Wednesday’s sentencing of former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert in a hush money case involving sexual abuse serves as a lesson for all, says a Southern Baptist seminary president criticized two weeks ago for introducing a speaker publicly identified with similar allegations at a preaching conference.
“Even as the Scripture reminds us that we must be certain our sin will find us out, Dennis Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, faced a judge yesterday to be sentenced to 15 months in prison for what was a conviction based in a cover-up financially of sexual misdeeds and misconduct that had taken place when he was a high school wrestling coach back during the 1970s,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said in a podcast news briefing April 28.
“The federal conviction and sentence did not have to do specifically with the sexual abuse but rather with an effort to cover it up in terms of financial misdeeds and misreporting that had been undertaken by the former Speaker of the House,” Mohler said.
Two weeks ago protestors gathered outside the KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville after organizers of a biennial preaching conference called Together for the Gospel ignored calls to disinvite C.J. Mahaney, a conference founder sidelined two years ago due to negative publicity about a class action lawsuit naming him in an alleged widespread cover-up of child sex abuse at a church and ministry that Mahaney formerly led.
Mohler referred only obliquely to the controversy April 12, joking that he had googled Mahaney’s name “to see if there was anything on the Internet about him.”
“It would be very easy to get up here and just say C.J. Mahaney is going to speak for us, but I think faithfulness in my responsibility this afternoon in introducing him is to say we know he has demonstrated endurance in the face of an incredible trial, and he has been a model of endurance for us,” Mohler said in his introduction to Mahaney’s message on suffering taken form the Book of Job.
Turning to the Hastert scandal, Mohler mused April 28 that Speaker of the House “is one of the most important constitutional offices in the United States,” following only the vice president in the order of presidential succession.
“Dennis Hastert rose from having no political experience in a matter of less than a generation to becoming Speaker of the House and will still go down in history as the longest-serving Republican Speaker of the House in history, but that is not how history is going to remember him,” Mohler said. “History will now remember him for the most horrifying disclosures that came at the end of his life, long after he had retired from public office.”
“There’s something deeply biblical about asking yourself the question: what will be the first thing said after your name in your obituary?” Mohler concluded.
In addition to serving time in prison, Hastert must pay $250,000 to a victims’ fund. Hastert for the first time admitted in open court April 27 that he abused an unspecified number of boys.
Former congressional colleagues wrote letters on Hastert’s behalf asking the judge for leniency.
“He is a good man that loves the Lord,” wrote former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Southern Baptist convicted of money laundering in a 2010 verdict that was later overturned by a court of appeals.
“He gets his integrity and values from [God],” DeLay said of Hastert. “He doesn’t deserve what he is going through. I ask that you consider the man that is before you and give him leniency where you can.”