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Posts for August, 2007

Of Tweakers, Tax Cheats and Registered Sex Offenders

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2007

Ted HaggardLast Thursday, BTB’s Daniel Gonzales told you about Ted Haggard’s fundraising letter, where he asked his supporters to help defray his living expenses as he takes up residence at a halfway house for ex-cons, recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, and “other broken people.”

According to Haggard’s letter, concerned supports can send their donations directly to the Haggard family in Phoenix. But if anyone needs a tax deduction, they can instead send a check to a Colorado Springs-based charity called “Families With A Mission,” who will then forward those funds to the Haggard family — minus ten percent for “administrative costs.”

As BTB’s Timothy Kincaid pointed out, “[I]f a non-profit is receiving funds which Haggard solicits to be used for his personal benefit and then providing a tax deduction, that would be tax fraud.”

It looks like tax fraud is just the beginning. Dan Savage of Seattle’s The Stranger did some digging and found some rather interesting information about Families With A Mission. The first problem is that the only “Families with a Mission” group registered with the Colorado Secretary of State — using the same mailing address as in Haggard’s fundraising letter — was dissolved last February.

A defrocked preacher being complicit in tax fraud with a non-existent organization. Can it possibly get any worse than that?

Well, yes. It turns out that the only name associated with the now-dissolved charity is a guy by the name of Paul Huberty, a registered sex offender with the state of Hawaii.

Paul Huberty, registered sex offender

Savage discovered:

Court records in Hawaii show that Paul G. Huberty was found guilty of attempted sexual assault in January of 2004 (download ‘em here, here, and here), and sentenced a year in jail with all but six months suspended. Huberty was also put on probation for five years, ordered to take polygraphs, not allowed to possess pornography, “not allowed on the property of Kona Christian Academy” and other schools, not allowed to posses firearms, forbidden from foster parenting or being the guardian of a minor, and ordered to pay restitution to a crime victims fund.

It looks like Pastor Ted’s becoming “completely heterosexual” hasn’t done much to improve his sense of judgment.

Ted’s Former Tweaker And Tax Fraud Adventure

Daniel Gonzales

August 23rd, 2007

First I’ll give you a tidbit on Mike Jones who was last spotted in Denver’s independent weekly, Westword, leading absolutely filthy bar trivia.

Ted HaggardAs for Ted, although he seems to have been cured of his homosexuality in three weeks, we haven’t heard much on the crystal meth front — which is why it’s comic that:

…the Haggard family plans to move into the Phoenix Dream Center to minister to ex-cons, recovering alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, and “other broken people,” Haggard writes. “I identify.” [Source: CO Confidential]

It’s no secret ex-gay groups consider gay people to be “broken.”

However most interesting is a snippet of Ted’s fund raising letter which was reprinted in CO Confidential:

But for the next two years, we [my family] will need support. Between now and the end of the year, we have to find the people who want to help us transition into our future. So I am starting today to let friends like you know that we are raising money for support as we move into the Phoenix Dream Center.

[snip]

If any supporters need a tax deduction for their gift, they can mail it to Families With a Mission at P.O. Box 63125, Colorado Springs, CO 80962. The supporters would need to write their check to “Families With A Mission” and put a separate note on it that it is for the Haggard family, then Families With a Mission will mail us 90% of the funds for support and use 10% for administrative costs.

BoxTurtleBulletin author Timothy (who is an accountant by day) provides this insight about tax law:

[I]f a non-profit is receiving funds which Haggard solicits to be used for his personal benefit and then providing a tax deduction, that would be tax fraud.

There’s plenty more to the story on CO Confidential’s site including the fact his severance package includes pay through the end of 2007 and that the family still owns their $715,000 home in The Springs which has not even been put up for sale but frankly his method for providing tax-deductions was what caught our eye.

Ted Haggard Goes To Phoenix

Jim Burroway

April 19th, 2007

The Associated Press is reporting that Ted Haggard is moving to Phoenix. Haggard confessed to “sexual immorality” with a former male prostitute in a three-year relationship last fall, forcing him to give up pastorship of the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

The Haggard family will attend Phoenix First Assembly of God, which is led by Rev. Tommy Barnett, who was part of Haggard’s restoration team. While there, he will pursue a graduate degree in counseling at an undisclosed university.

