Evangelical leader Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, drafted an open letter to presidential candidate Newt Gingrich warning the newly minted front-runner that he will lose the support of evangelicals — specifically evangelical women — if he does not come out and address his history of infidelity.
“Mr. Speaker, if you want to get large numbers of Evangelicals, particularly women, to vote for you, you must address the issue of your marital past in a way that allays the fears of Evangelical women,” he wrote this week. “You must address this issue of your marital past directly and transparently and ask folks to forgive you and give you their trust and their vote”
Gingrich has been married three times. The failure of his first two marriages was reportedly a function of extramarital affairs — indeed he cheated on his second wife with his current wife, Callista Gingrich.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Land said that Gingrich needs to address his misdeeds and ask for forgiveness.
“Evangelicals, by definition, are a forgiving people,” Land told TheDC. “Confession, redemption, forgiveness is part of our theological DNA. But, it helps when you ask people to forgive you.”
Land claims to have conducted over 200 informal focus groups with Southern Baptists across the country. According to Land, evangelical men are willing to forgive, but evangelical women are extremely concerned.
Land is encouraging Gingrich to give a speech addressing “once and for all” his past transgressions. (RELATED: Christie compares Gingrich to Obama)
“He needs to say, ‘I understand the pain and suffering I have caused. I deeply regret it. I wish I could undo it but I can’t. But I can promise you, I have learned my lesson, and if you are generous enough and gracious enough to give me your vote, I promise you I won’t let you down,’” Land explained.
The Southern Baptist leader added that if Gingrich does not address his past and becomes the Republican nominee, evangelical women will likely not vote at all.
“He may not need the vote of evangelical women, but I’m telling you, there are a lot of them out there, that if he’s the nominee, right now, they’re going to stay home. They’re not going to vote for Obama,” said Land. “They’ll just stay home. And obviously I don’t want them to stay home. I’m just. He may be more of an expert on a lot issues than I am but I am more of an expert in Southern Baptists than anyone.”
The Gingrich campaign has not responded to Land.