At the National Catholic Prayer breakfast on Tuesday, potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich discussed his conversion to Catholicism and previewed some themes that he may use if he decides to make a run at the presidency.
In opening his remarks, Gingrich confessed that “while I have given many speeches the prospect of a convert addressing an audience with this many years experience in Catholicism is among the most daunting I have faced. Callista likes to point out that unlike her father I have not participated in enough Knights of Columbus pancake breakfasts to justify giving a speech like this.”
“People ask me when I decided to become Catholic. It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realized one day that I should accept the faith that surrounded me,” Gingrich said. “My wife, Callista, is a lifelong Catholic and has sung for the past fifteen years with the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. My faith journey began at the Basilica.”
Gingrich then pivoted and said that “the American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites and, as a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media, and judicial class in America.”
Gingrich then rattled of some examples of the modern assault on religion.
“Let me give you just one small example of the secular pressures,” Gingrich said. “There is now a convention in scientific publications to replace Anno Domini (AD) with common era (CE).”
Gingrich continued by saying “the courts have been especially powerful engines of coerced secularization. From the 1962 school prayer decision on, there has been a decisive break with the essentially religious nature of historic American civilization”
He then cited “the Ninth Circuit Court ruling that saying ‘one nation under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional was yet another example of the coercive secularism dominating our courts.”
Gingrich has often cited the “under God” decision as being the impetus that ultimately motivated him to consider running for president.
He cited the Mojave Desert Cross Case, saying that because “one National Park Ranger was offended at a cross on public land in the middle of the desert,” the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the cross was unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court overruled the liberal Ninth Circuit, with its reasoning being that the Cross was a historic site.
Yet, Gingrich added, “the head of the National Park Service has said he would not erect a replacement. So even when religious freedom wins in court the secular extremists have found new ways to circumvent the Court and impose their anti-religious bigotry.”
Gingrich told the audience that he “found the constant secular pressure more and more troublesome” and since “Callista and I have two grandchildren … the more I thought about the culture they are surrounded by and the direction of that culture’s evolution, the more troubled I became.”
“The more I looked at this historic phenomenon, the more I had to come to grips with my own beliefs and my own tolerance of the increasingly aggressive secularization of our country,” Gingrich stated.
Gingrich has said he would announce a decision on whether he intends to pursue the presidency during the first week of May.