The media and the public are fixated on the burgeoning band of brazen bimbos telling tales of their shameless trysts with Tiger Woods. The Woods adultery scandal has eclipsed the news about the marital infidelities of prominent politicians, which doesn't bode well for citizens dependent upon representative government.
Americans would do well to concern themselves more with the broken marriage vows of their government representatives than with those of celebrities. Woods broke his vow to his wife. He didn't vow to God and the rest of us to uphold the U.S. Constitution.
Marriage is a covenant ordained by God between a husband and wife who mutually promise in the before both Him and human witnesses to "forsake all others." The stability of their covenant is inextricably linked to their individual integrity as expressed in their vows.
That Woods has desecrated his marriage vow is deplorable. His illicit dalliances have placed his wife's health in serious risk, subjected her to global humiliation and invasion of privacy, wasted their wealth, and jeopardized their property interests, including hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorships. But his greatest loss is his wife's trust, which is priceless.
Woods has issued a public apology, announcing that he is taking a leave of absence from professional golf in an attempt to save his marriage and family:
I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try.
For that, Tiger needs God's help. A broken vow is difficult to mend.
Government is also ordained by God for the punishment of evil and reward of good behavior. Our Founders understood that. They secured our unalienable rights in the Constitution because they recognized that those rights derive from God. It is why the Constitution requires government officials to swear an oath to protect and defend them before executing the duties of their office. The Founders were well aware of the biblical importance of oath-taking:
If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. (Num. 30:2) If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin. You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God what you have promised with your mouth. (Deut. 23: 21-23) John Jay, the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, wrote of the importance of oaths in The Federalist Papers, No. 64:
Every consideration that can influence the human mind, such as honor, oaths, reputations, conscience, the love of country, and family affections and attachments, afford security for their fidelity.
President George Washington reminded the nation in his Farewell Address that absent a sense of religious and moral obligation behind an oath, there is no security for our property, reputation, and life:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Unlike Woods, some prominent politicians who have violated their marriage vows have refused to relinquish their office after being exposed, treating the position as a personal entitlement rather than a privilege. Unlike Washington, they imagine that their private immorality has no impact on national morality and the integrity of their constitutional oath.
- The Sen. Max Baucus "caucus" with a female staffer, Melodee Hanes, ended his 25-year marriage. While carrying on the affair, he gave Hanes a $14,000 pay raise, took her to Southeast Asia and the Middle East at taxpayer expense, and nominated her for U.S. Attorney for Montana. Baucus dismissed calls for an ethics investigation, saying, "I went out of my way to be up and up." He should be down and out of the Senate. Senate Democrats' "health care reform" bill would tax a married couple in which each earner makes $150,000. An unmarried couple living together with the same incomes would not, according to The Washington Times, be taxed in the same way. Baucus and his live-in girlfriend would not be subject to the tax. The tax break and the pay raise give new meaning to the wages of sin.
- Republican Gov. Mark Sanford engaged in adultery in Argentina while his staff informed South Carolinians that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Despite his marital infidelity with his "soulmate," dereliction of duty, and ethics charges, he refuses to resign from office, comparing himself to the biblical King David. What Sanford fails to consider is that while God assured David of forgiveness, David and the nation suffered the consequences of his immorality.
- Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) held a press conference to confess his extramarital perfidy with a former campaign staffer who is married to one of his former legislative aides. Ensign said he was "committed to [his] service in the United States Senate." As committed as he was to his wife?
- In September 2007, "Ensign called then-Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) 'embarrassing' after Craig was arrested in an airport men's restroom and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a sex sting. Ensign played the leading role in an unsuccessful effort to force Craig into resigning from the Senate immediately," according to The Washington Post. The Minnesota appeals court refused to permit Craig to withdraw his guilty plea, which doomed any attempt at reelection in 2008.
- After Democrat New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer's tryst with a prostitute (now a sex advice columnist) was exposed, Spitzer agreed to resign from office in order to avoid felony charges.
- Gov. David Patterson, Spitzer's successor, made his adultery confession soon after assuming office.
Maybe it's time to ask candidates for public office to promise to resign immediately if they breach their marriage vows. If a politician's spouse can't trust him or her to forsake all others, how can we trust their vow to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic," to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same," and "well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office"?
All that is at stake is our life, liberty, and property.
Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.