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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

And I'm Melissa Block. Texas Governor Rick Perry has dominated the polls for Republican presidential candidates ever since he entered the race last month. And he visited friendly territory today. Governor Perry spoke at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia - that's an evangelical Christian school. In a moment, we'll hear about Governor Perry and the death penalty in Texas. But first, to Virginia and Rick Perry talking about his own religious commitment.

Our story comes from Ben Philpott of member station KUT.

BEN PHILPOTT: This was not Governor Perry's traditional stump speech. Instead of attacks on President Obama and his GOP challengers, Perry spoke about his inspirations and his personal faith journey.

G: What I learned as I wrestled with God is that I didn't have to have all the answers, that they would be revealed to me in due time, and that I needed to trust him.

PHILPOTT: Today, the governor made no mention of Social Security, immigration or his controversial attempt to mandate a cervical cancer vaccine for young girls in Texas. The closest he got to politics was talking about the fight for freedom in the U.S. and around the world, and a quick nod to the Republican message of cutting government spending.

PERRY: You have the right to insist on change, to tell the people in power that you will not have your inheritance spent or your future mortgaged.

PHILPOTT: Liberty University, founded by the late minister and televangelist Jerry Falwell, bills itself as the largest Christian university in the world. It's been a favorite campaign stop for candidates trying to solidify or improve their social conservative credentials. But the school's current chancellor, Jerry Falwell Jr., says that doesn't mean only Christian candidates need apply.

JERRY FALWELL: We don't encourage our students to have a litmus test based on a candidate's theology. But the issues are what we care about, where they stand on all the issues that matter to social conservatives, to fiscal conservatives, and that's always been our position.

PHILPOTT: Governor Perry is not the only GOP candidate pushing his social conservative credentials. Liberty University student Danna Cahn liked what she heard from Perry, but says initially she's pulled for another candidate.

DANNA CAHN: I have looked into a lot of stuff about Michele Bachmann, and I do like her a lot, too. So I'm just trying to stick with the conservative movement, so, just to choose from there.

PHILPOTT: Student Shaquille Cook says it's great that Perry and other presidential candidates are planning stops at Liberty. He just hopes the Texas governor and others aren't simply putting on a Christian face for their visits.

SHAQUILLE COOK: My biggest concern was is his speech - if his motives are going to be the same way as he leaves here at Liberty and go travels to the other states, is his message going to be the same as it was here?

PHILPOTT: Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann visits Liberty later this month. Chancellor Falwell says all the presidential candidates, including President Obama, have been invited to speak.

For NPR News, I'm Ben Philpott in Lynchburg.

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