The Massage Table Is Back

Jim Burroway

March 23rd, 2007

Bidding for a good cause broke the $1,200 mark. Then the auction was interrupted.

Now it’s back. This time, if anyone objects to this massage table being sold publicly, maybe they should scare up the money to buy it and get it out of public view. And in doing so, they can finally do something positive for those who live with HIV/AIDS.

Update: Karen Booth has made a generous apology:

I shouldn’t have labeled Mike as a “gay prostitute” or “male prostitute.” Jim Burroway was correct to nail me on that. I shouldn’t have made disparaging remarks about Mike’s integrity or questioned his motives. That was an ad hominem attack that has no place in public discourse. And before I contacted eBay, I should have first contacted Mike with my concerns and appealed to him to end the auction. That would have been the Biblical – and healthy and loving – thing to do.

She is however clear about what she’s not apologizing for: protesting eBay’s auction itself. And it looks like she will continue to do so, as I continue to strongly support it. But at least one wrong was set right, and I applaud Rev. Booth’s courage in doing so publicly.

But I think a solution to the second problem — the auction itself — can be reached with just a little creativity. Maybe Transforming Ministries, New Life Church, or another evangelical group can buy the table. That way the proceeds will go to a worthy HIV/AIDS charity and presumably nobody will have to see the infamous table ever again. How about it?

The Prostitute and the Pharisees

Jim Burroway

March 20th, 2007

Note: This post began as a comment I left on Warren Throckmorton’s web site.

Rev. Karen Booth, Executive Director of Transforming Congregations, an Exodus-affiliated ex-gay ministry based in Delaware, left this comment more than a week ago describing her ministry:

My “organization” is not politically involved, so we don’t have the goal of squelching equal rights. In fact, we’re also connected to the United Methodist Church, which takes a strong stand on the rights of the LGBT community.

But then, last Friday Rev. Booth left a comment in a free-wheeling thread on Warren Throckmorton’s web site that led me to look around a little. That’s when I found this on Transforming Congregations’ web site:

TED HAGGARD MASSAGE TABLE ON EBAY

I recently discovered that Mike Jones, the gay prostitute that “outed” Rev. Ted Haggard, is selling his massage table on eBay… Even though Jones claims the proceeds will go to an AIDS charity, this act is reprehensible.

It is very difficult to register a complaint with eBay, and almost impossible to do so through their website… I have sent a message (which follows at the end of this report) that can be used as a model for you to fax eBay with your concerns…

So if Rev. Booth’s ministry is not political, why is she encouraging her supporters to engage in a political act? What exactly does interfering with a charity auction have to do with “equipping the local church” to “meet the needs of confused, trapped and hurting people”?

Later in that same thread on Warren’s site, she returned to taunt everyone there:

BTW – Mike Jones eBay auction was cancelled by eBay. I’m really glad, and hope they got a ton of complaints. Interesting that I didn’t see any criticism of Mike’s action (who was also on the Montel show) in this thread. But then, it’s so much easier to just keep bashing Alan [Chambers].

I spent the rest of the weekend wondering why nobody — myself included — rushed to Mike Jones’ defense. And I guess we all know why, really. He’s a former prostitute.

Sure, it’s salacious and in poor taste for Mike Jones to put his massage table up on eBay for charity. The proceeds of the auction were to go to Project Angel Heart, which “promotes the health, dignity and self-sufficiency of people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-threatening illnesses by providing nutritious, home-delivered meals with care and compassion.”

Yes, putting the “Ted Haggard massage table” on eBay is in extremely poor taste. Also in poor taste? How about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who organized some of the first safe-sex messages when official health departments were afraid to touch the subject? They also raised money for home AIDS care, food and housing when nobody else would.

And don’t forget all those leather daddies, also in extremely poor taste and a terrible influence, many of them. They also have a reputation for being among the most generous donors of time, money and talent towards AIDS care at the height of the crisis.

And we cannot forget the Dykes on Bikes, who cleaned apartments, cooked meals and walked the dogs. You get my drift…

Now don’t get me wrong. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence deeply offend my Catholic sensibilities. Leather daddies are not my scene — in fact, I find all public displays of sexual fetishes offensive. As for the Dykes on Bikes, I have nothing against them — they just scare the bejeezus out of me.

