THE BLOG
11/04/2006 08:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Drugs Absolve All: Why Haggard Admitted Meth First-- and Where He Should Really Go for Rehab

I'm waiting for the rehab announcement-- I'm sure within 24 hours we will hear that Rev. Ted Haggard is on his way to Hazelden or Betty Ford or some other upscale rehab for his "methamphetamine addiction."

But where he should really be sent is to Love in Action's anti-gay boot camp-- a confrontational, attack-therapy program based on Lieberman fundraiser and former Republican finance chair Mel Sembler's Straight Incorporated.

Readers of this blog will recall that at Straight and its descendants, teens are forced to spend 10-12 hour days sitting on hard back chairs, looking straight ahead, listening to the person who is leading the meeting or who has been called on to speak.

When someone is speaking, anything but attention and agreement with program principles is met with pinches, slaps or if that doesn't prompt compliance, full restraint in which the person is thrown to the floor and other participants sit on one's arms, legs and midsection. The head is also held immobile-- and restraints can persist for hours and are not ended if the victim needs to urinate or defecate.

In order to be called upon to speak, participants must flap their arms as if trying to take off-- and again, non-participation or non-enthusiasm is met with restraint. Once called on, participants must discuss in explicit detail how wrong it was for them to engage in or even think about homosexual, premarital or extramarital sex or drug use-- and if these confessions are not juicy enough and not emotional enough, vicious verbal attacks by the rest of the group for "denial" or "lying" or other sins ensue.

Participants are allowed no contact with the outside world, no clocks, no TV, no reading (sometimes the Bible is allowed, other times not), no music other than chants sung between "rap sessions" and these days, no cell phones or internet access. New participants are never allowed to talk without permission and are often trailed by someone who constantly has his or her hand at the back of the newcomer's pants-- and they are allowed no privacy, even in the bathroom in case masturbation should occur. In girls, wiping more than three times can be considered masturbation.

Additional punishments include being kept awake for three days at a time, months of isolation, food deprivation, forced exercise to the point of collapse, maintenance of stress positions and being made to dress in sexually humiliating outfits while being taunted.

Of course, for men like Haggard, such treatment would never even be contemplated. For them, drugs are not a problem, but a solution. If you want to do something that you think is wrong, all you need to do is take drugs while you do it, and all will be forgiven later-- you can go to a cushy rehab, repent, talk of relapse and boom, you're respected for having undergone the difficult process of fighting your demons.

If books like that of David Kuo are to be believed, in fact, having had an addiction actually qualifies you for extra kudos and honor in evangelical circles-- if you've been down so low, your story of salvation has an extra ring of sincerity. Even if you go on to act horrendously, you get a pass because obviously your faith has enormous power: it can end the worst condition of all, addiction.

But here's where it all breaks down. Being gay and being addicted have nothing in common other than that in both instances, there's a stigmatized form of desire that is feared and misunderstood by those who don't share it.

Take Haggard's situation. Because he himself is gay and wants other men, he assumes that all other men feel similarly and that the only thing stopping all men from shunning women and getting "an endless succession of orgasms, interrupted only by jocular episodes of male bonhomie" is social stigma against homosexuality and anti-gay-marriage laws.

Similarly, those who promote harsh anti-drug laws think that the only thing preventing America from becoming a nation of junkies is prohibition and harsh stigmatization of addicts. Both propositions are wrong because they misunderstand that most straight men have no interest in gay sex and most drug users do not have the risk factors that would lead them to become addicts. [Needless to say, in the case of gay sex but not addiction, harm isn't inherently involved].

The result, however, is a peculiar situation in which drug use--framed as the enabler of all stigmatized or bad behavior-- is, for certain people, a free pass to do what you want and avoid responsibility it. No wonder Haggard admitted the meth before confessing the happy endings of the massage!

But for those who aren't rich and powerful, the fact that drug use is believed to be the root of all sin is used as a reason to incarcerate users and dealers, particularly those of color who we want to demonize anyway. Fear of drug use also become a reason to subject the young to horrific and torturous situations like those listed above-- and a way for fear-mongers to simultaneously indoctrinate a new generation and make money by selling such "treatment."

The hypocrisy of this situation is beyond belief. If we want a sane country, we've got to elect people who believe that evidence, not faith, should be the basis for policy.