There to serve

"There to serve" Continued...

Issue: "Inside Election 2012," Oct. 20, 2012

Moniz died of a heart attack at 38. The death propelled a devastated Scott to write out a life mission statement. Not yet 18 years old, Scott decided to devote his life to impacting positively the lives of 1 billion people before he died.

He eventually turned to public service as his avenue for reaching others. “It became the most obvious way to make the most difference,” Scott said. “I didn’t have a bunch of money to give away.”

Scott, whose faith deepened through intensive Bible study during his college years at Charleston Southern University, has not tried to hide his faith in the public arena. In 1997, he led a successful movement within the Charleston County Council to display the Ten Commandments. The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a lawsuit. After two years of legal battles, the courts forced the county to remove the plaque. Scott told reporters at the time that the legal costs were worth defending the Commandments.

“He is a Christian who happens to be a congressman,” said Joe Stringer, an insurance agent from the Charleston area who has known Scott for 25 years and is his weekly prayer partner. “He is passionate about what his role is, and he believes that God has placed him in this role for a reason.”

In winning his congressional seat, Scott first beat in the Republican primary the son of former Sen. Strom Thurmond, the state’s political icon who served 48 years in the U.S. Senate and once ran for president as a third-party segregationist candidate. Scott, who once served as an honorary chairman for one of Thurmond’s reelection bids, won the general election 65 percent to 29 percent. He is favored to win a second term this fall in a district that traces South Carolina’s coast.

In Washington, Scott has opposed the National Labor Relations Board’s efforts to stop Boeing from opening a new plant in South Carolina. He introduced legislation, which passed the House, to prevent the NLRB from going after businesses trying to expand their presence in right-to-work states.

Scott also has not been afraid to go against his own party leadership. During the 2011 battle over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, Scott pressed for a balanced budget constitutional amendment. He ultimately voted against House Speaker John Boehner’s final compromise measure that raised the debt limit, because he believed it didn’t go far enough to curtail spending.

During that debate, Scott again turned to his faith. While Republican leaders pressured lawmakers to get enough votes to secure passage, Scott encountered in the Capitol halls several other House members from the freshman delegation also struggling with their decisions.

“We need to pray about this together,” one lawmaker said. “Why not now?” another replied.

The lawmakers went to the tiny House chapel located inside the Capitol and got down on their knees. Scott said that while praying he thought of Proverbs 22:7 and its warning that a borrower is a slave to the lender. When he emerged from the chapel, Scott told reporters: “I am a no at the end of the day. I was leaning no. Now I am a no.”

Scott doesn’t know how long he will remain in politics. He has goals to help nonprofits, faith-based community organizations, and children who are struggling in high school the way he once did. He said Washington’s busy schedule makes it easy for lawmakers to forget their core personal values in the midst of pursuing Capitol Hill’s definition of success: “If I’m a good Republican, but I’m not a good servant, what good is the office I hold?”

Scott, who is unmarried and is a member of a large, interdenominational evangelical church called Seacoast, goes home to South Carolina whenever Congress is not in session so he can see “my momma, my church, and my friends.” Most of those friends laughed at him when he first told them about his life goal to help a billion people.

“I said, ‘yeah right,’” recalled Stringer, his prayer partner. “But if you also had told me this man would become a congressman in the United States House of Representatives, I would have laughed again and said ‘no way.’ But he’s there now.”

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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