Skipping an Iowa event that drew a number of 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls in favor of a controversial Louisiana prayer rally, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for a national spiritual revival and urged event attendees to proselytize on behalf of their Christian beliefs.
Jindal had insisted the day-long evangelical event hosted by the American Family Association on the campus of Louisiana State University was a religious and not political gathering. And, indeed, his 15-minute long remarks to the group consisted entirely of a highly personal testimony about how he had come to his Catholic beliefs. Jindal was raised by Hindu parents but converted to Catholicism in high school.
But Jindal's keynote address at the event came as he has been courting Christian conservatives in advance of a possible run for president, meeting with pastors in the early battleground states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Former Texas governor Rick Perry hosted the same event, known as "The Response," in 2011, just before announcing he was running for president.
The event drew protests outside the basketball arena where several hundred were gathered because of accusations that the American Family Association promotes discrimination against gays and is hostile to non-Christians. Jindal briefly referred to the protests in his appearance, asking the rally's attendees to pray for the demonstrators.
Otherwise, he stuck to his personal story, describing his seven-year path to Christianity as he paced the stage in jeans, a blazer, and a TED-speech style microphone headset. He spoke of a high school friend who had told him that he would be missed when the friend and his family went to heaven but Jindal did not. Jindal recalled a girl in high school who said she wanted to grow up to be a Supreme Court justice, so she could "save innocent human lives" from abortion. He spoke of a revelation as he watched a video about Jesus dying on the cross.
"Let's all go plant those seeds of the gospel," he said, describing how his conversion would not have occurred without the influence of his friends. "Share the good news with all whom we encounter."
"We can't just elect a candidate to fix what ails our country. We can't just pass a law and fix what ails our country," he said, "We need a spiritual revival to fix what ails our country."
By hosting the event, Jindal was unable to attend a more prominent gathering of conservatives being held simultaneously in Iowa. The Iowa Freedom Summit drew a series of possible Republican presidential contenders, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.