That doesn't make any sense.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  15. gary

    dear, newt

    i for one look forward to a secular country thats the was it was supposed to be.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  16. Johnny

    Wait...if the country is dominated by radical Islamists, it wouldn't be atheist! Newt, you don't make sense!

    March 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  17. yoda

    Pandering to the ignorant religious right at it's best. And it's only going to get worse. As each of these republican idiots tries to position themselves as the most righteous, the most God fearing, and the most "Christian" of the potential candidates, they are likely to say more and more hateful things regarding non-Christians in order to ingratiate themselves with this voting block. I can't wait for one of them to proudly announce, maybe it will happen during a debate in an effort to occupy that farthest right position, "Oh yeah! Well I am God!"

    March 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  18. Greenspam

    Wait, if USA is an atheist country, then it won't be an Islamic country! DUH! Obviously, Gingrich is trying hard to link atheism with Islamic

    March 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • maerlyn

      Or he's unaware that Islamists believe in God. Can he be so uneducated that he believes that only Christians and Jews believe in God? That would be so Palinesque. . . .

      March 28, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • KLDGBB

      Agree – I was going to post the same thing. Last time I checked, radical Islamists do believe in God and therefore are neither secular nor atheist.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
  19. keeth in cali

    Christianity is attractive to conservatives because it offers them a free badge of empathy that they can proudly wear to provide evidence of their compassion when their own actions prove otherwise.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
  20. cygnusryder

    Bugsy, you're not helping.

    March 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Bugsy

      Sorry, I was jest kidding: it's my pinhead Christian imitation.

      March 28, 2011 at 6:42 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.