Donna's Faith Journey

Lamp Unto My Feet: A Verse-A-Day Devotional
365 Christian Leaders Share the Scriptures That Have Guided Their Lives

By Art Toalston, Harper Collins, 1997
Excerpt on pages 137-138

"Donna Rice Hughes, director of communications and marketing, “Enough Is Enough!” campaign to reduce sexual violence and prevent children, women, men, and families from becoming victims by combating child pornography and hard-core pornography; featured in “Donna Rice: My Faith Gave Me Strength,” a three-page article in People magazine’s twentieth-anniversary issue, recounting God’s healing after national publicity derailing the presidential campaign of Gary Hart in 1987.

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29, KJV)

I was brought up in a Christian family and gave my life to the Lord in the ninth grade and was blessed in all areas of my life. I had always heard the first part of this passage, verse 28, and in my mind it meant that everything would work to the good the way I interpreted “good.” Later, in my twenties, I strayed from my faith and eventually hit rock bottom and lost everything. I rededicated my life to the Lord, and I came to realize what God was saying in that verse. His good for me, His purpose in my life – as it says in the next verse – is to conform me to the image of His Son. That is what is “good” – God’s definition of good. I had always translated my “good” as success, health, vitality, happiness, joy, peace, which are all wonderful. But as I was going through the years of deep, dark valleys of pain and suffering from public humiliation, slander, and disgrace, I began to understand that if I could yield those tough places to God, He could smooth out the rough edges to begin to conform me to His image. That helped me go through the trials and the valleys. I began to see those hard, fiery times as opportunities for growth – for God to mold me into the image of His Son. If I had looked at “good” as good circumstances in human terms, I don’t think I could have gotten through it. Even then, I still needed to feel that there was a future, that brighter days would be ahead. And that’s where Jeremiah 29:11 came in: “’… For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future …’” (NIV). Even though God oftentimes may use tough circumstances and trying times to mold me and get me to where He wants me to be, He still has plans for me. There were times that I didn’t know if I could get through another day, so I would always remind myself that God was conforming me to the image of His Son and He knew the plans He had for me, plans to give me a future and a hope, not for evil, but for good."


Ordinary Miracles: True Stories of an Extraordinary God Who Works in our Everyday Lives

by Rebekah Montgomery, Barbour Publishing, 2000
Excerpt on pages 189-195

In a fashion that was both amusing and miraculous, God provided protection for Elisha and his servant when the king of Aram threw all of his resources into capturing Elisha (2 Kings 6:8-23). God struck the soldiers blind and then led the hunters on a wild, fruitless chase. 
    At one time, the press mercilessly harassed Donna Rice Hughes. Reporters wanted to question her about a suspected affair with a presidential candidate. When she refused their interview requests, they retaliated by destroying her reputation with innuendo. Now, years later, she had a sexually sensitive cause to promote. What would the press do to her now? 

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT 

    In 1987, Donna Rice Hughes found herself in the midst of a national scandal. Once the story broke, the worldwide press hounded her mercilessly, in many instances inventing "facts" and salacious rumors to fill pages and broadcasts. As she was held up to public ridicule, her family was also humiliated. But a mere five years later, in a miraculous way, God rehabilitated both her name and image by placing her in a very public forum while temporarily blinding the eyes of would-be critics to her identity. In the process, He also brought healing to her parents. 

May 4, 1987 

    As the front-running Democratic candidate for president, Colorado senator Gary Hart was besieged by rumors of womanizing. While denying the stories, he foolishly challenged reporters, "Follow me." They did. This led them to Hart's Washington D.C. townhouse. Five Miami Herald reporters staked it out. 
    On Friday, at 11 P.M., when the reporters knew that Hart's wife was out of town, they saw a young woman enter his townhouse. She left on Saturday morning at about 8:30 A.M. That woman was Donna Rice. Although Hart vehemently denounced their report as "character assassination," the circumstances were indeed incriminating, and the press was titillated by the possibilities. 
    When Donna read the news story, she begged the Hart campaign to keep secret her identity. But through some mysterious means, she was identified and found herself the object of intense press curiosity. Shortly after that, Hart withdrew his candidacy because of the threatened exposure of his questionable relationship with another young woman. 
    A few days later, The National Inquirer broke a story, complete with photos, relating that Donna and Hart had taken a cruise together. But the trauma was still not over for Donna. For the next year and a half, her reputation was smeared all over the world by false and faulty news reports. 
    At first, the stories were flattering. But when Donna refused to be interviewed on the details of her relationship with Hart, the coverage turned ugly. Starved for details, the news sharks began to circle. Although Donna had a promising career and had graduated from college magna cum laude, news reports characterized her as a "prostitute" and party girl. Horrified, Donna naively still believed the truth would soon emerge. 
    Said Donna: "I thought, I'm not going to take this seriously. If I just be who I am, people won't believe all of this. But when the stories continued, the press's perception began to penetrate the public's perception. It became very painful. Then I thought, How can this happen? How can these people who don't know me say these things?"
    Even her family was not exempt from the medias' distortions. A quote from her father was twisted to sound like an indictment against her. 
    While other people who make public mistakes escape with little ridicule and scrutiny, the media was going for her jugular. However, she does not regret the
experience. "God was calling me back to Himself. I fell on my knees before Him. It had taken an international scandal to get my attention," she said.
    This was the beginning of a seven-year restoration process. During this time, Donna said she took baby steps back to God. 

