Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich brought a crowd to its feet at a local megachurch several times this morning as he called for more religious freedom at home and a tougher fight against radical Islam abroad.
The former Speaker of the House and history teacher spoke to more than 1,000 people at Cathedral of Praise, a non-denominational church in North Charleston. Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, another Republican running for president, spoke at the church Saturday.
"We're at the greatest crossroads we've been at in over 100 years," Gingrich said this morning.
The biggest domestic threat is the gradual exclusion of God from the public square because of secular court rulings, he said.
"America is a country founded on a belief that rights come directly from the Creator," he said. "Efforts to take God out of the public square are inherently anti-American. ... The idea that nine judges could decide the law of the land would be the end of freedom."
He bolstered his claim by listing many of the references to God in the nation's founding documents and on public monuments around Washington, D.C., the subject of his book and movie "Rediscovering God in America."
The biggest foreign threat is radical Islam, and the U.S. government has not been aggressive enough in identifying the enemy, he said.
"I do not want the American Justice Department to become an arm of Islamic suppression," he said.
He appealed to the congregation to overlook his personal flaws in light of the mission at hand.
"I don't come here today as a perfect person," he said as he closed his 40-minute talk. "I don't come here today without - I guess the advertisement is - baggage. ... I am coming to you today as somebody who has the courage to stand up and tell the truth, somebody who is prepared to fight for the America you and I believe in."
Several people interviewed after the service said they were impressed with Gingrich's talk, including those who said they had not yet decided how to vote in the upcoming Republican presidential primary.
"I'm still kind of undecided," Chuck Mitchell of Summerville said. "Something like this would definitely help change an opinion, though."
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.