But Sunday evening, Chris and I had several friends over for dinner, including two gentlemen who had lived in New York City during the early ’80’s, just as the AIDS epidemic was getting started. They reminded us of the abject fear they felt of not knowing what was happening, the feeling that nobody anywhere in the country cared about what was going on, and of course, of attending memorials two or three times a week. Alan said, “it was simply exhausting.”

And I can tell you right now that if you had been in my home Sunday evening, you would have heard nothing but gratitude for everyone — no matter who they were or where they came from — who worked hard and tried to make a difference. You would have heard words of immense gratitude for the Sisters, the Dykes, the daddies, the drag queens — every blessed one of them. They were among the more prominent groups who were key to establishing and funding many of the AIDS service organizations that exist today, organizations which continue to do the hard work that nobody else is interested in. They all did this because nobody else would.

And where was the church during all that? Well, I think we don’t really have re-hash all of that, do we? Everyone knows the answer. Ex-gay author and counselor Joe Dallas gave a powerful, emotional talk at Love Won Out on the church’s shameful failure. He listed the church’s sins of omission as well as its sins of commission. And he concluded that portion of his talk in a thunderous voice, “And they [they gay community] will never forget it!” By the tone of his voice and the look in his eye, he left unspoken the words “… and who can blame them?” He left that part unspoken, but I think everyone there understood it that way anyway.

Rev. Booth, if you really want to know why many in the gay community are not willing to condemn Mike Jones or any of the other “salacious” groups, it’s because when the chips are down, there are still today — twenty-five years later — only two responses: thunderous condemnations or silence on the one hand, or rolling up your sleeves and getting to work on the other.

So today, we have Mike Jones, a prostitute. I’m not going to defend his profession. Not by a long shot. But the folks at New Life Church made the brave decision to embrace him and forgive him. No, not forgive him, thank him for revealing what Ted Haggard was doing.

And if he wants to raise money for a worthwhile AIDS charity, nobody’s going to hear any protest out of me. I’d rather follow Christ’s example and choose the prostitutes over the Pharisees any day.

Update: Rev. Booth responds in the comments. I reply to Rev. Booth at Ex-Gay Watch.

Update: The auction is back up and Rev. Booth has a partial change of heart.

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”

Jim Burroway

February 6th, 2007

It’s a miracle! After three whole weeks of “intensive psychological therapy” — yes, that’s right! Twenty-one days to examine a life of some fifty years — we can now be assured that Ted Haggard most definitely is not gay:

[Rev. Tim] Ralph said three weeks of counseling at an undisclosed Arizona treatment center helped Haggard immensely and left Haggard sure of one thing.

“He is completely heterosexual,” Ralph said. “That is something he discovered. It was the acting- out situations where things took place. It wasn’t a constant thing.”

Nope. Not homosexual. Nothing to see here. According to Haggard’s advisors, all we gotta do now is figure out why he “chose to act out in that manner”.

How about his: He paid a lot of money to have sex with another man. He went back to that man again and again. Could it be because he liked it?

This news comes on the same day that we learn that Astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak is being charged with first degree murder after having attacked a rival for another astronaut’s attention. Nowak, mission specialist on a Space Shuttle Discovery flight last summer, was found in Orlando wearing a trenchcoat and a wig, and she had worn diapers so she wouldn’t have to stop on the 1,000-mile drive from Houston.

Now, mind you, NASA has some pretty sharp psychologists on staff (Dr. Bellows notwithstanding). Astronouts undergo an enormous battery of psychological and physical tests to make sure they are fit to perform their missions. NASA can’t afford to have a nutcase on the shuttle or the space station. And yet, these sharp psychologists apparently missed the ticking time-bomb that finally went off in Nowak’s mind.

But all Haggard’s “therapists” needed were three weeks to figure out he’s really a heterosexual after all.

Daniel Gonzales at Ex-Gay Watch has a great observation in all this. He notes that Dr. Joseph Nicolosi (Daniel’s therapist back in his ex-gay days) believes there are no such thing as homosexuals:

This he’s heterosexual with a homosexual problem of acting out sounds an awful lot like NARTH president Joe Nicolosi who said:

“There is no such thing as a homosexual. Homosexual is a description of a condition, it’s not a description of the person. We are all heterosexual, some heterosexuals have a homosexual problem.”

