DATE: 3/15/2004 09:34:00 AM
Heath Suspended - Michael Heath, head of the Christian Civic League of Maine, has been put on a one-month suspension for his recent suggestion that the League look into the sexual orientations of legislators and opinion leaders. Such a move may seem encouraging, but the statement by League president Dallas Henry proves these guys just don't get it. Henry writes:
The Bible says that when we have done wrong, we are to confess our sin and to ask for forgiveness. Mike has publicly apologized for his actions and has been duly reprimanded by the Board of Directors. The Board is convinced that Mike is truly sorrowful for his actions and the damage he has done.
The Board has decided to place Mr. Heath on administrative leave for a period of one month in which he will be relieved of his responsibility as spokesman and head of the organization. The purpose of this leave is for him to reflect on what he has learned from this experience and what needs to be changed to ensure that it does not happen in the future. The Board is fully confident that Mike is capable of leading this organization with integrity and is thankful for his committed service and important contributions. We call all citizens to join in extending forgiveness to our brother and making a commitment to debate the important issues with respect for others and with compassion.The Christian Civic League is not a church, and their use here of church discipline procedures with Heath is misguided. The question here isn't whether Mike Heath is sorry for what he's done, because the problem doesn't lie entirely with Mike Heath. The Board is just as responsible for what happened, perhaps more so. By allowing Heath to operate the CCLM as a one-man operation, apart from accountability, the board set Heath up for such a fall. In the past, this laissez-faire approach to the organization's leadership allowed the appearance of financial impropriety (or perhaps the reality of it - those questions have not yet been answered in a satisfactory manner). They need to face facts - their current organizational structure does not work and twice has resulted in scandal.
Ignoring the Results - The Board's actions are not only ineffective, they are arrogant. In effect, what they're saying is "okay, everyone - we've disciplined the guy now so just calm down and forgive him so we can get back to work." What they'll find, I'm sure, is that it won't be that easy. As I stated before, the CCLM is not a church. It's a public-policy organization. Such organizations are only effective if people trust them to act honorably and do the right thing. Mike Heath threatened the legislature with an ultimatum - do what we want or maybe we'll just start making your secrets known. Who can blame members of the legislature if they refuse to deal with Heath in the future? His reprehensible behavior and the board's refusal to deal with it with more than an "administrative leave" will ensure that the CCLM will once again diminish in effectiveness.
The "Apology" - Dallas Henry says Heath has "publicly apologized for his actions." What did he apologize for? Let's see...he's sorry for "indicating" the league will dig for dirt on legislators. He's sorry for hurting the league's reputation and he says wrote things that should not have been written. Great. So where's the apology? Mike Heath has not yet explained why what he did was wrong. If it was wrong to write those things, why? What ethical standard or biblical principle was violated? Heath doesn't mention anything other than the board's reputation.
Heath needs to apologize, for real this time. Not just for hurting the board's reputation, but for his implied blackmail against the legislature, for his willingness to violate the privacy of legislators and for disobeying the biblical commandments against gossip and slander. So far, Heath has admitted none of this. Instead, he chooses to hide behind a squishy 'apology' and the board's willingness to forgive and forget.
Churches that support the CCLM have a decision to make. Do they continue to support an organization that refuses to hold itself accountable for its mistakes? Do they continue to give money to help pay a man who has thus far shown no real repentence for what he's done? Churches should hold back their financial support until the league makes some changes. Churches should demand that Heath either apologize for real, or resign. The CCLM is making a mockery of church discipline and extending "forgiveness" to someone who hasn't yet admitted what he's done wrong. How much longer can churches in Maine put up with an organization that doesn't reflect their values, and diminshes their stature?