Felicity Huffman is an Emmy winner and Oscar-nominated actress who is best known for her role in Desperate Housewives. She is also married to acclaimed actor William H. Macy.
Lori Loughlin has been known to most Americans as “Aunt Becky,” the wholesome maternal influence on ABC’s Full House. She has also starred in numerous Hallmark movies.
On Tuesday, as the Washington Post reports, “both actresses had their reputations shattered as they were charged with fraud and conspiracy.”
Their stories will forever be linked to a scandal that has made global headlines this week.
“Operation Varsity Blues”
Huffman was reportedly met by FBI agents with their guns drawn Tuesday morning at her Los Angeles home. She was later released on a $250,000 bond. She allegedly paid $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation so her daughter could participate in a college entrance-exam cheating scam.
According to the FBI, Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer J. Mossimo Giannulli, paid bribes totaling $500,000 “in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew—thereby facilitating their admission to USC.” Giannulli was released on a $1 million bond; Loughlin surrendered to authorities yesterday and was released on a $1 million bond as well.
They are the best-known of the fifty people in six states now ensnared in a massive cheating scandal. Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” by the FBI, this is the largest college admissions scheme the Department of Justice has ever prosecuted.
Sports coaches and professionals from USC, Georgetown University, Yale, Stanford, UCLA, the University of Texas, and Wake Forest have been implicated. (None of the universities has been charged with crimes.) SAT and ACT examination administrators and employees of a college counseling and preparation business have also been indicted. Admissions test scores were allegedly altered, and coaches were reportedly bribed to support the admission of unqualified students.
Some examples reported by the New York Times: “A teenage girl who did not play soccer magically became a star soccer recruit at Yale. Cost to her parents: $1.2 million. . . . A student with no experience rowing won a spot on the U.S.C. crew team after a photograph of another person in a boat was submitted as evidence of her prowess. Her parents wired $200,000 into a special account.”
As the Times notes, “Authorities say the parents of some of the nation’s wealthiest and most privileged students sought to buy spots for their children at top universities, not only cheating the system, but potentially cheating other hard-working students out of a chance at a college education.”
What does this scandal say about our society?
Parents measure success by their children
From Adam and Eve to today, parents have wanted the best for their children. Those with financial means buy houses near the best schools, pay for extra-curricular activities, hire tutors, and do whatever they can to help their kids succeed.
Much of this is understandable and even commendable. What loving parents would not want their children to have greater opportunities than they have experienced?
However, this scandal reveals something deeply troubling about our culture.
In a society that measures us by where we went to college, how much money we make, what we drive and wear, where we live, how we look, and how popular we are, these allegations should not surprise us. Does anyone think that the number of parents using illegal means to help their children succeed is limited to the fifty people named in the FBI’s indictment?
We also live in a society that measures parents by their children. Many parents do the same. Peer pressure based on where our kids go to school and what they do there is ever-present.
In short, a secular society defines success by secular means. In a postmodern culture that rejects absolute truth and biblical morality, it is inevitable that some people will do whatever they can to achieve what they seek.
As CNN legal analyst Shan Wu notes, this scandal “reflects a fundamental problem in our society. Such a ‘winning trumps everything’ attitude creates a hollowness of true character in our children and perpetuates a values system founded upon the false idols of privilege and elitism.”
In this teachable moment, what should parents tell their children and themselves?
Sin costs more than it pays
The activities described in the FBI indictment allegedly continued for eight years. Those who participated must have thought that no one would know what they were doing.
But Scripture warns us: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). God’s word adds, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out” (Proverbs 10:9).
As the celebrities arrested this week demonstrate, just because we haven’t been caught yet doesn’t mean we won’t be. And one day, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The children involved in this scandal are paying a high price as well. Many of those who were admitted to college illegally have now graduated. They will always wonder if they were good enough to make it on their own. And they will assume that their parents didn’t think they were.
Sin always costs more than it pays. The time to repent and make restitution is now.
Integrity pays more than it costs
What seems important today is often less important tomorrow. No one has ever asked me my college GPA. But living every day to love our Lord and love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37–40) leads to lives of significance in this world and the next.
In this light, parents must be what we want our children to become. Scripture promises: “The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!” (Proverbs 20:7).
If your children imitated your character, would that be a good thing?
Before you answer, note this fact: they probably will.
Originally posted at Denison Forum.