7 Right-Wing Christians Who Broke the Same Sexual Rules They Impose on Others

Right-wing Christians have a lot of ridiculous sexual rules to control and direct sexual behavior: Everything from frowning on all nomarital sex to denouncing homosexuality to objecting to divorce. Of course, the problem they run up against is that consenting adults have lives that are complex, emotional and messy, and they’re going to make decisions based on their own circumstances and not the rules. This is so true that the very people espousing these strict rules about sex and marriage can’t even be bothered to follow them. Here’s some examples.

1) Catholic vicar Arthur M. Coyle caught with a prostitute. The Catholic Church has a long, long list of “nos” when it comes to sex, so long that it’s easier to list what you can do than what you can’t under their rules: Have contraception-free sex within marriage. That’s it, and if you’re a priest, even that is off the table for you. Which is why it’s newsworthy that Monsignor Arthur Coyle, who has been holding the high office of episcopal vicar for the Archdiocese of Boston was recently arrested for soliciting sex from a prostitute. The cops noted that Coyle was routinely spotted in the area where the prostitutes hung out, and so really, it was just a matter of time before he got caught. As usual, any lessons about what kind of behavior people will get up to if they’re denied healthy outlets for their sexuality will be ignored by the Catholic hierarchy. 

2) Bill O’Reilly, sex pest. Bill O’Reilly really dislikes contraception and routinely hints to outright declares on his show that abstaining from premarital sex is the only legitimate way to prevent things like unintended pregnancy. He also is a self-appointed monitor of the virtue of other Catholics, at least that of his ex-wife; he actually tried to get her ex-communicated from the church for daring to remarry, because that’s considered “adultery” by church teachings (the church teaches that marriage is for life, and you cannot divorce, much less remarry). Of course, O’Reilly had no problem with adultery when he was trying to bed his coworker Andrea Mackris in 2004, repeatedly pestering her for sex despite her obvious lack of interest. It got so bad she eventually sued him for sexual harassment, and he was forced to settle out of court.

3) Bill Donohue, bad Catholic. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League and all-around moralizing blowhard, loves to wax on and on about how other people are required to live by his Catholic-shaped view of marriage as a duty and an institution, not an expression of love. For instance, in 2013, Donohue denounced gay marriage by saying, “The whole purpose of marriage is to have a family. It’s not about making people happy. It’s not about love.” Of course, his belief that marriage is about creating a family, with or without love, didn’t stop him from breaking up his own loveless marriage. Donohue is a divorced father of two, suggesting that his rules about living life for religious duty instead of making one’s choices for love apply to other people but not himself.

4) Ted Haggard, meth-smoking gay sex lover. Ted Haggard was instrumental in crafting the 21st-century evangelical resurgence movement’s pitch about their sexual rules: That if you followed their rules (no homosex, no sex before marriage, complete focus on your spouse), then you would have the hottest sex imaginable. As president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Haggard went on record claiming that “evangelicals have the best sex of any group” and suggesting that the typical evangelical couple went at it seven times a week. How Haggard managed to find the time to do that with his own wife is tough to say, however, because he spent so much time having gay sex outside of his marriage, both with at least one prostitute (who outed him to the press) and one other man who volunteered for him. Haggard has toned down the fire-and-brimstone approach a bit, but is still working as a pastor.

5) Ex-gay spokesman caught in gay bar, disappears and reappears as out gay man. While most of the people on this list are hypocrites who deserve all the disdain that is heaped upon them, it’s hard not to feel sorry for John Paulk, who clearly has had some struggles he’s trying to overcome. His story demonstrates why it’s so wrong of Christian activists to blithely instruct people to cram themselves in narrow little sexual boxes. Paulk was a major force in the '90s for the claim that gay people can be “cured” through prayer and therapy, and he posed on the cover of Newsweek in the late '90s with his wife, triumphantly declaring that he had been cured of homosexuality and was living a happy, straight life. Unsurprisingly, he was spotted by gay rights activist Wayne Besen in 2000 in a gay bar; Besen was able to provide photographic evidence. Paulk faded out of public view and resurfaced in Portland as an out-and-proud gay man and professional chef. His ex-wife is still angry and bitter over the whole thing—and still believes homosexuality is wrong. Paulk, however, has issued a heartfelt apology for all the damage he did.

6) Newt Gingrich, hypocrite extraordinaire. Truth be told, not being Newt Gingrich is not that hard to do; most of us are capable of not dumping our spouses at the first sign of trouble and finding younger models, as is his habit. But Gingrich nonetheless belongs on this list, because despite the majority of the public wishing his smug, hypocritical face would just go away, he ran for president in 2012, thumping the Bible and posing as a pious Catholic every chance he got. He and his pious wife, however, got married after he kept her as a mistress for years while married to his second wife. His former mistress is now his wife, though by Catholic teachings, he’s still married to his first wife in the eyes of God and Callista is still, in her own faith, just his partner in adultery. To make the whole thing even funnier, Gingrich accused Mitt Romney of being full of “pious baloney” due to Romney’s frequent political flip-flops, but the fact of the matter is that Romney, who by all measures really lives his private life by the Mormon rules he espouses, has more right to be publicly pious than Gingrich.

7) Scott DesJarlais, abortion hypocrite. While there’s very little doubt that many Bible-thumping abortion opponents in politics would be swift to look to abortion as a solution to inconvenient pregnancies that happen in their own lives, Rep. DesJarlais is so sloppy at keeping his indiscretions discreet that he happened to get caught. The Tennessee Republican was recorded in the year 2000 trying to pressure his mistress into getting an abortion. His enthusiasm for abortion for himself, his serial cheating on his wife, and evidence of abusive and even violent behavior didn’t keep him from running as a “family values” Republican who is staunchly anti-abortion, and the voters didn’t seem to care, either. Guess the “do as I say, not as I do” sentiment is widespread not just amongst Christian right leaders but also the people who turn up to support them at the polls.

Christian propaganda used to justify abstinence-only education, bans on abortion and gay marriage, and restriction on contraception paints a neat, black-and-white picture of what human sexuality should look like: Abstain until marriage. Marry a person of the opposite sex and have a kink-free sex life that, if you’re Catholic, should also always be open to the possibility of conception. Never, ever have an abortion, no matter how much you may not be able to carry this pregnancy to term. Stick with that one person the rest of your life, never cheating or divorcing (and according to some Christians, never even thinking about anyone else). Whatever you do, don’t be gay! If you protest, the response is often that the rules are simple and embracing them is the only way to be safe and happy.

But as the actual behavior of all too many Christians shows, it’s actually not that simple. They can’t follow their own rules, so why should they be allowed to craft public policy around the assumption that the rest of us not only can follow the rules, but should? 

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