The Rev. Steven Baines is an elder in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
In a commentary published Jan. 26 at Advocate.com, Baines cites former exgay activist and author John Paulk as one of five high-profile scandals among antigay activists working for the religious right. The other scandals include the arrest of Lonnie Latham, the political corruption of Ralph Reed, the antigay bigotry and sexual affair of Monsignor Eugene Clark, and the gambling addiction of William Bennett.
The moral hypocrisy of many right-wing religious leaders comes from their fundamental misunderstanding of religion as the practice of a complicated and esoteric set of rules designed to restrict human freedom, rather than a way of living that frees individuals to lives of greater compassion and personal growth.
Baines suggests that repressive religion and the resulting self-loathing are a direct cause of scandalous behavior.
I agree with that assessment — but I think John Paulk’s high-profile outing is among the least scandalous of recent exgay controversies. The abuse of families by Love In Action, the reckless orgies of HIV-infected exgay activist Michael Johnston, and the professional disgrace of PFOX president Richard Cohen are more recent and more damaging to church and society. Furthermore, Paulk and Bennett apologized for their moral failings. LIA, Johnston, and Cohen have not repented of their scandalous conduct; some even maintain that their scandals are virtuous — God’s gift to the rest of us.