Last week, I received an email forwarded to me by an alt-weekly editor in another city about an event (that seems like a weird term to use, but "protest" seems too strong) that was held at a local church on Sunday. Mari Herreras ended up going and wrote about it on page 10 this week, but before I forwarded the email on to her, I spent a day trying to figure out whether this was the kind of story we wanted to pursue.
You should really read Mari's story, but here's the basic summary of the situation. In 2000, Eric Holtan made a plea agreement to two counts of child sexual abuse, charges he faced for having sexual contact with two female students at East High School in Duluth where he served as choir director. Holtan, who is still on probation from those charges, is now the executive director of Tucson Chamber Artists, and as pointed out by the email I receieved, a music minister at Dove of Peace Lutheran Church on the northwest side.
My first reaction, honestly, was outrage. My family attends church now and then and the idea that a congregation would choose to hire someone with Holtan's past seemed insane to me. If I found out that information, which is easily accessible with the most basic of Google searches, after going to a church for some amount of time, I'd be furious. Holtan's indiscretions might be in his past, but that information should also be available to the parents of children he might come in contact with, even in the most banal contexts.
On the other hand, however, the core of Christian theology is the concept and practice of grace. There's no justification for what Holtan did, but how long should his punishment last? People make bad decisions in their twenties all the time, most of which aren't felonies, but those choices aren't generally accompanied by a scarlet letter of sorts worn for life.
In the end, the event held outside the church was public in nature, as are the records and associated news stories about Holtan's past crimes. People deserve to make decisions, including where they go to church, based on more information, not less. Even if it's not always a story we might want to re-tell.