Much as I too was able to convince myself I was a heterosexual with a homosexual problem that could be dealt with whenever attractions came up, we shall see how long Haggard is willing to keep up the exhausting charade after the honeymoon ends.

I don’t know which ex-gay ministry Haggard went to. But I think it’s time they drop all pretenses of “therapy”. This looks more like a really bad characature of “name it and claim it” theology in action. He calls himself a heterosexual, therefore he is.

And you want to know the really amazing thing about it? His next step is to get an online degree in psychology.

See also:

The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief

A Commentary

Jim Burroway

January 29th, 2007

I am reluctant to write about this because I tend to stay away from criticism of religious practices. My interest is more in debunking junk science that emanates from the anti-gay lobby. While much of it is supported by religious groups, I don’t want to get into any theological discussions because it seems to me that this is a dead end. Faith is a deeply personal thing, and I’m not here to change anyone’s faith. All I want to do is to get some facts on the table and wipe away the falsehoods that many others promote.

A lot of those falsehoods about homosexuality are accepted uncritically by a large number of people, and many of those people accept them in good faith because they come from leaders of faith. So while I hesitate to enter into a theological discussion, I do believe it is appropriate to enter into a cultural one. And a recent visit by Mike Jones to Ted Haggard’s megachurch offers just such an opportunity.

I’m sure you remember Ted Haggard, the founder of New Life Church in Colorado Springs who was caught in a sexual relationship with Denver escort Mike Jones. This scandal played on the worst stereotypes many gays and lesbians have about Christians, stereotypes that are reinforced with great consistency by the behavior of many prominent Christian and religious political leaders themselves.

And whenever the mighty have fallen, there’s always a great celebration that one with so much hubris has finally met with his come-uppance. But in the midst of all of this, it is easy to forget that one of the core tenets of Christianity is the humbleness and meekness (“Blessed are the meek…”) that all Christians are called to exercise. And so it’s good when, from time to time, we can get a glimpse into that most admirable Christian trait, that seemingly rare quality of humility. When Mike Jones visited a service at New Life Church yesterday while on a fact-finding mission for his new book, the Denver Post reports that he got a small glimpse of it:

Just about every person who offered him a handshake said the same thing: Welcome, thank you and God bless. …

A couple of ladies cried when they were touching me,” Jones said. “I was thanked for exposing the church, for helping Ted Haggard. A couple of them said they hoped I get God into my life. And they all said ‘God bless you,’ every one of them.”

Christianity is at its best when it is humble. That has always been the case, and for good reason: Christ called his followers to a life of service and humility.

And yet, our culture is far from humble and Christians are just as much a part of our culture as anyone, despite the Apostle Paul’s warning to “be not of this world.” From slick web sites, television networks, music videos, and all manner of political pronouncements delivered on cable news channels at all hours of the day and night — and the massive and constant fund-raising that supports all of these endeavors — there is very little in the public face of Christianity that suggests that humility is actually a core tenet. That’s why it’s so good to witness it wherever we find it. But the public expression of humility is increasingly rare, and it seems that it takes a scandal to remind everyone of its importance.

It shouldn’t be that way, but we have no one but ourselves to blame. Our popular entertainments have trained us well in the spectacular arts, and we have come to expect spectacle when we go to a theater. And as all students of theater know, we best experience theater only when we are willing to suspend disbelief. In other words, we know it’s a show, we know they are performers, and we know that what we are seeing isn’t entirely true. Our rational minds disbelieve what we are seeing. But we are spectators, and our role is not to question such things and just enjoy the show. To do that, we must suspend our disbelief in the literal falseness of what we are seeing before we can get wrapped up in the spectacle. If we don’t, we won’t have nearly so much fun. That’s the whole point of theater.

Worship at New Life Church

So I wonder what happens when, after an audience enters the auditorium and takes their seat, when the lights come on, the band takes the stage and the music swells, I wonder what the audience’s natural instinct would be? Aren’t we conditioned to automatically suspend disbelief? And now that some practitioners of Christianity have incorporated all of these elements — complete with stage, sound systems, theatrical lighting, and canned music — one has to wonder if the audience doesn’t react with the same habits as when they enter a theater. Why wouldn’t the audience — I’m sorry, did I say audience? I meant congregation — suspend disbelief?

