The Knuckles Saga: Who defines morality?

By Francien Chenoweth Dorliae, B.A., B.S., M.A., M.A., PSY.D


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 3, 2007


As a female Liberian citizen, I regretfully accepted Mr. Knuckles’ resignation. Unlike, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who I deeply admire, my regret is not because of holding public officials to “high moral standards”, rather it is because of my strong opposition to intermingling government and morality. When a nation attempts to outrightly define morality for its leaders and citizens and holds one moral truth for all its citizens, it activates the process of diminishing human rights under disguises such as “upholding high moral standards.”

Before any further explanations, it should be known that I am a strong supporter of Human Rights especially women’s rights and I do believe that it is immoral for married persons to have sex or any inappropriate relationships outside of their marriage. It is Noteworthy that I do not know Mr. Knuckles - to the best of my knowledge - and I do not have familial ties to him.

In support of human rights, when a heterogeneous nation such as Liberia begins to intertwine “high moral standards” and job performance or the role of public servant, we run the risk of implying that moral and ethical propositions are the same for all Liberians regardless of cultural, religion, ethical, and socio-economic differences. We also allow for the Liberian government to be the overseer of morality. Allowing governments to set moral standards entertains the shifting of morality according to who is in power. A case in point, today, Liberia has allowed Human Rights groups, the media, and others in power to blackmail Mr. Knuckles and to call for his resignation in the name of immorality.

Tomorrow, another group in power might say some tribal practices or cultural practices such as female genital circumcision, polygamy, and animism are immoral and anyone engaging in those acts should not hold public office. If we accept that Mr. Knuckles’ private sexual behavior is not in accordance to “high moral standard” for a public servant, then some day, we must be open to accept that others might perceive the practice of having more than one wife as an immoral act inconsistent with excellent public service; We must be willing to agree that the cultural practice of worshiping one’s ancestors or nature is an immoral practice incompatible to “high moral standard”; we must be prepare to accept the likelihood that deviant sexual acts by married persons can also be deemed as immoral or low moral standard.

In deed Liberian Public servants should be held to high moral standards, however, moral standards should be judged in relations to how it impacts one’s job responsibilities. It would have been so appropriate to call for Mr. Knuckles’ resignation if he had used public funds or edifice for his sexual innuendos. Unlike past public servants or perhaps current civil servants, who used Liberian government funds/property to support girlfriends or financed personal affairs, Mr. Knuckles did not do so based on what we know thus far. Mr. Knuckles’ sexual behavior did not infringe on his performance as Acting Chief of Staff as evidenced by President Ellen Johnson Sir leaf’s admiration for his outstanding job performance and enjoyment of her professional and personal relationships with him.

Calling for Mr. Knuckles’ resignation because of memories of leaders abusing power and/or exploiting women is not an effective approach to eradicating corruption and human rights violations in our country. This is an understandingly emotional reaction that has a “quick fix” but yet devastating long term consequences for democracy. Critically examining moral and ethical dilemma in Liberia is so essential to the survivor of Liberia’s young democracy.

Proponents of the view that Mr. Knuckles violated the rights of women are insinuating that the adult females involved with Mr. Knuckles were incompetent to consent to sex. As of today’s date, the females involved have not announced that they unwillingly had sex with Mr. Knuckles nor have they expressed that they were coerce or manipulated by physical or finance. If one is in support of Women’s rights or Human Rights for that matter, one should believe that women are as equally intelligent and sensual as men and can make appropriate sexual choices, and/or appreciate sexual freedom. It should be the right of both men and women to practice sexual freedom as long as their sexual behavior is not violating the rights of others.

About the author: Dr. Chenoweth Dorliae is a Professor at a local college in the Philadelphia area. She teaches graduate psychology courses, including Psychology of Human Diversity.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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