For the past few years, I have been receiving emails from Josh Duggar.
Don’t get the wrong idea. We’re not friends or anything like that. I signed up to receive “action alerts” from the Family Research Council. The FRC was, until recently, Duggar’s employer, and many of the emails it sent came in Duggar’s name. The organization was clearly trying to exploit his reality TV star power.
All of that came crashing down earlier this week with the revelations that Duggar as a teenager had sexually molested girls, including, apparently, his own sisters. The FRC sent him packing, and the Duggar family is now in full damage-control mode.
Duggar, whose family is featured in a TLC show called “19 Kids and Counting,” had been running a political action committee for the FRC. His emails were full of dire warnings about the latest nefarious plots of the gays, feminists and abortion-rights advocates.
An April email from Duggar implored me to help the FRC pass something called the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act – legislation that would essentially allow for-profit businesses to discriminate against gays – because “there has been a growing hostility towards Christians who believe that marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman.”
An earlier email from Duggar sought help in passing an anti-abortion measure in Congress. It has a personal angle, as Duggar informed his readers that he and his wife are expecting their fourth child.
“This is a very special time for our family and we are thankful for this new blessing God has given us – we are now at 4 kids and counting! Anna is just over 20 weeks along and this precious gift is again a reminder to us about the gift of life and how precious each baby is,” he wrote.
But there will be no more emails from Duggar in my inbox.
“Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work,” FRC President Tony Perkins said in a statement.
You don’t say?
I should note that Perkins and the FRC didn’t know about Duggar’s past – because his family went to great lengths to cover it up. When the abuse came to light within the family, parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did nothing for more than a year. They eventually arranged for their son to get a “very stern talk” from an Arkansas state trooper who was friends with Jim Bob (the trooper, ironically, was later sent to prison for possessing child pornography) and sent him off for “counseling.” Only it wasn’t really counseling. Duggar worked with a home-builder for a few months.
The incident came to light only because InTouch magazine obtained a police report through a Freedom of Information Act request. The magazine reported that Jim Bob did tell elders at the family’s church about the abuse – and they waited three months before contacting the authorities.
As Sarah Posner has noted in an insightful piece, Duggar issued a statement reading in part, “I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
So Duggar saved himself – but I think some other lives were actually ruined. We’re not seeing much sympathy for them from the Duggars. Throughout this entire incident, their top priority seems to have been to protect their precious reality TV empire, not to help the victims heal.
If that is an example of the “values” espoused by this family and their allies in the Religious Right, I’ll pass.
P.S. "The Wall of Separation" will be on hiatus on Monday. We hope you enjoy the holiday weekend!