Put religion in schools, Gingrich advises

Published April 23, 1998|Updated Sept. 13, 2005

U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, pondering a campaign for president, preached to Florida lawmakers Wednesday about getting God into the schools.

Speaking to a rare joint session of the state Legislature, the Republican outlined his "Goals for a Generation" and spent much of the hourlong address on how religion can return America to an era of morality.

Children need to learn about references to God in American history, including addresses by Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt.

"That is a healthier America, an America that will have a lot less drugs and a lot less teen suicide and a lot more freedom and a lot more safety," Gingrich said. "It's at the heart of the education reforms we need."

Gingrich's visit to the capital was brief, but he made an appearance later in the day at a fundraiser for the state Republican Party.

Speaking to his third state legislature and fresh off a nationwide tour promoting his new book, Lessons Learned the Hard Way, Gingrich also called for lower taxes, a tougher war on drugs, and more action on ending Fidel Castro's dictatorship in Cuba. He said Cuba's capabilities with chemical weapons may be just as devastating as Iraq's.

But when he turned to issues such as technology and the accomplishments of his Contract With American, Gingrich lulled several legislators to sleep. His oratory drew partisan applause.

When he spoke about God and the "Anglo-American" philosophy that every citizen is endowed by God, most Democrats were silent while Republicans roared with approval.

Gingrich did not mention running for president.

In a statement after the speech, Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Brady attacked the Legislature's GOP leadership for giving Gingrich a forum.

"A joint session of the Florida Legislature was not the appropriate place for the hour-and-a-half partisan rantings of one of the nation's most divisive figures _ Newt Gingrich," Brady said.