Following the indictment of Congressman Tom DeLay on Sept. 26 for alleged illegal fundraising activities, several prominent conservative Christians quickly offered their support for DeLay. Many also attacked Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle for bringing the charges.
As a result of the indictment, DeLay, a member of Second Baptist Church of Houston, was forced to step down at least temporarily from his post as House Majority Leader. Delay was admonished by the House Ethics Committee three times last year. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The first public event that DeLay attended Wednesday after being indicted was a dinner hosted by “Stand for Israel,” a group of Christians and Jews to provide support for <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Israel.
Former Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Young, DeLay’s pastor, stated his support for DeLay at an event in Houston. “Tom, we believe in you,” Young said. “A lie will run around the world four or five times before the truth can put on its tennis shoes, but once the truth gets its tennis shoes on and laced up, look out.”
Focus on the Family’s James Dobson defended DeLay and attacked his critics. “Today’s indictment of Majority Leader Tom DeLay bears all the signs of a trumped-up, political witch-hunt,” Dobson said. “The extreme left has seized this chance to take a swipe at one of America’s leading advocates of family values. We have every confidence that time will prove these charges false and we look forward to the majority leader being fully vindicated.”
Jerry Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Liberty University compared the indictment of DeLay to President Richard Nixon’s “vicious” attacks on his political enemies, and argued that DeLay “is the target of an ugly political witch hunt.”
Falwell also wrote: “While the dogs continue to yap at his heels, I hope that Rep. DeLay can get past the nasty politics that have seemingly brought him to this point. And I pray that he can quickly prove his innocence and get back to work as one of our eminent political leaders.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, stated: “I have spoken with Congressman DeLay and I’m convinced that what he is saying is exactly as he sees it. He did not commit any violation of the law nor has he violated any rule of the House. I just want to encourage you to pray for Congressman DeLay and his family and also pray for the Republican leaders in Congress.”
Perkins also praised DeLay for deciding to step down as Majority Leader even though DeLay was actually forced to by House Republican rules: “True leadership shows in times of personal crisis. When there is a question of wrongdoing true leadership shines and knows to step aside to not distract from the issues important to all.”
Jim Backlin, vice president of legislative affairs for the Christian Coalition, wrote that DeLay is a “man of great accomplishments.” In particular, he pointed to DeLay’s opposition to removing the feeding tubes of Terri Schiavo and his support for impeaching President Bill Clinton.
Vision America’s President Rick Scarborough, an unsuccessful fundamentalist candidate for the president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in 1996, called the indictment a “witch hunt” brought by “a veteran Democratic operative.”
Scarborough also declared: “I have every confidence that my friend Tom DeLay–whom I know to be a man of principle and the highest integrity–will be vindicated.…Tom DeLay is a great man, whom I firmly believe will make his most valuable contributions to the cause of God, family and country in the future.”
DeLay is a longtime ally of the religious right and spoke in August at the Justice Sunday II rally that featured Dobson, Perkins, Chuck Colson and other religious conservatives. The rally was held at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, where current SBC vice president Jerry Sutton is pastor and spoke at the event.
DeLay was replaced as Majority Leader by another Southern Baptist, Representative Roy Blunt, who is a member of First Baptist Church of Branson. However, there are also suggestions that Blunt, who was previously president of Southwest Baptist University, has also violated ethics and fundraising rules.
Blunt’s son, Matt, is currently governor of Missouri and is scheduled to speak at the annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention later this month.
Brian Kaylor is communications specialist with the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.