We now shop in shopping centers and worship in worship centers. And when the church builds an auditorium instead of a sanctuary and engages in stagecraft instead of contemplation, when the bright spotlight shines on the “humble servant” on the stage, it seems that stage is set for a lot of things, including the suspension of disbelief. And in the midst of that suspension, an awful lot of falseness can slip through.

There is a fundamental contradiction in play here. We are placed in an environmnet in which we are conditioned to suspend disbelief, and yet in this very same place we are supposed to be a witness to the Truth with a capital “T.” I think Mike Jones detected this very contradiction here:

But Jones … said he wasn’t impressed on the whole. If the Gospel message is enough, he said, why the loud music and MTV-quality production?

I hate to promote stereotypes, but Time Magazine complained in 1966 that “on Broadway, it would be difficult to find a production without homosexuals playing important parts, either onstage or off. And in Hollywood, you have to scrape them off the ceiling.” I guess you could say we know theater. And as with theater, we’ve learned not to believe everything we see.

And I hate to promote stereotypes of Christianity either. But as long as the most visible branch of Christianity is seduced by spectacle as a method, there will always be the temptation for a pastor to say something that propels his voice above the loud noise emanating from the other worship center next door. And all too often, he can do that by employing the time-tested elements of stagecraft. Great theater demands a villain, and gays and lesbians have been a very reliable villain for quite some time.

And just as great theater demands a villain, it also demands a great hero who can look directly into the camera and say, “I Know What You Did Last Night”. That way, he gives the audience, err, congregation something to cheer about, and keeps them coming back for more.

See also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

Another Evangelical Pastor Comes Out Of The Closet

A Commentary

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2006

Another evangelical pastor has apparently come out of the closet:

In a tearful videotaped message Sunday to his congregation, the senior pastor of a thriving evangelical megachurch in south metro Denver confessed to sexual relations with other men and announced he had voluntarily resigned his pulpit.

If the Denver Post article is accurate, this case appears to be somewhat different from that of Ted Haggard. Rev. Barnes is described as an “introvert who avoided politics,” staying out of the debate over Colorado’s Amendment 43 which banned same-sex marriage.

The Denver Post’s account of Rev. Barnes’ struggle will be very familiar to anyone who has tried to conceal or bury their sexuality. When he was a teenager, his only talk about sex with his father ended with his father describing what he would do if a “fag” approached him, driving the younger man deeper into the closet. And while he converted to Christianity at 17, his feelings for other men never went away. He married, and is the father of two girls. But at the same time, he’s described as someone who is struggling with the biblical teachings of homosexuality with “hope for a future where one can ‘be who you are’ and be accepted and loved in the Christian community.”

And yet, he says that homosexuality is a sin.

I’m afraid that many gay advocates will see in this a simple morality tale of the mighty laid low, the hypocrite exposed, and, of course, schadenfreude. But in this particular case, I can’t quite see it that way.

This is a very deep struggle that many gay men and women must contend with, especially those who are themselves people of faith. We’ve seen Daniel Gonzales at Ex-Gay Watch describe some of his own struggles, before he was able to come out the other side as a fine young gay man. His story is not unique. There are many stories like these that we can all reflect on — those of us who have spent a large measure of our lives trying to reconcile who we are with what we profess to believe. And to believe that being who you are requires a separation from the very God who created you, well, there’s nothing more devastating for someone of faith. The sense of abandonment can be very powerful.

There is a way out of that hopelessness however, and it is the way of profound faith. Faith in the goodness of creation, including your own. And faith in the love of a benevolent Creator and the mercy of a just judge. Perhaps Rev. Barnes will discover that it really is possible to be gay and Christian. Because in the end, love can never contradict Love, and truth can never contradict Truth.

“There Is a Part of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2006

Rev. Ted Haggard apologized in a letter to his congregation (PDF: 124KB/5 pages):

The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem.

I am a deceiver and a liar. There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life. for extended periods of time, I would enjoy victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I though was gone would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Repulsive and dark. Such is life in the closet. It is a life of fear and self-loathing, of obsessive secrets and dangerous behavior, and it manifests those fears in lying, cheating, and seeking physical comfort with a paid prostitute.