May 1994

    After Donna began working for the antipornographic organization, Enough Is Enough, in Fairfax, Virginia, she became highly concerned about the availability of  Internet pornography to children. Perceiving this new frontier of perversion to be filled with insidious dangers, she brought the matter to the attention of Dee Jepsen president of Enough Is Enough. Encouraged by Dee to investigate the pervasiveness of cyberporn and come up with some ideas on how to stem it, Donna then fed the information to Dee in preparation for a presentation in the Congressional Caucus Room in Washington, D.C. 

June 1995

    Time was drawing near for Enough Is Enough's presentation. It would be given to members of Congress and the entire media corps. Donna assumed Dee would be the spokesperson, but instead she turned to Donna. 
    "You know more about it than anyone," Dee told her. "This is your subject." But Donna was reluctant to add her name to the issue. She liked the anonymity she now enjoyed, so she made it a matter for prayer. "This is a sexually stigmatized issue, Lord. You've got to be kidding!" Although she didn't understand God's reasoning, as she prayed, she felt that God wanted her to come out of hiding and make the presentation.
    Her parents, hoping to protect Donna from another onslaught of lies, encouraged her to drop the "Rice" from her name and use only her first name and married name: Donna Hughes. But Donna felt God was leading her a different way.
    "The world's perception of me is from five years ago," she told her parents, "and it will never be changed unless I stand up. I have to do what God is calling me to do." 
    As Donna Rice Hughes, she made her presentation in the Congressional Caucus Room. Television cameras rolled and newspaper photographers snapped shots. One of those photographs showed Donna sitting with another presidential candidate. This time, it was Republican hopeful Robert Dole, but not one reporter noticed the irony of it - because no one recognized Donna as a part of the 1987 scandal. God hid her in plain sight before the American press, the eyes and ears of the world. 
    Microphones were shoved under her nose and questions were posed. Reporters queried her on numerous sexually sensitive subjects. But it wasn't until after she gave her first few hundred interviews and established herself as a spokeswoman for decency that anyone made the connection between Donna Rice Hughes of Enough Is Enough and Donna Rice of the 1987 Gary Hart presidential bid. Finally, the New York Times did a huge article about Donna and her work to promote Internet safety. 
    Soon the media was asking senators and their mates, "What's it like working with Donna Rice?" 
    "Donna Rice? We don't know Donna Rice. We never knew her," they responded nervously. They did admit to knowing Donna Rice Hughes, a credible, articulate, intelligent, and knowledgeable lobbyist - but she certainly could not be the infamous party girl. 
    "By preserving my anonymity at first, the Lord gave me a remarkable window of time to get my feet wet," said Donna. 
    Because Donna was now granting interviews, reporters had opportunity to ask the questions that they had panted to ask back in 1987; however, that was old news and the novelty soon wore off. The story of the day was that Donna and Enough Is Enough were making historic strides in protecting children from Internet pornography. Eventually, she was instrumental in helping to pass the Communications Decency Act. 
    Occasionally, however, her past relationship with Hart still is mentioned, but it no longer is a problem for Donna. "It doesn't matter when people ask me about it," she said. "Life has gone on and God is using it in a public way. It's part of who I am and what has made me up. 
    "What has been harder is for people around me to have to re-experience the 1987 scandal. But over time, my parents have come to be blessed, because they see me making a difference and now they can let go of their anger and hurt. They've seen God work with the public platform I have to protect kids on the Internet. Whenever they see me on television, they say, 'I'm so proud of you.'
    "It is absolutely ironic, but I am God's evidence of what He can do with a destroyed life. I was held up as the example of what not to do in the area of morality. Now I am being called on regularly to speak to issues of morality. It is the embarrassing things in our lives that He uses to minister to other people."