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House Speaker Dennis Hastert met Tuesday with an evangelist who hoped to persuade the Illinois Republican to step down because of the congressional page sex scandal.
Hastert had no comment after the meeting at his home in Plano, Illinois, with Christian evangelist K.A. Paul, founder of the Global Peace Initiative who is best known as a spiritual adviser to Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president in jail awaiting trial before a war crimes tribunal.
Paul told The Associated Press he met alone with Hastert for about 30 minutes and prayed with him. He said he told Hastert that he should resign.
“You need to for the sake of the country and for the sake of your future,” Paul said he told Hastert. “You pray within your heart and you do it.”
Hastert has resisted calls for his resignation over his handling of the situation involving former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, who stepped down after he was confronted with sexually explicit electronic messages he sent to teenage male pages. Foley is under investigation by federal and Florida authorities.
Hastert has insisted he was not aware of the charges until more recently but has accepted responsibility for the matter.
Paul said the scandal is distracting the country from other issues. He said, “We don’t want the Foley scandal when we have 100 more important things to do.”
Paul’s Global Peace Initiative is a nonprofit group that focuses on causes aimed at peace and humanitarian aid.
Dan Busby, an executive of an accrediting group that found problems with one of Paul’s charities, said the meeting was “more shocking than surprising.”
In 2005, the more than 1,200-member Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability terminated the membership of Paul’s Gospel to the Unreached Millions for failing to meet financial accountability and governance standards.
Hastert spokesman Brad Hahn would not comment on how or why the meeting with Paul was arranged. Hahn said, “The speaker had a cordial discussion (with Paul), but disagrees with his point of view.”
Paul said he believes Hastert met with him because of Paul’s connections with prominent Republicans and donors to the evangelical movement.
Paul’s name is unknown to most people in the American evangelical community, said Billy Graham biographer William Martin of Rice University in Houston.
“As an evangelistic figure in the United States, (Paul) has virtually no visibility,” Martin said.
Associated Press writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report.
Ã‚Â© 2006 The Associated Press