Newt Gingrich tracked hard right during a morning town hall in South Carolina on Wednesday, following his fourth place finish in the New Hampshire primaries on Tuesday night. The former House speaker, pledged to stand up for the religious freedoms of Christians in the conservative Palmetto State, including the ability of organizations receiving taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples:
GINGRICH: The challenge we have is anti-Christian bigotry that has forced the Catholic Church to close its adoption service in Massachusetts because it actually wanted to follow the tenets of Christianity. And you look all all around this country and you see again and again, whether its a judge knocking down a cross… I am your President, if you help me win this election, we will not tolerate a speech dictatorship in this country against Christianity.
South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 21, may be the last opportunity for social conservative candidates like Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry to catch up to presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney. The state is home to a large conservative Evangelical population and may be weary of Romney, who finished in fourth during the 2008 campaign.
Gingrich is also wrong on his “religious liberties” claim. While adoption services have a right to believe whatever they want under the First Amendment, they cannot use tax payer funding to treat gay and lesbian couples like second-class citizens. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities choose to stop providing adoption services after refusing “to place children with same-sex couples as required by Massachusetts law.”