'Megachurch' Leader with White House Ties Quits, Admits Indiscretions

By Mike Sheehan
Raw Story
November 3, 2006

The leader of an influential Christian 'megachurch' who has ties to the White House has resigned his authority amid allegations that he had used drugs and had a homosexual affair with a male prostitute.

The Rev. Ted Haggard, who until Thursday was President of the National Association of Evangelicals, has apparently admitted to some of the claims made by Mike Jones, a bodybuilder and personal trainer based in Denver, Colorado.

Jones claimed Wednesday on a Colorado radio talk show that he'd had a sexual affair with a prominent pastor, but did not give names at the time. Jones and Haggard were later identified by a Denver TV news station.

Rev. Haggard, a graduate of Oral Roberts University, at first denied the charges, telling the station on Wednesday night that he'd "never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I'm steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."

With scrutiny intensifying, on Thursday Haggard resigned from the evangelical association and took paid leave as senior pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He said in a statement that he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations" and was stepping down to let the church conduct its own investigation. The statement did not include a denial of Jones' allegations.

The Rocky Mountain News described Haggard as a "giant of the conservative Christian movement, with direct access to President Bush." In May 2005, Harper's Magazine ran a piece on Haggard reporting that the pastor talked "to President George W. Bush or his advisers every Monday." Harper's also noted that when he was asked why Bush "had not apologized for the false assertions used to justify the Iraq war, or for the dishonest smears marshaled on his campaign's behalf," Haggard replied:

    I think if you asked the President these questions once he's out of office, he'd say, 'You're right. We shouldn't have done it.' But right now if he said something like that, well, the world would spin out of control! ... Listen, I think [we Christian believers] are responsible not to lie, but I don't think we're responsible to say everything we know.

US News & World Report revealed on July 20, 2005 that Haggard received a call from the White House just before the announcement that Judge John Roberts would be nominated by President Bush to the Supreme Court. Haggard "was given an indication that Roberts 'would have respect for precedent but that precedent would not have the same weight as the Constitution itself,' perhaps signaling the nominee's stance on [Roe v. Wade]."

On Thursday afternoon, the Rev. James Dobson, head of the rival conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family, also based in Colorado Springs, issued a press release supporting Haggard and condemning news reports, stating:

    It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation. Ted Haggard is a friend of mine and it appears someone is trying to damage his reputation as a way of influencing the outcome of Tuesday's election -- especially the vote on Colorado's marriage-protection amendment -- which Ted strongly supports.

Haggard's own stance on homosexuality is somewhat at odds with the often virulent intolerance exhibited by some conservative Christian organizations. In 2004, Haggard told The Kansas City Star, "People know that a homosexual couple ... can go to an evangelical church and receive ministry and help."

As of Friday morning, Haggard was still pictured at the main page of the National Association of Evangelicals website (cached here), and still shown on the site of the New Life Church. His personal site also makes no mention of the ongoing situation.


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