An eccentric and controversial evangelist has claimed that House Speaker Dennis Hastert broke a promise to resign within seven days after they met and prayed together Oct. 10 at the speaker’s home.
The Associated Press reported last week that <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Houston evangelist K.A. Paul visited Hastert’s home in Plano, Ill., for 40 minutes. Paul told the AP he advised Hastert to step down from the leadership position for his mishandling of the Mark Foley affair.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Paul went on to tell Mother Jones magazine he in fact convinced Hastert to resign.
“God convinced him through me in prayer,” Paul claimed. He said Hastert told him: “God gave me this position that I don’t deserve,” and “For the good of the people, I will do it.”
Hastert said details of the meeting were confidential, adding later that he was duped into allowing Paul into his home–a major breach of security–believing him to be a supporter. Paul denied that he barged in on Hastert.
This week, Paul spoke out again, telling a Chicago television station that during the meeting Hastert told him he knew about the congressional page scandal much earlier than he has publicly acknowledged.
“I am quite shocked that he did know this and he did not come out clean, and I quoted two scriptures, so he said, ‘You’re right. For the good of the people, for the good of the party, I must step down,'” Paul said on ABC affiliate WLS-TV.
The station quoted Hastert through a spokesman denying he ever said those things.
Paul, an Indian-born globe-trotting evangelist, isn’t widely known in the United States, but he bills himself as “India’s Billy Graham” and the “world’s most popular” minister. He says he has preached to millions and counseled with world leaders including Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic. He also boasts that he convinced former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor to resign from his office.
Paul himself is no stranger to scandal. An alternative Houston newspaper in June ran an expose on him detailing allegations such as claiming another minister’s leper colony as his own in a fund-raising video, transporting children in an airplane described by a former pilot as a “flying death trap” and interfering in a murder investigation in India.
In 2005 the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability terminated the membership of Paul’s Gospel to the Unreached Millions for failure to meet standards of financial accountability and governance.
Paul spoke to the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in 1997 at the invitation of then-president Ronnie Floyd. Paul’s sermon included implied criticism of the SBC’s missionary strategy and a thinly veiled appeal for funds.
The SBC International Mission Board were so concerned that Paul’s presence implied endorsement of his ministry that trustees took an unprecedented step of passing a resolution of no-confidence.
“Based on information available at this time, the trustees of the IMB do not have confidence in the ministry of the Gospel to the Unreached Millions, founded by K.A. Paul,” the resolution said.
The resolution went on to “commend to Southern Baptist churches the mission program of the IMB as being faithful to the Biblical principles of missions and accountable to the churches (doctrinally and financially).”
Paul has recently taken up a theme of opposition to the war in Iraq. On Oct. 8 he preached a sermon in Ohio urging voters to remove Republicans from office, because U.S. foreign policy is delaying the Second Coming of Christ.
Press materials said Paul was launching “a crusade to save America from the wrath of God and Republicans abusing their power.”
According to the Associated Press, Paul said after talking and praying with Hastert he believed the speaker was a sincere man of God, but he should still step down for his handling of the scandal of a former Florida congressman caught sending inappropriate e-mails to underage male pages.
According to Mother Jones, Paul said he came away from the meeting much more impressed with Hastert than with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whom he also claimed to have counseled.
“There is no comparison between,” he said. “Tom DeLay and Speaker Hastert: Pride versus humility. Opposites.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.