On Saturday, they appeared on “Rediscover God in America,” a day-long broadcast that aired in more than 200 churches across the country.
Those congregations included Leesburg Church of the Nazarene, where about 25 parishioners gathered in plush pews in the sanctuary to take notes and hear from evangelical leaders and likely White House candidates vying for an edge with a group that nationally makes up about 40 percent of the Republican Party, according to polls.
Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a Baptist minister, was an early speaker, quoting from the New Testament and saying that it was up to people of faith to reclaim America.
“My dear friends, we face a spiritual war in this country, and the idea of this wonderful nation built on a Judeo-Christian principle that we are accountable and answerable to a holy God is on the line,” Huckabee said.
“We will either give it to the next generation as a great gift of grace and freedom, or we will be the ones who lose it, and someone will have to come later and try to save it, revive it and give it back.”
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has low national name recognition, outlined a tough approach to abortion, signaling that he wouldn’t cede any ground on social issues, as others in his party have suggested.
“We’re doing everything that we can to stop abortion in our state,” Barbour said at the pastor’s conference, which was taped in Iowa Thursday and Friday. “And if I run for president, I will come to office with that attitude, which is about 180 degrees different from the person we have in there now.”
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said that on Day One, the next president should be ready to sign a raft of executive orders.
“The very first executive order should be to abolish all the czars in the first act,” he said, a line which drew applause. “The second executive order ought to be to reinstate . . . policy that no American money pays for abortion anywhere in the world.”
Gingrich, who had a 61 percent approval rating among evangelical Republicans in a recent Washington Post poll, was well received, with churchgoers picking up copies of his DVD. But some weren’t sure that his values matched up with their beliefs.
“I think as a historian and as a very educated man, he would make a great president,” said Elizabeth Munsey, 51, a building manager. “I’m just not sure of his moral standards.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) is also scheduled to speak.
Parishioners said they were listening closely to where politicians stand on the issues, particularly marriage and abortion.