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Christian Conservatives React to Foley Scandal


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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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