One of the least endearing characteristics of the religious right is the deep well of hypocrisy that nourishes it. Hardly a week goes by without a minister turning up on Grindr or an anti-gay legislator caught sexting with a teenage girl.
But the latest case promises to be a particularly damaging firestorm: Josh Duggar, a (now former) leader at the anti-gay Family Research Council and part of the evangelical brood on the reality show 19 Kids and Counting, has acknowledged molesting several underage girls when he was a teenager.
Duggar has been one of the most visible opponents of marriage equality, hitting the road to promote traditional marriage and the right of conservative Christians to discriminate. He’s also used all the usual offensive rhetoric about the LGBT community. Being gay is “such a sad, lonely lifestyle,” Duggar has said. “It just seemed to me that one of the cruelest jokes the devil has ever played is to have that lifestyle described as ‘gay.’”
Duggar got his unctuous brand of piety from his family, who seemed to have gone out of its way to protect him after they discovered he was fondling the genitals of young girl while they slept. Instead of getting Josh into professional counseling, at a minimum, parents Michelle and Jim Bob went to church elders for advice. They ended up sending Josh to a Christian program that focused on “hard physical work and counseling.” The counseling–such as it was–was provided by a family friend who ran a home remodeling business.
Josh was also given a “very stern talk” by Arkansas state trooper Jim Hutchens, who was hardly the paragon of moral authority. Hutchens is currently serving time in jail on child pornography charges.
It took a year for the Duggars to notify the police about Josh’s actions and even then they weren’t especially cooperative. At one point, the police wanted to interview Josh, but Jim Bob refused to make him available. In the end, authorities decided not to charge Josh because the statute of limitations had expired.
Even as Josh’s behavior was playing out behind the scenes, the Duggar dynasty was become a reality TV freak show on TLC. Josh parlayed the show into a gig with the Family Research Council, the antigay hate group, getting his picture taken with GOP presidential wannabes.
Duggar was forced to quit his position as a result of the news. Of course, by his own admission, everything is just fine because God’s okay with it. “I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life,” Duggar said in a statement. “In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”
Of course, when your life’s being holier than everyone else, child molestation charges are not exactly the best career move. But that’s another one of the repellent characteristics of the religious right. Being a creep is not a handicap, as long as you are considered fervent enough.
Too bad that the life-and-let-live attitude doesn’t extend to anyone else.
Photo credit: Josh Duggar’s Twitter account