The private lives of two high-profile social conservatives, one from the Northwest and one from the Southeast, are in the news.
James E. West, as mayor of Spokane and in his 20-year career in the Washington state Senate, has consistently battled gay marriage, benefits for homosexual couples, and other violations of traditional morality. When in the legislature, he advocated a bill that would outlaw all sex between teenagers.
But The Spokesman-Review, a Spokane newspaper that has supported Mr. West politically, hired an investigator to pose as a 17-year-old boy whom Mr. West then solicited for sex on a gay porn internet site. The newspaper's three-year investigation also turned up allegations that Mr. West has been molesting boys going back 25 years, including when he was a sheriff's deputy and a Boy Scout leader.
Mr. West apologized "for the shame I have brought to the mayor's office and the city," but refused to give up his office. That a crusader against homosexuality himself may practice homosexuality is confusing his supporters and delighting his enemies. "We seem to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality in our mayor," said a city council member. "His credibility is shot."
W. David Hager is an obstetrician and gynecologist in Lexington, Ky., who has become a leading expert on women's health issues from a pro-life, biblical perspective. Named one of the "Best Doctors in America" in 1994 and 1996, Dr. Hager is the author of several books, including As Jesus Cared for Women. In 2003, the Bush administration appointed him to the FDA's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs, where he was instrumental in preventing the abortion-producing "morning-after pill" known as Plan B from being approved for over-the-counter sale.
Now The Nation has printed an article detailing charges from his ex-wife that Dr. Hager, before their divorce in 2002, subjected her to years of brutal sexual abuse, forcing her to commit repugnant sexual practices against her will. The Hagers were married for 32 years.
Accounts from bitter divorces are notoriously one-sided and nasty. Dr. Hager told a Lexington newspaper that "the allegations as stated do not reveal all of the information and therefore they're incomplete and not true." Still, he did not deny the essence of the charges. When Dr. Hager's nomination to the FDA committee faced intense opposition from the pro-abortion lobby, WORLD supported him. (See "Hager isn't Horrible," Nov. 2, 2002). This month he did not return WORLD's e-mails or phone calls.
Liberal journalists are reciting the West and Hager stories with glee and in lurid detail. Ironically, some of those journalists defended President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky on the grounds that personal behavior is irrelevant to public office. We at WORLD report the story sadly, but we know from the Bible that private life cannot be compartmentalized from public life, and that public figures do not have the luxury of being inconsistent.
Liberals, of course, are using these conservatives' moral failings as evidence against their beliefs. Gay-rights proponents are saying that Mr. West's opposition to homosexuality is evidence of self-hatred and confusion over his identity, all reasons to be more accepting of homosexuality. The Nation spun the charges against Dr. Hager to attack his stance against the morning-after pill.
But not living up to one's own ideals does not disprove the ideals. Christians know that sin looms in the human heart, that a person may know what is right while doing "the very thing I hate" (Romans 7:19-23). A Christian may hate a particular sin to the point of publicly crusading against it precisely because he knows it so well and seeks to disable his own temptation. Such is the fallen human condition and why we all need a Savior.
Still, people with skeletons in their closets should not run for or accept positions where they will be under close scrutiny-for their own sake, the sake of the people who supported them, and the sake of their cause. And Christian leaders should conduct themselves in the sure and certain knowledge that "nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known" (Matthew 10:26).