Gingrich blasts secular 'fanaticism' at prayer breakfast
April 27th, 2011
10:09 AM ET
12 years ago

Gingrich blasts secular 'fanaticism' at prayer breakfast

Washington (CNN) – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich condemned the growth of American secularism in harsh terms Wednesday at a Catholic prayer breakfast in Washington.

It's a pet topic for Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism two years ago. His 2006 book "Rediscovering God in America" opened with the blistering line: "There is no attack on American life more destructive and more historically dishonest than the secular Left's relentless effort to drive God out of America's public square."

Gingrich, who is expected to formally announce a 2012 presidential bid in the coming weeks, drilled down on that theme at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.

Reading from prepared remarks, Gingrich walked the audience through his "faith journey to Catholicism" and recalled a discussion with Reverend Monsignor Walter Rossi of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

The two men chatted about "the crisis of secularism in Europe and the growth of a government-favored pagan culture to replace Christianity," he said, and agreed that American churchgoers are now facing a similar predicament.

"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 said.

Gingrich blasted the "fanaticism of the secularists," pointing to controversial court rulings, opposition to displays of the cross on public property and a push by scientists to replace the Anno Domini dating system with the Common Era system.

He said the "constant secular pressure" guided him to embrace Catholicism.

"Callista and I have two grandchildren," he explained. "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."

Filed under: 2012 • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. The Real Tom Paine

    Newt obviously is ignoring one of the pillars of conservatism, American Exceptionalism. Our culture has always been different from the Europeans, and there has been no large-scale aping of European culture in over a century. As far as the spread of fanatical secularism, it has more to do with the abuses of the Ctholic and Protestant Churches, their involvement in politics and in issues of peoples' privacy, and the blatant hypocrisy of church leaders. We are not a monolithic society, yet Newt is trying to make us that. He should know better than to make an idiotic statement like that, but, that's never stopped him before. He is a member of that "elite", with a doctorate in History and having served several terms in Congress. That being said, he shows an appalling ignorance of Hsitory and Politics if he things Americans have ever tried to imitate Europe: if anything, its been the other way around.

    April 27, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  2. anagram_kid

    Religions are not fanatical. It is the behavior of a religion’s adherents that can be fanatical and extreme. I wonder if Gingrich realizes that if he attended a more fundamental Christian church, he could very well have been stoned or put in a pillory for committing adultery. Not every Muslim is a terrorist, just as not every Christian pickets soldier’s funerals with offensive and very un-Christian signs. Stupid crazy people do stupid crazy things. As we advance as a culture the only point of religion is to give these people a rationalization of their behavior.

    April 27, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  3. Jeff in Virginia

    Shocker! Peter Hamby delivers another no-questions-asked fluff piece for Newt!

    April 27, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  4. Jess

    I really like Newt Gingrich's views on government policy, but this religion sideshow puts a real damper on my enthusiasm for him. I believe in freedom of religion, which to me includes freedom from religion. I don't want Shari a law imposed on me by Muslim zealots, nor do I want the laws or views of any religion forced down my throat, nor do I want my own beliefs shoved down anyone else's throat! It's a personal matter, not a public matter. I want government out of my life to the absolute maximum possible extent. If I’m not committing a crime against a person or property, leave me alone! This is not a legitimate role for government to get into.

    April 27, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. Wade

    Do you liberals get that there is no such thing as "separation of church and state"? Please, just read the constitution one time, just once, that's all I ask.

    April 27, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  6. usualone

    Wow, he conveniently found religion. The Catholics seem to be a pretty forgiving group; I'm sure he chose that specific religion because they most likely will be forgiving of his past transgressions. But then the modern day person of the Catholic faith seems to think for himself/herself. So maybe they will remember the damages he has caused both professionally and especially personally to those around him.

    April 27, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  7. REG in AZ

    The simple reason religion and politics don’t mix is because religion has a narrow view and politics is too wide of a picture. The problems can readily be seen by just viewing other countries where religion dominates politics and government, Iran and Saudi Arabia, even Israel. And it would be wrong to think that a different religion, that Christianity would be able to avoid the problems – we have already seen where our politicians have used religion to gain support and then irresponsibly abused their positions at significant cost to the majority and we can even see religious leaders who just boldly lie to sway the people, clearly demonstrating the negative effect on both religion and politics. Additionally, it should not be forgotten that religious freedom and religious diversity are a real part of the strength of this country and it would be naive to think that couldn’t be jeopardized. No, people should voice their concern and support for issues of importance to them, religious concerns as well as any others, but they should never loose sight of the overall or allow themselves to be manipulated by those using a limited issue to control them – the costs are just too great, always with seemingly little gained and much lost.

    April 27, 2011 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. SayWhat

    "... the growth of a government-favored pagan culture to replace Christianity,"

    Have you lost your mind, Gingrich? Its okay to bend over backwards a little to pander to the Christian right, which is the only group that seems to take you serioulsy, but be careful not to bend so far that you forget what direction is up and what is down. In this country we have freedom of religion, or freedom not to practice religion at all, not freedom to practice your religion. It's in the Constitution, you know the document that say that you love but trample on regularly.

    April 27, 2011 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  9. The Real Tom Paine


    Do you get there is no official religious test: that is in the Constitution. Religion was left to the states to decide, and do you get that state governments disestablished themselves from religion by the 1830s, and church membership and diversity exploded at that point? Your religious freedom is protected by the test clause and by the fact the states got out of imposing sanctioned churches by the 1830s. Do you read anything that is not approved by Glen Beck?

    April 27, 2011 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. KatR

    @Wade....My copy of our Constitution is dog-eared and well read by me. You will not find the phrase "separation of church and state" anywhere in that document. That phrase was an interpretation of the first amendment......Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...". Religious belief (church) shall not play a role one way or the other in government (state). As such, the 1956 change of the national motto to "In God we Trust" is unconstitutional. The 1950s phrase added to our Pledge "One nation under God" is unconstitutional. And those same words on our currency is also unconstitutional. America is not and never was a "Christian nation". America is not a theorcracy. It is a republican democracy.

    April 27, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. JMR49

    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich condemned the growth of American secularism....

    Shouldn't that be Former disgraced House Speaker Newt Gingrich?

    April 27, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  12. anagram_kid

    What do you think this means – “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”.

    April 27, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
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