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Rev. Debra Haffner Headshot

Redeeming Senator Craig

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Senator Larry Craig is back in the news this morning, saying that despite the judge's decision that he can't take back his guilty plea, he isn't going to resign.

He's left his Senate colleagues with a vexing decision -- whether to hold ethics hearings on his misdemeanor of soliciting an undercover policeman for sex in an airport bathroom, or let the whole thing drop and allow Senator Craig to fade into obscurity. I'm pretty sure I'd vote for the latter.

For those who say that they can't let such an act go uncensored, I'd remind them of the story in John 8 when the men of the town demanded that the woman "caught in the act of adultery" be stoned. Jesus, after a period of silent reflection, stood and said to them, "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." They all went away. In the end, Jesus is left standing with the woman before him. He asks her, "Has no one condemned you?" She replies, "No one, sir." He responds, "Neither do I ... go your way and from now on do not sin again."

This is a good model for the Senate to follow. In this case, the sin is not sexual activity between consenting adults (which never took place to begin with). It's the unbecoming conduct of a married man and the pain he has surely caused for his wife and children.

The sin is also a social one -- what kind of internalized self loathing and cultural homophobia drives someone in Senator Craig's position to take this kind of risk, rather than seeking a mature, ethical sexual relationship with someone of the same sex? The Senate would do better to reflect on the social sin and leave Senator Craig to sort out his personal life.

Still, Senator Craig has his own ethical decision to make. I am guessing that the Senator has lived a long time with the fear that people would find out about his sexual activity with other men. But it's only been since August that he's known for sure that he might lose his job because of it. Millions of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans live with a similar fear every day. In 31 states, people can be fired because of their sexual orientation, and in 39 states they can be fired because they are transgender.

That's where Senator Craig has an opportunity for redemption. In the next few weeks, Congress will be voting on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which will make it illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Ironically, Senator Craig has voted against such bills in the past. I'm hoping we can count on him now to be a leading champion of the right of all people to employment without discrimination because of how they engage in adult consensual relationships.

Later on in John 8, Jesus also says, "Know the truth and the truth will make you free." Senator Craig, here's your chance.

Rev. Debra Haffner is the Director of the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing. She is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and has been a sexologist for more than 30 years.