Religious Right groups are excited about the selection of Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) as the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hastert was vaulted from obscurity to the speaker's chair in December after Rep. Robert Livingston (R-La.) turned down the post following revelations that he has had several extramarital affairs. Livingston had been tapped to replace Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who resigned from Congress after the Republicans' poor showing in the November elections.
Hastert has a solid right-wing voting record and is rated at 100 percent by the Christian Coalition. He opposes legal abortion, supports religious school vouchers and last year voted for the so-called "Religious Freedom Amendment," a measure introduced by Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) that critics said would have effectively erased churchstate separation from the Bill of Rights. He also voted for a Religious Rightbacked plan to defund the National Endowment for the Arts.
Several Religious Right leaders hailed Hastert's selection. Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum called his appointment "a wonderful turn of events. We want a new face, and Denny Hastert is it."
Randy Tate, executive director of the Christian Coalition and a former one-term GOP member of Congress, told Focus on the Family's Citizen Issues Alert fax bulletin that Hastert is "a true conservative.... He will be able to get the day-to-day business of the pro-family agenda passed."
Former Coalition director Ralph Reed took a slightly different view, saying of Hastert, "He's not somebody who religious conservatives view as hostile. He's friendly. But he's not someone who's going to be a lightning rod ... as proprietary property of the...