Ted Haggard clearly didn’t choose to be gay. This much is obvious. He says he fought against it his entire life. But he did choose what to do with his sexuality, and he chose a very repulsive and dark path. In doing so, he makes the same mistake that many others make who denigrate gays and lesbians. He confuses his own sexuality with the dark choices he made.

He’s suffering right now, but he’s not the only one suffering. His wife, Gayle, has pledged to remain firmly by his side. I wonder if she really knows what she’s up against. And I wonder if he will be honest enough to tell her. And there are his five children who now have to live with the shame of knowing that their father cheated on their mother with a prostitute while he was away in Denver “to write.”

Will he do the right thing and honestly examine his life and the events that have led up to where he is today? He has acknowledged struggling with his sexuality his entire lifetime. Will he pretend that somehow this struggle will go away? Will he lead his wife in that illusion?

Or will he realize that God did not create him to be a repulsive and dark man? Will he come to realize that he is not repulsive and dark, but that his choices were?

I hope he discovers that there are far better choices, and these choices include honoring God by living in honesty and integrity. He may yet discover, as millions of gays and lesbians have, that when there is nothing to hide and to be ashamed of, purely physical sex with a prostitute will lose all of its dark allure. Love does not grow in the dark, and there is nothing as repulsive as a life lived duplicitously.

Freedom from the closet means freedom to accept options which are far, far better than those offered by prostitutes, bathhouses or anonymous sexual encounters. Millions of gays and lesbians know this freedom, and they freely choose the better options which give love, joy and happiness to their lives. When you are not constrained by the closet, the options are suddenly and gloriously numerous.

Ted Haggard can discover all this if he chooses to turn away from the darkness of the closet. The closet’s closed door ensures an all-enveloping darkness. It’s time to open that door and step into the light.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

Blessed Are the Opportunists

Jim Burroway

November 5th, 2006

A prominent conservative pastor, seen on television and followed by millions, falls from grace in a sordid sex scandal. The accusations are first met with strong and angry denials, but these denials crumble as more evidence is revealed. His wife is visibly shocked; his children are left to suffer their grief in the glare of the spotlight while wondering how they will face school the next day. Church members are bewildered, although some are convinced that it’s all part of a nefarious plot. Meanwhile, fellow pastors and church leaders promise to pray for him and to stand by his side as he undergoes a long road to rehabilitation.

Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and now Ted Haggard. There is a familiar ring to all of this, and if there is any truth to the notion that history repeats itself, talk of rehabilitation for Ted Haggard is just that: talk. Already we can see that the long knives are out for him.

Steven Bennett was the first to exploit the scandal with a cynically crass act of self-promotion. In his press release of Friday morning, he took the time to get the name of his tiny little church out in the press (and to mention that he’s writing a book and is available for media interviews). He claims that before he found God, he dated two male prostitutes and was a cocaine dealer. And he contradicts himself several times over in his reaction to the scandal:

“If these allegations are true about Rev. Haggard – America’s Top Evangelical Christian – I am completely disgusted and dismayed. After being in major Christian circles for many years, the hypocrisy that I have found and personally seen in main stream Christianity is unfortunate and heartbreaking.

“I understand Rev. Haggard is innocent until proven guilty. However, seeing the reports that I have – along with millions of other Americans – this is a time we need to pray. The Bible says, ‘Judgment begins in the house of God’,” said Bennett. …

“The more and more hypocrisy I see each day, the more I realize next Tuesday we are going to get EXACTLY what we deserve. Yet I must NEVER forget where I came from and always remember ‘But for the grace of God, there go I.’”

What an act of shameless self-promotion. Haggard’s innocent until proven guilty, so I call on everyone to judge and condemn him. I am disgusted and we are getting exactly what we deserve, “but for the grace of God go I.” And don’t forget the name of my church, and I’m writing a book and I am available for media requests. Here’s my contact info…

Others see Haggard’s fall as an explanation for his very few “moderate” stances. Christianity Today points out:

Haggard is a loyal member of the Religious Right who dials in for a White House conference call every Monday. Yet he embraces ecological concerns and says the Supreme Court made a good decision in the Lawrence v. Texas case, ordering the government out of the private lives of homosexuals.

