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Christian Conservatives React to Foley Scandal

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Christian Conservatives React to Foley Scandal

Christian Conservatives React to Foley Scandal

Christian Conservatives React to Foley Scandal

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Rich Cizik, head of governmental affairs for the Colorado-based National Association of Evangelicals, talks with Alex Chadwick about how Christian conservatives are reacting to the scandal that led to the resignation of former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) last week.


And more now: Christian conservatives, important to the Republican Party. And I spoke earlier with Richard Cizik. He's with the National Association of Evangelicals. He joined us from an evangelical university in Missouri.

Mr. RICHARD CIZIK (National Association of Evangelicals): What response are evangelicals having to this? Well, they're appalled. There's no doubt about that.

Frankly, for we evangelicals who believe that right behavior and right belief are two sides of the same spiritual coin, to have a member of Congress who's engaging in this behavior is not just appalling, but it just runs contrary to all that we believe public officials ought to be doing.

CHADWICK: The issue of values was by many accounts the defining issue in the last election, 2004. I wonder what effect you think this will have on the vote this coming November.

Mr. CIZIK: I've been trying to gauge that, Alex. I would suspect that there are those within, say, the more separatistic wing of the big umbrella of evangelicalism - among the fundamentalists, that is - who might be turned off by this. But I still think that's a small percentage.

CHADWICK: You know, it's not just an issue of how are people going to vote. It's how much are they willing to work for a party or a candidate even?

Mr. CIZIK: It's the passion factor. And this scandal may influence some folks on the passion factor. But I'm not sure that is as big a issue as is the perception by some within conservative ranks that the president ran on the values issues and then wasn't willing to push them.

CHADWICK: Are you saying that this Congressman Foley problem in some way you think may be perceived as a reflection of a reluctance to push values issues on the part of either President Bush or the Republican Party? Or is it that people who are motivated by those issues are looking to other questions.

Mr. CIZIK: I think it's probably other questions, although you make an interesting argument, that the whole willingness of the Republican leadership to address this question in their own ranks raises leadership issues. Look, I give Mr. Hastert a break here and say he did what he probably should have done, but evangelicals are committed to societal reform, and there are other issues that may impact their vote, but I'm not sure this one will.

CHADWICK: What are the other issues?

Mr. CIZIK: It doesn't make the Republicans look good. But that's obvious, on the face of it.

CHADWICK: What are the issues that you think might either elevate or depress the vote this year?

Mr. CIZIK: Well, the obvious national issue is the war in Iraq. There's no question about that. College students, denominational executives here and other cities around the country, passers - that's the one national issue.

CHADWICK: Would there be an evangelical view or position on the war in Iraq?

Mr. CIZIK: Very interesting question. The National Association of Evangelicals that represents a constituency of some 30 million, and it's probably half of the evangelicals in America, never took a position on the war. We were very clear not to do so. Early this spring the polls said that 65 percent of evangelicals, thereabout, supported the president's policies on Iraq, and I noted that with the general public that support has drifted downward. And there are those - I've run into college students here on campus who say they are upset of the conduct of the war, probably not the decision to go into the war, but the conduct and how it's been managed that say they're going to vote Democrat as a result. I think it's a protest vote. But I don't think the issue long-term bodes well for the Republicans unless they can turn around the situation on the ground in Iraq, which of course is obvious to all us, a civil war to one degree or another.

CHADWICK: Richard Cizik with the National Association of Evangelicals. Thank you, Mr. Cizik.

Mr. CIZIK: Thank you, Alex.

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Page Program Has Seen Scandal Before

The scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley has brought new attention to a program that brings dozens of high-school students to Capitol Hill each year.

Path to Pagedom: To qualify, pages must be high school juniors, at least 16 years old, have good grades and be sponsored by their local representative or senator.

Job Description: Pages are essentially glorified gofers. They fetch members for votes and hand-deliver messages, bills and amendments to and fro. For their service, which is limited to one semester, they earn the equivalent of an annual salary of between $18,800 (for House pages) and $20,500 (for Senate pages). They live in dormitories in Capitol Hill and attend mandatory, early-morning classes before heading off to the Hill.

Page Fashion: Pages are required to pay for their own uniforms — navy jackets, dark gray slacks or skirts, long-sleeved white shirts and black shoes.

Origins: The program can be traced to silver-tongued statesman Daniel Webster, who appointed the first Senate page in 1829. The first House pages followed in 1842.

Where Are They Now: Several pages have later returned to Capitol Hill as lawmakers — including such current senior members of Congress as Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CN), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).

Page Problems: Despite its long history, the program was nearly eliminated two decades ago. In 1983, a congressional investigation turned up evidence that two House members, Reps. Daniel B. Crane and Gerry Studds, and a senior House employee had engaged in sexual liaisons with pages.

Crane, a Republican from Illinois, admitted to a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female page. He was censured and voted out of office in 1984. Studds, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said the sexual affair he had with a 17-year-old male page was consensual, and accused the House ethics committee of violating his privacy. Studds was also censured, but won re-election the following year and served in Congress until his retirement in 1996.

In the wake of the investigation, Congress overhauled the page program and adopted new protections. A dormitory for pages was created near the Capitol, and the minimum age of participation was raised from 14 to 16.

What Now: The future of the program is once again threatened. In the wake of the Foley revelations, several lawmakers have called for a suspension or end to the 150-year-old congressional tradition.

Maria Godoy