The Dennis Hastert Truth in Sentencing Act

Capitol in Fog. Photo by Callen Harty.

Capitol in Fog. Photo by Callen Harty.

From Matthew 23:  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”

Tonight I am proposing a new truth in sentencing law that is aimed at hypocrites–not the Pharisees of the Bible but our contemporary Pharisees, the religious and political leaders who rail against our modern sins while hiding their own sins from public view. Our modern hypocrites are the people who rail against same-sex marriage because of the sanctity of traditional marriage, yet are divorced multiple times themselves. They are the ones who kill abortion doctors because they believe the doctors are killing babies and killing is just plain wrong. They are the men and women who call for stricter laws on drug usage while doing drugs every day. They are the people like Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history, a man who, according to the Washington Post on June 1, was quoted in 2003 as saying this about child molesters: “But it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives, and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done.”

My proposal, The Dennis Hastert Truth in Sentencing Act, would automatically sentence wrongdoers to whatever sentence they have declared is appropriate for the sins they were hiding behind their hypocritical facades. So Hastert, who it now appears may have molested as many as three teenage boys while he was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Illinois, would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole if he were found to be guilty of the crimes. Unfortunately, due to the statute of limitations, he is not likely to face trial for anything but the current federal charges related to his hush money case and any “past mistakes” that he made with high school boys will get a free ride. But if he could be tried and found guilty, that would be the sentence.

He would not be the only one. According to a February 21 Daily Kos article Bill Maher called out Jeb Bush for smoking and dealing pot in college, while later as a politician saying that drug dealers should get mandatory jail sentences and no treatment. Bush would now be an ex-convict running for President. The list of politicians who represent a government actively pursuing a “war on drugs” who have admitted to using illegal drugs could run several pages. Besides Jeb Bush it includes Bill Clinton (who didn’t inhale; yeah, right), Barack Obama, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Clarence Thomas, and Jesse Ventura, just to name a few.

In 2002 Jim Bob Duggar stated during his campaign for Senate that incest should be punishable by death. He was quoted as saying that it should be a capital crime. I wonder if he is willing to pull the switch on the electric chair, or perhaps being a good Christian man, would prefer stoning his son to death now that it has been revealed that Josh Duggar molested several of his sisters (and a neighbor).

There are many politicians who virulently oppose LGBT rights but who end up getting caught in compromising situations with members of the same sex. Larry Craig of Idaho opposed same-sex marriage and opposed extending hate crimes to include gay citizens. He also was vocal in his displeasure with Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, saying–and, believe it or not, this is a direct quote–“The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy – a naughty boy. I’m going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.”  The quote is from an interview with Meet the Press, January 24, 1999, as quoted by WikiQuotes. Craig was caught trying to pick up men for sex in a public restroom in an airport in Minneapolis, effectively ending his political career by getting caught being a naughty boy. While he may not have proposed legal punishment for LGBT citizens he certainly worked at making lives more difficult.

These hypocrites are revealed on an almost daily basis in this country. I can think of several more religious and political leaders, as well as celebrities, just off the top of my head, who have been caught doing things they should not have been doing. We are all frail. We can all succumb to temptation or do something that we might not want to share with our neighbors. I don’t fault anyone for making a human mistake. What I find objectionable is the hypocrisy–those who loudly profess how others are heathens, immoral, or flawed when they themselves are engaged in the same conduct they so loudly condemn. They deserve their own condemnation and, if they propose a punishment for a crime that they themselves are guilty of, then I believe they should perhaps suffer the very fate that they so publicly endorsed.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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