Karine Jean-Pierre
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megachurch leader D. James Kennedy dies

The Reverend D.
James Kennedy, a pioneering Christian broadcaster and
megachurch pastor whose fiercely conservative worldview
helped fuel the rise of the religious right in
American politics, died Wednesday. He was 76.

Kennedy died at
his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said Kristin Cole, a
spokeswoman for Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
The cause of death has not been determined, but
Kennedy had not been seen publicly he suffered cardiac
arrest Dec. 28. His retirement was announced last month.

Kennedy's voice
and face were known to millions through radio and
television broadcasts, in which he urged Christians to
evangelize in their daily lives and condemned
homosexuality and abortion as assaults on the
traditional family. His also preached on the major policy
issues of the day, rejecting evolution and global

Kennedy was
influential in the founding of the religious right but
worked more often from behind the scenes, as attention
focused on his allies Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

''He was never in
the front ranks of evangelical leaders that were also
political leaders, but he was active at every stage of the
Christian right,'' said John Green, a senior fellow at
the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life who
specializes in religion and politics.

Kennedy was a
founding board member of the Moral Majority, which Falwell
formed in 1979. In 1996, Kennedy created Coral Ridge's
political arm, called the Center for Reclaiming
America for Christ, to mobilize conservative
Christians against same-sex marriage, pornography, and what
he called ''judicial tyranny,'' among other issues.

Kennedy also
founded the Center for Christian Statesmanship, which
organized Capitol Hill Bible studies and other events that
attracted top government officials. He encouraged them
''to embrace God's providential purpose for this

''The Bible says,
'Be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the
earth,''' Kennedy said in a 1996 interview with the Los
Angeles Times
. ''God should be in every sphere
of life: economics, business, education, government, art and

In 1959 the
pastor started his ministry with a congregation of about 45
members, eventually expanding into a megachurch that claims
10,000 members today.

In the 1960s,
when many conservative Christians were still debating how
much to engage the broader culture, Kennedy jumped in and
created Evangelism Explosion International, which
trained Christians to share their beliefs with others.

''That simple
goal is now widely adopted in evangelical churches and
widely accepted, but at the time he started it, it wasn't,''
said Frank Wright, president and chief executive
officer of the National Religious Broadcasters

At the time of
his death, Kennedy's influence was beginning to wane, as
his congregation aged and new evangelical leaders emerged.
Coral Ridge shuttered its Center for Reclaiming
America earlier this year.

Still, Kennedy
was the author of more than 50 books and founded two
schools—Knox Theological Seminary and Westminster
Academy, a K-12 Christian school near his church.

Coral Ridge
Ministries, his radio and TV outreach arm, claimed a weekly
audience of 3.5 million people for all its broadcasts.
Kennedy's TV show, The Coral Ridge Hour, has
been airing reruns on more than 400 stations and is
broadcast to more than 150 countries on the Armed Forces
Network, according to officials with his ministry. Last year
the National Religious Broadcasters group inducted him
into its hall of fame.

''He was one of
the early visionaries who saw that you could use
electronic media to extend the four walls of the church to
reach a broader audience,'' Wright said.

Dennis James
Kennedy was born November 3, 1930, in Augusta, Ga., and his
family moved in 1936 to Chicago and in 1945 to Tampa, Fla.
Kennedy's father was a traveling salesman whom he
described as ''long suffering,'' and his mother was an
alcoholic. They were not churchgoers.

Kennedy dropped
out of college to become an Arthur Murray dance
instructor but eventually returned to earn multiple degrees,
including a doctorate from New York University. He met
his future wife, the former Anne Lewis, while teaching

Besides his wife
of 51 years, the pastor is survived by a daughter,
Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy. Both were by his bedside when he
died. (Matt Sedensky, AP)

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