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Blunt, new majority leader, is member of SBC church in Mo.

WASHINGTON (BP)–One Baptist has replaced another as House majority leader in the wake of a Texas indictment Sept. 28 charging Rep. Tom DeLay with violations of state election laws.

Serving at least on a temporary basis as the new majority leader in the U.S. House is Roy D. Blunt, a Republican and a member of First Baptist Church in Branson, Mo. Blunt, 55, was elected to Congress in 1996.

The previous four years, Blunt had served as president of his alma mater, Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. Blunt also is a former Missouri secretary of state, the first Republican to hold the post in more than 50 years.

He is the father of Missouri’s current governor, Matt Blunt, who also served as secretary of state. Matt Blunt attends Second Baptist Church in Springfield.

DeLay is a member of Second Baptist Church in Houston, according to information provided by congressional sources for the November 2004 election.

Blunt, upon entering Congress in 1997, was the only first-termer chosen to serve on the House leadership’s steering committee, which determines committee appointments. Besides his appointment to three influential committees — international relations, transportation and infrastructure, and agriculture — he came to know many of the House’s movers and shakers. DeLay, when he was House majority whip, appointed Blunt as chief deputy whip in 1999.

When DeLay became majority leader in 2003, Blunt assumed the whip’s position.

DeLay stepped aside Sept. 28 after a grand jury in Travis County, which includes most of Austin, charged him with conspiring with two previously indicted aids to violate a 100-year-old Texas ban against the use of corporate money by state political candidates.

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson was one of several evangelical leaders to issue statements after DeLay’s indictment.

“Today’s indictment of Majority Leader Tom DeLay bears all the signs of a trumped-up, political witch-hunt,” Dobson stated. “The extreme left has seized this chance to take a swipe at one of America’s leading advocates of family values. We have every confidence that time will prove these charges false and we look forward to the majority leader being fully vindicated.

“While some will doubtless try to capitalize on Rep. DeLay’s current difficulties by kicking at his political beliefs while he is down, such blatant opportunism will be clearly seen for what it is,” Dobson continued. “Political adversity is nothing new to Tom DeLay, who has long shown himself to be a consistent voice of reason and clarity in America’s moral debates.”

Of Blunt’s selection, Dobson said, “It is encouraging that the Republicans in the House seem prepared to continue the tradition of clear leadership in Majority Leader DeLay’s stead.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, stated, “While I cannot speak to the charges [against DeLay,] I can speak to the man that I’ve come to know. Majority Leader DeLay has been an outspoken champion of the pro-family issues important to us all. He has championed issues ranging from the partial-birth abortion ban to tax cuts to the first historic vote on the marriage amendment.

“There will be those who will try to turn the current events into an indictment of the ideas that Tom DeLay stands for, and they will be wrong,” Perkins said.

“True leadership shows in times of personal crisis,” he continued. “When there is a question of wrongdoing, true leadership shines and knows to step aside to not distract from the issues important to all. Can the hypocrites who will be convicting Congressman DeLay without a trial say they would do the same? From the beginning, Tom DeLay has asked for a fair investigation. We should all remember there is a longstanding policy in this country that you are presumed innocent till proven guilty.”

Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America and a former pastor, described DeLay as “a man of integrity and a model congressman who loves the people of his district and has served them well. … I’ve interacted with Tom as a pastor, and as a friend. I know that Tom is active in his church and that his own pastor speaks highly of him. I also know that Tom is a true Christian who has performed many acts of kindness — often for friends, and sometimes for total strangers, whose situation touched his heart.”

Scarborough took aim at the Travis County prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, who was instrumental in DeLay’s indictment.

“This was not the first time Ronnie Earle has tried to bring down someone of Majority Leader DeLay’s stature,” Scarborough said. “And on this, the last day this particular grand jury sat, this highly partisan prosecutor finally realized the object of his ambitions — having the Majority Leader indicted, which, by the way, he boasted he would do in fundraising letters and speeches to fellow Democrats.”