It had all the makings of a bad joke: an adulterer-turned Catholic whose campaign is underwritten by a Jewish casino tycoon, walked into a Baptist church where the audience had been primed with speeches about how "God intended" marriage to be "between one man and one woman" and how their state was on the verge of being taken over by the "vice" of gambling.
But it wasn't a joke, it was a Newt Gingrich campaign appearance at a Presidential Forum, hosted by the conservative Christian legal group Liberty Counsel and others, at Aloma Baptist Church in Winter Park, Florida, just north of Orlando.
Gingrich was running late, so the event co-sponsors filled time with over-the-top God-and-country songs, prayer, and speeches about the causes their organizations promote.
Liberty Counsel, the Christian right legal group headed by Liberty University Law School Dean Mat Staver, was the lead co-sponsor. Others included the Florida Family Action, which spearheaded the anti-gay marriage measure that passed here in 2008; the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, an offshoot of the American Principles Project, founded by Manhattan Declaration author Robert George; the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Personhood USA, the national organization pushing ballot measures declaring fertilized eggs persons; and Champion the Vote, the get-out-the-vote project of United in Purpose, the non-profit organization funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalists which, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, "is using sophisticated data-mining techniques to compile a database of every unregistered born-again and evangelical Christian and conservative Catholic in the country."
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