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Kissin’ cousins


Another day, another conservative Christian who is a parody of a conservative Christian.

The details sound straight out of a soap opera.

A doctor and his younger nurse fall in love. They continue their torrid affair even after his ex-wife tips off the nurse’s husband, a local politician, to the salacious goings-on. As the divorce moves forward, discovery turns up that the nurse is not just the doctor’s employee and his lover, but his patient, with a predilection for pain pills. And, oh, she’s his second cousin, too.


This is the town of Hohenwald (pop. 3,703) in Lewis County, where bitter divorce proceedings have brought to light possibly unethical behavior by Dr. Joey Hensley, a Republican state senator who also happens to be a family physician — and one who has run for office since 2002 on a platform of conservative Christian values.

He also happens to have been married four times because values.

Bills he has sponsored include

“Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have banned public school teachers from even mentioning that homosexuality exists. During one hearing that year, Hensley commented, “I don’t think Modern Family is appropriate for children to watch” — because it features a married gay couple raising children. This session, Hensley is sponsoring a bill from the Tennessee Family Action Council that would make children created using donor sperm illegitimate — an attempt to make it harder for gay and lesbian parents to establish paternity. He is also a sponsor of the so-called “Milo Bill,” aimed at liberal practices on college campuses.

Fortunately for Sen. Hensley, being caught with one’s pants down isn’t an automatic career killer for a Republican. His voters will forgive him and feel virtuous for doing so. And when he continues his homophobic harassment campaign they’ll feel virtuous for contributing to that, as well.

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  • Derelict

    Amazing, but not surprising. And I’m sure his affair with his cousin will somehow become the fault of those evil Democrats and teh gheys.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I’m half expecting a soundbite from Newt Gingrich blaming it all on the hippies and the 60’s for promoting their “do it if it feels good” agenda.

    • DrDick

      Based on what I have seen in the press, this is pretty ubiquitous among conservative Christians. It is always projection with conservatives and the things they rail against most are the things they do, or want to do, themselves.

  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    Another day, another conservative Christian who is a parody of a conservative Christian.

    At this point, the only behavior I can see that would be a parody of a conservative Christian would be following Jesus’ teachings about helping the poor.

    • And another one:

      Police have charged a pastor at the Legions of Christ Ministries with three counts of first- and second-degree child molestation and third-degree sexual assault, Maj. David Lapatin said Wednesday morning. . . .

      Bolden, chairman of the Providence Republican City Committee since 2015, has been removed from the position, according to a statement from state Republican Party chairman Brandon S. Bell.

      It’s like the sun rising in the east.

      • Nobdy

        I am also sure that that church strictly and scrupulously observed the rule that non-profit religious institutions should not make political endorsements.

    • leftwingfox

      I.e. Ned Flanders.

      • Murc

        Who even keeps kosher. Just to be on the safe side!

    • DrDick

      Even knowing what those actual teachings are would also qualify.

  • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

    It occurs to me that with this affair with his second cousin, he truly embodies “family values”.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Sure, but if he’s going to aspire to “Tennessee family values”, he needs to get busy with a FIRST cousin.

      I hear that there are families there where everyone looks very similar. Including the family dog.

      • Murc

        Interestingly, the states where you are allowed to marry your first cousin are all over the map, politically speaking. About half the old confederacy allows it, including, as you say, Tennessee. The other half bans it or outright criminalizes it. Godless liberal New York and New England allow it… except for New Hampshire, you know, the crazy freedom state, where guns are great but making out with your attractive cousin crosses the line. California allows it, but the other two states of the left coast ban it.

        It’s weird.

        • Rob in CT

          How old are those laws? Maybe there would be more of a pattern if we considered the politics of those states back when the laws were put on the books?

          Even so, it’s hard to imagine based on that list.

  • If fox news covers the story at all, they will just call him a democrat, just like they did with Mark Foley.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Or try to not mention it if they don’t have to, like Mark Sanford.

  • Thom

    The other parts of this story aside, fears of cousin coitus are wildly overblown.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      I’d have gone with “wildly overstated”, myself.

    • Dennis Orphen

      If all men were brothers, would you let one marry your sister?

    • witlesschum

      Yeah, I’d heard about those numbers for first cousins before. For those who don’t click the link which I think I fixed here, the rate of birth defects and genetic disease among children of first cousins is slightly elevated, but the doctor there points out only on the level of the mother being over 35.

      It’s not something I feel a real strong taboo against emotionally, maybe because I’m not particularly close with any of my cousins. Seems like its a worthless relic (probably from the eugenics movement) which should survive a court challenge from some pair of cousins who wants the state to recognize their union.

