A new study by State Integrity.org shows the level of corruption in state government. And while some states are very surprising (New Jersey came out almost squeaky clean - New Jersey?!?), perhaps the most jarring of the findings is how many sates noted for their adherence to religion came out looking shady or downright crooked. To see the comparison, look at a Gallup Poll on importance of religion in the individual states.
So now we have it: two of our most religious states - Georgia and Virginia - are also two of the most corrupt.
A succinct breakdown:
Most Corrupt and Most Religious (both within the top 20): Georgia, South Dakota, Virginia, South Carolina, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah
Fairly High in Corruption and Religious Categories: Texas, West Virginia, Florida
Least Corrupt but Very Religious: Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas
Least Corrupt and Least Religious: California, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts
The correlation has always existed.
Corruption and self-righteousness have always coexisted hand in hand, simply because the self-righteous believe themselves to be above others and the law. Just recently, we saw how politicians with a religious bent pander to the corrupt with impunity: Rick Santorum admitted to paying for the Iowa endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats.*
Pat Robertson's Virginia
Virginia's history of corruption goes back to the Dixiecrats of 1880 and came to fruition with the Byrd Democrats from 1920 through 1965:
The Byrd Organization (usually known as just "the Organization") was a political machine led by former Governor and U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.(1887–1966) that dominated Virginia politics for much of the middle portion of the 20th century. From the mid 1920s until the late 1960s, the Byrd Organization effectively controlled the politics of the state through a network of courthouse cliques of local constitutional officers in most of the state's counties.
Pat Robertson's father, Senator Absalom Willis Robertson was described as a Bryd Democrat who opposed civil rights vehemently, snubbing Lyndon Johnson in the process.**
Robertson himself was involved in a bit of chicanery and corruption when it was found out that he was using Operation Blessing's airplanes to haul his own mining equipment, a stunt that almost landed him in jail. His political (and financial) ties to Virginia's politicians, however, came through. Robertson's close relationships with two African dictators, Mobuto Sese Seko and Charles Taylor were also scrutinized, but he weathered the subsequent controversies.
Robertson is an advocate of Christian Dominionism, a theology that particularly lends itself to corruption.
Th belief that Fundamentalist Christianity should rule all aspects of life, especially government (through a theocracy) is especially prone to corruption. Dominionists such as David Barton are attempting to rewrite history to achieve their goal: the replacement of the government with a theocracy run strictly by Biblical law. Machinations within the government and its Dominionist politicians have been trying to erase the separation between church and state, even saying that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is really unconstitutional: only freedom of Christian denominations exist and not of other religions per se. The recent controversy over the statements of Pastor Dennis Terry (to liberals and non-believers: "Get out!") demonstrates just how bold Dominionism has gotten in the last decade.
The discovery that some of the most "religious" states are the most corrupt points out a hypocrisy of staggering proportions: in the world of the Christian Right, morality and ethics are not akin to each other, especially if ethics are looked upon as secular.…and corruption looked upon as a means for a particular end. Or in the words of Pastor Rick Warren:
“Whatever it takes.”
*It was, of course, to help pay for "promotion" of that endorsement and not the endorsement itself. Right.
** From wikipedia:
In retaliation, President Johnson personally recruited State Senator William B. Spong, Jr., a considerably more liberal Democrat, to run against him in the 1966 Democratic primary. By this time, even some Byrd Democrats were moving away from obstinate resistance to integration as espoused by Robertson and the Organization's patriarch, Harry F. Byrd, Sr. Spong defeated Robertson in the primary in one of the biggest upsets in Virginia political history—an event that is considered the beginning of the end of the Byrd Organization's long dominance of Virginia state politics.