It’s hard to imagine two more controversial men headlining the annual National Day of Prayer events at a Capitol Hill caucus room.
James Dobson, founder of the Colorado-based evangelical group Focus on the Family, introduced House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to a standing ovation from a spiritually minded, Republican-leaning crowd of several hundred.
During his introduction, Dobson made no mention of the controversy surrounding the Texas Republican. Democrats have called for an investigation into reports that some of his overseas travel was funded by a lobbyist, which could violate House rules.
DeLay has denied any wrongdoing and said he welcomes an inquiry by a newly re-constituted House Ethics Committee.
“I’ve known him for many, many years, and have great love and respect for him,” Dobson told the crowd, mentioning that both he and DeLay are originally from Texas.
DeLay, so hard-nosed he’s nicknamed “The Hammer,” took an uncharacteristically soft tone.
“Humility is what I’m going to talk about today, so therefore don’t believe half of what he says,” DeLay said after embracing Dobson.
Saying he was speaking on behalf of all lawmakers from both parties, he asked for people’s prayers, “because the only way we can serve well is to serve humbly, as servants both to God and our nation.
“Just think what we could all accomplish,” he said, “if we checked our pride at the door . . . if we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it; if we spent less time at our soap boxes and more on our knees.”
Dobson has been in the center of a controversy over stalled judicial nominations and a running war of words with Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo. Salazar recently blasted the political tactics of Dobson and his group, at one point calling them “the Antichrist of the world” _ a term Salazar later said he regretted.
Dobson’s wife, Shirley Dobson, chaired the annual event, which includes representatives from various faiths to call for people to pray for the country’s leaders.
When he took the stage, James Dobson wove together religious and political themes.
“Our military people are still in harm’s way, still in danger. So are our families. I’m very concerned about our judiciary . . . and things that will not be decided by American families but will be decided for us,” he said.
He offered a prayer as attendees bowed their heads.
“We’ve come here in that spirit today, Lord, exercising our First Amendment right to have freedom of religion, freedom of speech,” he said.
The prayer lamented couples living together without getting married and children being born outside of wedlock. Dobson said the nation had been founded on Biblical scriptures and, “If we depart from it, we will do so at our peril.”
Dobson did not mention his feud with Salazar, who has accused him of trying to turn the United States into a theocracy. However, Shirley Dobson alluded to the heated political rhetoric at one point.
“We’re at a point in our country today where we’re calling good evil and evil good,” she said.
Some critics, including Salazar, have questioned Dobson’s increasing role in political matters, since Focus on the Family enjoys the tax status of a charity. The group formed a separate political arm, Focus on the Family Action, which recently placed advertisements in states across the country, pressuring Senators including Salazar to end filibuster rules that have prevented some of President Bush’s most controversial judicial nominees from getting up-or-down votes.
Dobson and others have suggested that Democrats have blocked some nominees because of their religious beliefs _ a notion Democrats dispute and President Bush has said he does not think is true.