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Religious Right Intrusions

Religious Right Intrusions

November 7, 2005
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" Religious Right activists don't always practice what they preach "

Conservatism often is defined as a belief in smaller, more limited and less intrusive government, but the strident moralists of the Religious Right have no problem with government intrusiveness when it comes to sexual matters and have a long history of waging war on everything from adult entertainment to homosexuality to birth control. However, Religious Right activists — whose approach would be better classified as authoritarian rather than classically conservative — don't always practice what they preach. Below are 10 of the Religious Right's most blatant hypocrites.

Jimmy Swaggart
The Rev. Jimmy Swaggart is a first cousin of rock and roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and country singer Mickey Gilley; he also is a militant, far-right television evangelist who led the Christian conservative movement in the 1980s along with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Known for a fire-and-brimstone approach to Protestant fundamentalism, Swaggart was exposed as a major hypocrite when, in 1988, he was caught cheating on his wife with Louisiana prostitute Debra Murphree. Although Swaggart often has called for tougher anti-porn laws, he has been a major consumer of adult magazines — and he seems to have enjoyed S&M as well. In 1989, a woman named Catherine Campen told Penthouse that when he cheated on his wife with her, Swaggart persuaded Campen to beat him with a riding crop.

Jim Bakker
In 1987, it was revealed that PTL leader and Assemblies of God minister Jim Bakker had cheated on his wife Tammy Faye with church secretary Jessica Hahn and paid her $265,000 in hush money. Everyone from Falwell to Penthouse magazine alleged that Bakker was bisexual — an irony considering the Religious Right's persistent gay-bashing — and in 1989, Bakker was sentenced to 45 years in prison after being convicted of federal fraud and racketeering charges. However, Bakker was paroled in 1994.

Bill Bennett
Known for writing books such as "The Moral Compass," "The Book of Virtues" and "The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals," Bill Bennett is a Religious Right Republican (as opposed to a centrist/moderate Republican of the Rudy Giuliani/George Pataki/Christie Todd Whitman/Arlen Specter variety). He loves to preach about how America is going to hell and how the liberals are taking us there. But Bennett's moralist credentials were called into question when, in 2003, it was revealed that he had a major gambling addiction and had blown millions of dollars in Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos over the years.

Rush Limbaugh
Republican talk show host Rush Limbaugh is a man of contradictions — someone who uses mildly off-color humor to boost ratings ("PMSNBC" is his name for cable news channel MSNBC) yet espouses morality, religious fundamentalism and family values. Limbaugh has repeatedly said that drug addicts are morally bankrupt and deserve stiff, harsh prison sentences, but in 2003, it turned out that Limbaugh had become addicted to painkillers and was being investigated in Florida for possibly obtaining some of them illegally. Limbaugh's attorney Roy Black has argued that Florida prosecutors have no right to view his medical records as part of that investigation, and ironically, the ACLU (an organization Limbaugh demonized in the past) has sided with Black and defended Limbaugh's right to doctor/patient confidentiality.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Talk radio host Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a preachy moralist known for railing against sex education, premarital sex, abortion and working mothers. She has insisted that married couples who opt not to have kids are hopelessly selfish, and she is a blistering critic of adult entertainment — even very softcore erotica. But in the late 1990s, it was revealed that Schlessinger was once an erotica provider herself; in the 1970s, she posed for some nude and semi-nude pictures (one of which showed her in kinky S&M/dominatrix-like attire). Shock jock Tom Leykis put it best when he said: "Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura are anything but perfect, and yet they are people who love to lecture us about how immoral the rest of us are and how perfect they are."

Henry Hyde
Illinois Republican Henry Hyde is among the many Religious Right moralists who lambasted President Clinton for his adulterous affair with intern Monica Lewinsky and led the effort to impeach Clinton for lying about that affair under oath. But Hyde also has committed adultery himself. In the 1960s, Hyde was married with four sons when he had a five-year affair with a woman named Cherie Snodgrass (who also was married with children). In a 1998 interview with Salon.com, Fred Snodgrass (Cherie's husband in the 1960s) described Hyde as a "hypocrite who broke up my family."

Newt Gingrich
When Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House in the 1990s, he loved to appear at Christian Coalition gatherings and blame the United States' "moral decline" on the Democratic Party — and one of his favorite targets was Bill Clinton. Gingrich was quick to attack Clinton for his adulterous ways, but Gingrich himself had a long history of cheating. His first wife Jackie was in the hospital recovering from cancer surgery when he bullied her about the terms of their divorce, and he also cheated on his second wife, Marianne. Gingrich also has been a deadbeat dad; after his breakup with Jackie, Mr. Family Values refused to pay child support for their two daughters.

James West
For years, gay activists have argued that vehement homophobes are, in many cases, repressed homosexuals. Spokane, Wash., Mayor James West is an excellent example of that theory. During his many years in politics — first in Washington's state senate, then as Spokane's mayor — the far-right Republican was a consistent champion of anti-gay causes. West supported, among other things, a bill that would have prevented gay men and lesbians from working for schools, daycare centers and some state agencies; that bill called for screening job applicants for sexual orientation. But the 54-year-old West, it turns out, is gay — or at least bisexual — himself. According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, he allegedly abused his position when, in a gay Internet chat room, he offered a possible City Hall internship to someone he thought was an 18-year-old man (the "18 year old" was actually a private computer expert the Spokesman-Review hired as part of a newspaper sting operation). In May, West admitted to having "relations with adult men," although he has denied allegations that he sexually molested two young boys when he was a Boy Scout leader decades ago.

Bob Livingston
In 1998, Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston was among the Republicans who called for Clinton's resignation during the Lewinsky scandal, but it was revealed that Livingston was an adulterer himself. He was exposed by adult entertainment giant Larry Flynt, who was disgusted with the GOP's obsession with Clinton's sex life and offered up to $1 million to anyone who could expose GOP adulterers. Flynt received concrete proof that Livingston had cheated on his wife on many occasions; knowing that Flynt planned to go public with that information, Livingston resigned from Congress. Flynt then showed the compassion Livingston lacked in his pursuit of Clinton; after Livingston resigned, Flynt decided not to publish the full story in order to spare Livingston's family further embarrassment.

John Rigas
In 2000, Southern Californians who enjoyed the adult-oriented Spice Channel were not happy when Adelphia Communications founder John Rigas (a Religious Right supporter) dropped Spice from cable systems it had acquired in Southern California. Rigas considered erotic entertainment immoral, and Christian fundamentalists applauded his willingness to take a stand against the adult industry. But Rigas was hardly the saint he pretended to be; in June, Rigas was sentenced to 15 years in prison after having been convicted of fraudulent accounting and looting Adelphia. In its post-Rigas era, Adelphia is once again offering adult entertainment to Southern Californians who want it.


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