These very modest deviations from the hard-right’s stance are now seen as an infection that must be exercised. Bob Schenck is in charge of the rival Evangelical-dominated National Clergy Council, a rival to Haggard’s National Association of Evangelicalsm, and he isn’t shy about calling his competition out:

The moral failure of recently resigned president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Rev. Ted Haggard, may explain in part the leftward drift of the organization over the last several years. It has been a mystery to many of us who watched this venerable institution shake lose of its once secure foundation and slide onto the shifting sands of political correctness, postmodern jargon and social trends.

I recommend NAE leadership call all of us who label ourselves Evangelicals to a time of humble repentance, contrition and seeking the Lord and His will. Instead of concerning ourselves with what rock superstar Bono thinks we ought to do, let’s instead inquire of the Lord and His Word.

Of course, that’s it. Haggard’s queer. That’s why he is concerned about the environment and doesn’t think Lawrence vs. Texas was such a bad thing — even though he strongly condemned homosexuality from the pulpit many times and was a vocal advocate for constitutional bans on gay marriage.

In Scriptures, we are constantly reminded of the need to forgive our neighbors. This commandment is not conditional; we are called to forgive whether our forgiveness is asked for or not. But Scripture is also clear on something else: when someone asks for forgiveness, the response isn’t just acceptance, but celebration. The prodigal son is rewarded with a banquet of the fatted calf; the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

But that reaction is not very likely here. It doesn’t matter what course of action Haggard follows from this point forward. Rehabilitation is likely to remain elusive. In the heavens created by conservative Christian politics, he will always be last from now on.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”

Jim Burroway

November 4th, 2006

This just appeared on the USA Today website:

The Rev. Ted Haggard agreed to resign as leader of the New Life Church after its independent investigative board recommended removal, saying he was guilty “of sexually immoral conduct.”

“We, the Overseer Board of New Life Church, have concluded our deliberations concerning the moral failings of Pastor Ted Haggard,” a statement from the church said. “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.”

Up until now, the only thing that Haggard admitted to was buying methamphetamine. When it came to the sex allegations, he paraphrased former President Clinton in saying, “I did not have a homosexual affair with a man in Denver.”

But the investigative board at New Life Church saw things differently and concluded that “without a doubt” he did have sex with that man. Did Haggard admit to something to the board that he hasn’t revealed publicly? Or did they simply conclude the obvious based on the evidence so far?

Meanwhile, Time offers this fascinating glimpse from the documentary Jesus Camp, a film about the religious training of children in Pentecostal seminars:

In it, he [Rev. Haggard] is seen telling a crowd, “We don’t have to have a debate about what we think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible.” Shortly after that, Haggard looks mockingly into the camera to say, “I think I know what you did last night. If you send me a thousand dollars, I won’t tell your wife.” The crowd responds with peals of laughter. Then he says with a wide smile, “If you use any of this, I’ll sue you.”

Freud would have had a field day with this.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

Rev. Ted Haggard had been president of the National Association of Evangelicals until the recent allegations of liaisons with a male prostitute came to light. He resigned yesterday, and many observers noted that the NAE’s web site went dark, with just a note saying that it was being updated. Moments ago, the NAE brought a stripped-down version of their website back online and released this press release:

Yesterday, National Association of Evangelicals President Ted Haggard submitted his resignation from NAE leadership when serious allegations were made on a Denver radio talk show. In response to Rev. Haggard’s admission yesterday to church leaders in Colorado that there were some indiscretions, the eleven-member Executive Committee met today via teleconference and unanimously accepted his resignation with regret. …

We are thankful for the grace and mercy of Christ who is able to forgive all sorts of sin. Yet, due to the seriousness of Rev. Haggard’s misconduct while in the leadership roles he held, we anticipate that an extended period of recovery will be appropriate. We pray that the overseers’ ministry to him will lead to his eventual moral healing, restoration in Christ, and service in the Church.

We pray for and stand with Rev. Haggard, his wife Gayle, and their children, and the New Life Church congregation at this difficult time. We also pray for the man who has accused Rev. Haggard.

I join the NAE in their prayers for everyone concerned. I also would like to recommend the services of the Straight Spouse Network and PFLAG for his wife and children. Also, his children may benefit from contacting a nearby COLAGE chapter.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!