      • witlesschum
        • Thom

          Thanks, that is indeed what I was trying to link to.

      • DrDick

        Cousin marriage is pretty common around the world and is the rule (not always followed) in many cultures.

        • Murc

          In terms of populace it is legal for a solid, large majority of Americans.

        • The Dark God of Time

          The statistic I read was that 20% of all marriages are between second cousins or closer throughout human history.

      • njorl

        It’s easier to ban first cousin marriages than to ban repeated first cousin marriages. The latter is the real problem being solved. When you have multiple generations of first cousin marriages you can get enormous increases in genetic disorders.
        This is a very real problem in the UK Pakistani community. In Pakistan, where extended families tend to be larger, there can be first cousin marriages with much less consanguinity because from one generation to the next, you can switch which branch of cousins are marrying. In the UK, parents have fewer siblings, so there are fewer cousins to choose from. You wind up with dangerous levels of consanguinity.

        • Origami Isopod

          Yeah, this is the actual problem.

        • Rob in CT

          Huh, I never thought of that. Thanks!

        • DrDick

          The word “can” is doing an awful lot of work. There are a lot of cultures in the world where this routinely happens with no discernible adverse consequences. The actual evidence suggests only about a 2-3% greater incidence of genetic diseases or abnormalities. I would add that this study does not consider the Native American, Aboriginal Australian, Papuan, and Pacific Island groups which followed the practice.

          • Thom

            And that increase is also the norm with procreation by people over 35, which no one seems to be concerned about.

        • Thom

          Is there research in the cultural communities that prefer fist cousin marriage (eg. the Tswana of Southern Africa) that bears this out?

  • LosGatosCA

    It’s not family values, it’s ‘biblical’ values. How many wives did Abraham have? At least he’s sort of a New Testament kind of philanderer – not having the cuck killed like David did.

    It’s frustrating to see liberals not understand originalism in the constitutional sense but now in the ‘religious ‘ sense as well. The alpha male is entitled to all the women he wants, you don’t have to be Mormon, or a Trump beauty contest contestant, to understand that.

    • liberal

      IIRC “wild type” humans are somewhat polygamous and mildly polyandrous.

    • njorl

      King Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines, according to one high school essay.

      • Origami Isopod

        I tell ya, there were some real pricks in the Bible.

    • DrDick

      Let’s not forget old Lot and his daughters!

      • Salt of the earth those people.

        • The Dark God of Time

          Apparently “pillar of salt” was an idiom in the original Hebrew for paralysis due to a stroke.

  • Now that’s some Real America!

  • Nobdy

    This kind of thing (along with your David Vitters and Newt Gingrichs) show that conservative morality is about control and punishment, not actually encouraging good or righteous behavior. Basically every powerful man (even two bit powerful men) get passes on anything short of Denny Hastert levels of behavior, even if that man rants and raves at others who have transgressed less seriously, and stakes his whole reputation on morality that he, himself, clearly does not possess.

    Conservatives don’t really have a positive conception of the good life outside of wealth and power. They read about the Golden Rule but they are happy to break it when it suits them, and don’t penalize other conservatives for breaking it. They talk non-stop about Jesus but only the judgey parts, and they don’t even apply those to their own lives or fellow tribe members.

    I mean, Donald Trump is the president and he got there on the backs of the “evangelical” vote. He’s an admitted (hell a PROUD) serial womanizer who attacked Hillary Clinton for staying true to her marriage vows even though her husband broke his, and for forgiving him despite her very public humiliation.

    The truth is that the Democrats CLEARLY embody Christian values much better than the Republicans at this point, but they aren’t able to capitalize on it politically because A) large numbers of so-called Christians in this country don’t really care about those values and B) they are better at living those values and putting them into policy than at ceaseless self-promotion and public displays of faith (which are generally tribal signifiers more than anything.)

    • witlesschum

      It’s one of the places where authoritarianism really obviously explains a lot of conservative behavior, at least for me. Transgressing against conservative morality is always forgiven, so long as the transgressor says “I was wrong, mumble, mumble,” whereas asserting that conservative morality is wrong and rebelling against the hierarchy is never forgiven. It’s a hell of a practical system, if you have enough people who’ll play ball with the hierarchy part.

      • njorl

        It meshes well with fundamentalist Christianity. As long as you “accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior” everything is always forgiven. Your evil acts mean nothing.
        As long as you are faithful to conservatism, nothing else matters.

        • muddy

          It’s a lot more convenient than having to go to confession over and over, you have to admit. One and done.

