E.W. Jackson, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, is seen May 31. (Dayna Smith/The Washington Post)

A month ago E.W. Jackson stunned Virginia when the virtual political unknown won the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. By Saturday, the Chesapeake pastor was getting the celebrity treatment.

Hundreds of attendees at a D.C. conference of religious conservatives jumped to their feet at the announcement of Jackson, a former Marine who has a charismatic — and sometimes controversial — speaking style. Ohio activist and former state treasurer Ken Blackwell introduced Jackson to the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference as “one of the most dynamic people in our country.”

Jackson, 61, offered a fiery 10 minutes on how U.S. liberals are assaulting religious freedom and trying to redefine liberty.

“Freedom doesn’t mean ‘Do whatever you want.’ It’s the pursuit of character, integrity, decency, honor. Now we’re being told freedom is license,” he said from the podium at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.

Audience members clapped most intensely when Jackson focused on the rights of parents to lay down rules for their children and on the need to preserve belief in Christianity as the foundation of the United States.

“Freedom is the ability to worship God as we see fit and not be persecuted for it,” he said.

Jackson’s life story — foster child, service member, Harvard law school graduate, even Democrat — has compelled voters. He’s also drawn attention for past comments, including that gays are “perverted” and “sick” and that Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal” to blacks “than the KKK.”

Jackson faces state Sen. Ralph S. Northam (D-Norfolk) in the November general election