Criticism of disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley has been muted from the Religious Right, amid concern the scandal might hinder recent efforts to get out the Christian vote for Republican candidates in midterm elections Nov. 7.
Gary Bauer of American Values said Foley’s resignation was appropriate, in light of revelations that he sent sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages to an underage congressional page, but Bauer charged that similar indiscretions by Democrats didn’t bring the same result.
“I would hope that the obvious disgusting behavior by this one Republican congressman would not affect turnout on Election Day,” Bauer said.
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins worried that there’s “a real chance” the scandal could dethrone the GOP in Congress. “When a party holds itself out to be the guardian of values, this is not helpful,” he said.
But Perkins said the “real issue” in the Foley case is the link between child abuse and homosexuals.
“When a 16-year-old boy is not safe from sexual solicitation from an elected representative of the people, we should question the moral direction of our nation,” Perkins said in a statement.
He speculated that perhaps the reason House Republicans downplayed earlier reports about Foley is they feared they would be accused of homophobia.
“The Foley scandal shows what happens when political correctness is put ahead of protecting children,” Perkins said.
Cybercast News Service observed that homosexual activists had little to say about Foley in news reports or on Web sites.
But Mike Rogers, a gay activist who has been blogging for a year about Foley’s closeted gay lifestyle, invited James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Perkins of the Family Research Council and Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition to join him in calling for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign his leadership position for failing to act when informed of Foley’s alleged sexual advances toward male pages.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Tuesday she was not aware of any “push-back” from the Religious Right calling for Hastert to resign or if the White House is doing any outreach to religious groups to find out why they are upset.
“I’m not aware of any, no,” she said in response to a reporter’s question aboard Air Force One. “I’m not even aware of what you just said. I don’t believe that we’re undertaking anything at the White House, no.”
Dobson’s organization released a statement that didn’t mention House leadership.
Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family, said if Foley is guilty, it was right for him to resign. “This is yet another sad example of our society’s oversexualization, especially as it affects the Internet, and the damage it does to all who get caught in its grasp,” Minnery said.
Dobson touched on the Foley controversy at a Tuesday “Stand for the Family” rally. “Neither party has a cornerstone on morality,” Dobson said, according to the Associated Press.
Dobson once said of another politician caught in a sex scandal: “It is my belief that no man has done more to debase the presidency or to undermine our Constitution–and particularly the moral and biblical principles upon which it is based–than has William Jefferson Clinton.”
Focus on the Family News, meanwhile, led a news story suggesting misplaced concern. “With most of the media consumed with Mark Foley’s dalliance with congressional pages and Bob Woodward’s hit piece on the Bush administration, you may have missed news of a critical defeat for parental rights.” The story went on to describe efforts by a Senate Democrat to stall a bill that would make it a crime to take a minor girl across state lines to have an abortion.
Perkins suggested that revelations about Foley were orchestrated by Democrats to discourage conservative Republican voters just before the election.
Jan LaRue of Concerned Women for America said Republican leaders should have taken investigation into the e-mails more seriously, but also said Democrats were trying to use the scandal for political gain.
A moderate Baptist ethicist called such ambivalence by the Religious Right on a moral issue “pathetic,” and said it “illustrates yet again that the Religious Right is more political and religious.”
“Instead of straight moral criticism of a Republican congressman and Republican Party leadership for its apparent cover up, the Religious Right offers a ‘yes, but’ strategy that acknowledges wrong and shifts attention to others who have done wrong,” said Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics. “Wrong is wrong, whether it’s a Republican or Democrat.”
While most news media covered what has been termed “FoleyGate,” the Southern Baptist Convention news service Baptist Press ran a story about how an episode involving NFL star Terrell Owens created media attention about suicide prevention.
BP has not yet reported that advocates for victims of sexual abuse delivered a public letter to the front door of SBC headquarters Sept. 26 asking the denomination to develop a national strategy to fight pedophilia in Southern Baptist churches.
Christa Brown, one of the signers of the letter from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to Southern Baptist leaders Morris Chapman, Richard Land and Frank Page, said it is ironic that Southern Baptist leaders would focus on suicide prevention but have not yet responded to their letter.
“The National Institute of Mental Health lists sexual abuse as a primary factor that increases a person’s risk of suicide,” Brown said in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com. “If Richard Land”–as quoted from the BP story–“really cares about ‘the battle against suicide,’ why isn’t he helping SNAP and working with us instead of ignoring us?”
Jerry Falwell, who “outed” the Telletubby Tinky-Winky as an alleged gay role model in 1997, doesn’t mention Foley either in his “Falwell Confidential” or National Liberty Journal.
Parham said the Religious Right “seemingly has a double standard for morality.”
In a new development reported Wednesday, Foley’s attorney revealed claims that Foley was molested by a clergyman when he was between 13 and 15 years old. Foley, who is Roman Catholic, reportedly revealed the abuse as part of his rehab.
Lawyer David Roth reportedly told reporters that Foley is gay–a question the congressman has in the past refused to answer–and an alcoholic, but denied he is a pedophile.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.