Tuesday, May 04, 2010

EDITORIAL >> An expert discredited

The wonderful, or terrible, thing about the culture wars is their ceaseless irony. Hypocrisy may be a better word.

Since the wars began in the ’60s, one prophet of the religious right after another has fallen from grace, practitioners of the very conduct they had condemned. The first of our memory was Rev. Billy James Hargis, the Texarkana native who went on to head the biggest evangelist crusade in the country, his message beamed over more than 500 radio stations and 250 television stations. He drew big crowds on his annual pilgrimages to Little Rock’s Marion Hotel. Rev. Hargis linked sex education to liberalism and communism. He was flying high until he was hit by accusations of sexual misconduct from students at the Christian college he founded, mainly from the youth choir. He was deflowering both male and female students. The college ousted him as president and eventually closed.

You are more familiar with recent hypocrites: Jim Bakker of Praise The Lord (PTL) fame, Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Richard Roberts, our own Tony Alamo. The list goes on. And the pious politicians who built careers as family men and scourges of homosexuality and libertinism: David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, Larry Craig, Mark Sanford, John Ensign, Mark Foley, Jeff Gannon. Why go on?

The occasion for all the remembrances is a little development this week in a long-running Arkansas story. You may recall the trial in 2004 in Pulaski County in which some people challenged a rule adopted by Gov. Mike Huckabee’s administration that no household with a gay or lesbian in its midst could raise foster children or adopt children. The government brought in George Rekers, a Baptist minister and a teacher at a South Carolina Christian college, as its expert witness to explain the harm to children from being in a house with a homosexual. Rekers was a founder with James Dobson of the Family Research Council, which leads the national anti-gay campaign.

The Arkansas judge, Timothy Fox, said Rekers’ testimony was worthless as evidence because it was only his personal view. The Arkansas Supreme Court concluded later that Rekers’ testimony was pointless and it declared Huckabee’s anti-gay rule unconstitutional. Rekers testifies as a scientific expert for states that adopt anti-gay laws. The states lose, but Rekers always takes in big fees. Rekers is supposed to be an expert in “conversion therapy,” the process of “curing” homosexuality.

Rekers upset his sponsors in Arkansas after the trial by demanding $200,000 for his expert services, which was more than Gov. Huckabee wanted to pay him. Rekers subsequently sued the state for $160,000 and eventually settled with the Department of Human Services. The taxpayers — that’s us — shelled out $60,000 to him for the privilege of being humiliated.

This week, it was reported that Rekers was caught in the company of a young male prostitute he had hired through rentboy.com to accompany him on a trip to the pleasure palaces of Europe. He explained that he had hurt his back and hired the young man from the prostitution service to carry his luggage for him, discovering only late in the trip that the fellow was indeed a prostitute. Rekers was filmed at the airport on his return carrying the luggage as the young man strolled nearby.

Alas, George Rekers will not be the last.