This weekend, we learned that Congressman Mark Foley, who resigned on Friday, repeatedly used the Internet to make sexual advances to minors serving as congressional pages. We also learned that some top Republican leaders in the House of Representatives knew about this problem but failed to do anything about it—at least until e-mails they so delicately called “overly friendly” were being shown on national television.
That is simply unacceptable, and coming from political party leaders who often imply they have a monopoly on values, it reeks of hypocrisy. As any parent would tell you, a real “values” leader would recognize immediately that the priority here should have been protecting children. Those who knew about any inappropriate e-mail messages should have disclosed them earlier. Unfortunately, Speaker Hastert and the four other Republican leaders who knew about this problem apparently put a higher premium on maintaining political power, and they remained quiet.
Still quiet about these congressional leaders’ failure to immediately confront this problem are many of the Religious Right leaders who also often attempt to claim the values mantle. The current silence of many Religious Right leaders on this point—their narrow focus on Foley’s individual wrongdoing instead of House leaders’ failure to address it—demonstrates the bankruptcy of their claims to be something other than political partisans.
There is a problem when members of Congress become so arrogant that they think they no longer have to do what’s right or uphold the law. No one is above the law—especially not our leaders, who have a responsibility to set a moral example for others. We invite Americans of all political stripes, including the majority of members of Congress who had nothing to do with this scandal, to join us in our fight to stop this sort of hypocrisy and disregard for the law, and to hold those who are responsible for it accountable.
If this scandal reminds us of anything, it is that values are what you do, not what you say.
AAMIA and AAMLC comprise a network of more than 5,000 ministers in 22 states and are programs of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. To arrange interviews about the Mark Foley scandal with the leaders of these programs, contact Nick Berning or Stacey Gates at 202-467-4999 or [email protected].