A recently released national poll shows that Americans are more lenient to elected officials guilty of sexual indiscretions than to those guilty of financial misconduct.
A poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 91 percent of respondents believe elected officials taking bribes is either a very serious or extremely serious problem.
By contrast, 66 percent of respondents believe officials having sex with a prostitute is a very serious or extremely serious problem. Additionally, 67 percent say officials sending sexually explicit messages to someone other than their spouses is a very or extremely serious problem.
Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of respondents say male elected officials cheating on their spouse is a very or extremely serious moral problem while 69 percent said the same for female elected officials.
Still, concern for officials guilty of lying on their income taxes (81 percent) eclipses the concern for cheating officials.
The poll was published on the heels of former Congressman Anthony Weiner's resignation. Weiner made the announcement a week after he confessed to sending lewd messages and pictures of himself to several women on the Internet. Several colleagues – including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) – urged Weiner to resign.
The PRRI report stated that poll respondents seem to believe lying about sexual immorality is a more serious problem than the behavior itself. Nearly eight in 10 (77 percent) respondents say it is a serious moral problem when officials lie about their sexual indiscretions.
Weiner lied for nearly a week about his sexting, saying an underwear photo sent to a Washington woman via Twitter was the result of a hacked account.
Alex Mason, policy analyst to The Family Policy Network, says financial or sexual misdeeds are equally morally serious problems. These problems – taking bribes or lying on your taxes and engaging a prostitute for sex – are illegal, and perpetrators should be prosecuted, he says.
For Christians, however, Mason says sexual sins carry more spiritually moral implications than financial misdeeds. The Bible sets sexual sin apart from all other sins. Additionally, Mason says God places high value on marriage in the selection of a leader.
As a result, he says, Christians should expect their leaders (especially those who call themselves Christians) to faithfully live out their public values privately.
"Private morality and public morality cannot be separated," he wrote in a Tuesday editorial where he called on Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) to resign.
Vitter, a self-professed Christian and social conservative, admitted to having an affair with a prostitute nearly four years ago. Fellow Republicans responded by letting Vitter "off the hook," laments Mason.
Mason says he believes Vitter should resign because when Christian leaders neglect their marriage vows, the result is two-fold: their actions make Christians "indistinguishable" from the world, and they "invite scorn and mockery on the name of Christ," he maintains.
"We as Christians have to think differently than the world does," Mason contends. "I think that Christians should think about this question from a Scriptable stand point."
Results of the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted between June 16 and June 19 by professional interviewers under the direction of Opinion Research Corporation. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,006 adults 18 years of age or older.