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Commentary: Will evangelicals choose Giuliani over faith?

  • Story Highlights
  • Roland S. Martin says he's not surprised Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani
  • Martin says he also thinks the late Rev Jerry Falwell would have backed Giuliani
  • Columnist says he thinks most evangelicals will fall in line with Robertson
  • Martin: They fear possibility of Hillary Clinton appointing Supreme Court justices
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Roland S. Martin
CNN Contributor
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(CNN) -- "I will never vote for anyone for the president of the United States who supports abortion or gay marriage."

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Roland S. Martin: There's a possibility the GOP presidential nominee may back gay and abortion rights.

Those were the words spoken to me three years ago by a prominent pastor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who has led a number of rallies on those two issues.

But the Rev. Pat Robertson's endorsement of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani puts front and center the day conservative evangelicals have said we would never see: a possible Republican presidential nominee who has been supportive of gays and abortion rights.

On CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360," conservative commentator and CNN contributor Bill Bennett and CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger said they didn't anticipate the Christian Coalition founder making such an audacious move by backing Giuliani.

But I wasn't surprised. Why? Because the late Rev. Jerry Falwell signaled such a move was possible during a CNN special I hosted in April called "What Would Jesus Really Do?"

When I asked Falwell if there was a litmus test on abortion and homosexuality for the Republican nominee, Falwell said the most important issue of the day was national security, and he would prefer someone who has experience in that area rather than a Sunday school teacher.

Had Falwell not died, it would not have shocked me to see him standing next to Giuliani and speaking of absolving people of sin, encouraging them to admit their mistakes and put the greater good of the nation before their principles.

Evangelicals cursed and screamed when President Clinton had an affair in the White House, but it's clear they are willing to overlook the past marital failures of Giuliani, his fractured relationship with his children and his support for gay and abortion rights when mayor of New York. Those are not the family values they have beaten into the nation's consciousness for nearly 30 years.

This isn't the Rapture when Christians say Jesus will return to Earth, but it is the day of reckoning for conservative evangelicals. Will they abide by their faith and absolute opposition to abortion and homosexuality being first and foremost, or bend to the will of the party?

For years I have maintained that the focus of evangelicals was never really principles of the faith but the Republican Party. By aligning themselves with the GOP, they've put themselves in this position. And with 25 percent of the party's base being evangelicals, this is going to cause some serious problems.

As for a possible third-party candidate, as suggested by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, that's not going to happen. Remember 1992? The barrage of attacks from Ross Perot against President George H.W. Bush allowed Clinton to stay above the fray and focus on his agenda. Clinton garnered 43 percent of the vote compared with Bush's 37.4 percent and Perot's 18.9 percent.

Even a movement of 10 percent could spell doom for Giuliani if he becomes the nominee. Democrats are still mad at Ralph Nader, suggesting that his 2.74 percent of the popular vote in 2000 pulled away critical support in some states and led to Bush's victory.

Sure, there will be some evangelicals who will be so adamant that they won't support Giuliani, but the vast majority likely will fall in line because of what Robertson said -- that the candidate has assured the American people his choices for judicial appointments will be men and women who share the judicial philosophy of Chief Justice John Roberts.

That's code to the base that Giuliani won't be a Hillary Clinton. The idea of the senator from New York, if she is able to win the presidency, appointing federal judges is too much for them to bear. And with conservatives on the cusp of having a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the next president likely appointing three justices, evangelicals will hold their noses and eat their words.

So I guess in the end, instead of allowing God to lead them in their choice for the nominee, they'll just pray to the Lord that Giuliani keeps his word.

Talk about a test of faith.

Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning journalist and CNN contributor. Martin is studying to receive his master's degree in Christian communications at Louisiana Baptist University, and he is the author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith." You can read more of his columns at http://www.rolandsmartin.com/.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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