The hypocrisy of the religious right is simply stunning. Time and time again, those self-appointed moral stewards get caught taking advantage of their position and exploiting their followers for their own personal gain and pleasure. Most recently, Jon S. Petersen of Cedar Rapids, Iowa plead guilty to filing false tax returns for his Christian charity World Ambassadors, Ltd, after investigators realized he had skimmed nearly half a million dollars from the evangelical organization
Over the past four years, Petersen drained his “charity” of nearly all its funding, which he then spent on – wait for it – something he vaguely described as a “sex addiction:” “Petersen said he struggled with a sex addiction over the last decade and used the donations to pay for it — along with credit card debt and home equity lines of credit, prosecutors said. They didn’t go into detail about what he bought with the money” reports the AP.
One can only imagine how Petersen somehow managed to spend $475,000 dollars on a “sex addiction”, but we can safely assume that it wasn’t for therapy or treatment. While there is nothing wrong with soliciting sex workers – who deserve all the protections and rights that other professions receive – it is absolutely infuriating that a man who professes to be a moral authority and working for the betterment of his fellow humans was able to get away with this blatant thievery for so long.
Crucially, even though the “charity” had had it’s tax-exempt status revoked in 2010, “it was still registered as a nonprofit corporation and in good standing with the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.” It is far too easy for people to take advantage of the non-profit system in the United States for their own personal gain, and certainly not enough oversight if this man was able to get away with this kind of fraud for four years.
Thankfully, Petersen will be spending the next few years in jail. The religious right-wing in this country consistently shows their true colors – while fighting to impose their draconian interpretations of moral conduct on an unwilling society, they freely hold themselves to a different standard, then have the nerve to speak of redemption. It’s far past time for churches and religious organizations to pay their fair share in taxes.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.