  • Attezz

    It seems another difference between the left and right, is when someone on the left is found out to be a major hypocrite, they are shunned and will likely never be welcomed back. Like with Jamie Kilstein’s career likely being over, and he’ll spend the rest of his days being back in Pennington New Jersey managing a video store.

    Yet Joey Hensley will likely just end up as their future governor, with support from all the major evangelical groups.

    • mds

      Like with Jamie Kilstein’s career likely being over, and he’ll spend the rest of his days being back in Pennington New Jersey managing a video store.

      “Spitzer! Get those political comedies reshelved, pronto!”

    • NewishLawyer

      Not only that, people will be forever heart broken and angry at the Democratic Party if they fail to respond to a scandal with significant condemnation.

      I know a guy who is basically Democratic in his politics but thought that the party’s response to Nwil Goldschmidt’s sexual abuse scandal was insufficient. So now he is down on the Ds.

      As far as I can tell, he thinks the entire party should have disbanded after the Goldschmidt affair and started from scratch on a national level.

      • The Dark God of Time

        Reminds me of the quote attributed to Freud, behind each fear is an unexpressed wish.

  • (((Malaclypse)))

    Wait, “illegitimate” is an actual, existing legal status, which he just unsuccessfully tried to apply? Can that possibly be true?

    • witlesschum

      Here’s the law this guy’s bill would repeal, which says “legitimate”?


    • Murc

      I asked the precise same question the last time this came up, Mal.

      The short answer appears to be that it is, mostly, relevant when it comes to inheritance. Your will, of course, is always controlling; hence people leaving fortunes to pets, for example.

      But without a will, in many jurisdictions legitimate children are specially privileged above illegitimate ones when it comes to the assets of their parents estates.

      • tsam

        Right–however I don’t think that’s so much a factor as their need to slap that label on kids to shame their parents. It’s pure fucking cruelty. Ostracizing.

        People like this aren’t good for anything other than target practice.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          They probably pat themselves on the back for saying “illegitimate” instead of “bastard.”

          These folks love hierarchy and labels. Especially for other people that they can then poop on.

      • DrDick

        In most states IIRC, the children of a married woman are automatically assumed “legitimate” unless legally proven otherwise. Artificial insemination complicates the issue, but if there is no legal challenge it is irrelevant.

  • LeeEsq

    There is a certain judge I had to appear before years ago with a certain reputation. It was just for a preliminary matter in open court. It was also take your kids to work day. Before proceedings started, the employees of the court asked if their kids could observe proceedings; to which the judge applied yes because he was “a family values Christian.” Every lawyer in the room had to either suppress their laughter or go outside and get it out of their system.

  • BGinCHI

    Fun Fact: The great, great writer William Gay was from Hohenwald.

    I’m sure if he were still alive he would happily have knocked the shit out of this guy with a framing hammer (he was a carpenter).

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Another nice Hohenwald thing is their elephant sanctuary. You’ll have to google it, as my previous several attempts to post got eated by the machinery.

  • Emily68

    Four marriages just shows that this guy REALLY values family, much more so than those who have only married once.

  • D.N. Nation

    This guy looks exactly like I figured he would.

  • mds

    “Jesus has forgiven me.”

    [Drops mic, leaves podium to get re-elected by enormous margin]

    I mean, this guy’s antics (except for the possible pill angle) are downright tame compared to Scott “Philandering Abortion Machine” DesJarlais, and squealing “Forgiven!” like the morally-bankrupt shitweasel he is worked wonders for him: He just won re-election in Tennessee CD-4 by his largest margin yet. It probably helped him with the Real True Christian crowd, who love “fallen and restored to grace” stories, because it reminds them that it’s okay for them to claim the name of Christian while remaining immoral, hate-filled garbage, too.

    (Once upon a time (i.e., 2010), DesJarlais’ district was Democratic, but then the DLC / Third Way became ascendant, and economic anxiety overtook the populace. Lincoln Davis needed to wake up and realize the long-term trends eroding a district he carried with 59% of the vote in 2008. If he had ditched the NRA and National Right to Life endorsements and embraced an openly left-wing platform, DesJarlais would never have been able to get traction in Al Gore’s home state.)

    • Rob in CT


    • efgoldman

      I mean, this guy’s antics (except for the possible pill angle) are downright tame compared to Scott “Philandering Abortion Machine” DesJarlais

      Yeah, I was about to post a comment about that klown. Virulently anti-choice, he paid for how many abortions? Two? Three? More?

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    Order, authority, hierarchy: the three legged stool of conservatism, particularly religious conservatism.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      A less commonly used three-legged stool: wetsuit, wetsuit, dildo.

  • BethRich52

    I hope this guy doesn’t know about donor eggs.

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