And I Didn't Inhale!

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

The whole thing gets curiouser and curiouser. The Christianity Today web site reports that last Sunday, Rev. Ted Haggard began his sermon with this prayer:

“Father, give us grace and mercy. Father, help us this next week and a half as we go into national elections, and Lord we pray for our country. Father, we pray that lies would be exposed. We pray that deception would be exposed.”

Mike Jones' AdIt would appear his prayers were answered. Rev. Haggard has admitted to buying methamphetamine from Mike Jones, the 49-year-old “massage therapist”. (That’s his ad at left). But he denied using it. He also denied having sex with Mike Jones:

Talking to reporters outside his house Friday, Haggard denied the sex allegations but said that he did buy meth from the man because he was curious.

“I bought it for myself but never used it,” he said. “I was tempted, but I never used it.”

So let’s get this, er, “straight”. He bought meth, but “didn’t inhale” it. And he admits to being alone in a hotel room with a male prostitute but he did not have sex with that man. Where have I heard all this before?

In my view, Haggard’s denials stretch credibility to the snapping point. We should remember however that Mike Jones’ credibility hasn’t been firmly established either. But the careful way in which Haggard framed his denials has a very familiar ring to them.

First, he denies having known Mike Jones or purchasing methamphetamine. When the voice mails are made public, Haggard admits to buying meth but claims he threw it away. Yet his own voice mails have him asking Jones to get more — $100 or $200 worth. It looks like things aren’t exactly looking up for the good reverend. He also admits to getting a “massage” from a guy he first claimed never to have met. And he claims that he got the massage based on a referral by the hotel, but can’t remember which one.

If you were in a hotel and asked for a massage, how many hotels do you know would pick a massage therapist whose web site promises, “if you like a strong muscle man to bring pleasure to you then please call me”?

Haggard’s denials simply don’t add up.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

Breaking news reports indicate that Michael Jones, Ted Haggard’s accuser, failed a polygraph test early this morning. I have no doubt that many of Haggard’s supporters will rush accuse Jones of lying. But the test administrator doubted that the test was accurate:

The test administrator, John Kresnik, said Jones’ score indicated “deceptions” in his answers. However, Kresnik said he doubted the accuracy of the test he administered because of the recent stress on Jones and his inability to eat or sleep, according to KHOW producer Greg Hollenback.

Kresnik suggested that Jones be re-tested early next week after he was rested.

Other reports indicate that Jones was also suffering from a migrane and hadn’t had much sleep. All of these can throw a polygraph off.

Polygraphs are notorious unreliable as “lie detector” tests. They can be too easily manipulated, or the results can be thrown off by stress and illness, as appears to be the case here. That’s why they are not admissible in court when they purport to show someone is lying. There a reason for that. They cannot detect a lie. Nor are they much good at detecting the truth.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

The Fall of the House of Haggard

Jim Burroway

November 3rd, 2006

Rev. Ted HaggardThe lead story on all the news channels this morning is the resignation of Rev. Ted Haggard, pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, and head of the National Association of Evangelicals. His resignation comes on the heels of revelations that he had a three-year sexual relationship with a male prostitute.

Michael Forest Jones, 49, of Denver told a local radio station that he had sex on a monthly basis with Haggard over the past three years. Jones also said that Haggard used methamphetamine before having sex to enhance the experience.

When the story first broke, Haggard forcefully denied the charges, saying:

“I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver. I am steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife.”

He went on to claim that the charges were politically motivated to derail the vote next week on Colorado’s proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage. His pal, Dr. James Dobson also rushed to his defense:

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.

He has shown a great deal of grace under these unfortunate circumstances, quickly turning this matter over to his church for an independent investigation. That is a testament to the character I have seen him exhibit over and over again through the years.

Rev. Haggard is a very big fish in evangelical circles. New Life Church claims 14,000 members while the National Association of Evangelicals represents some 30 million conservative Christians. Time magazine named Haggard one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in America. Harpers describes New Life Church as America’s most powerful megachurch. Haggard is among the small cadre evangelical leaders who talk to President George Bush every Monday. According to Harpers, “No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted, and no church more than New Life.”

In the latest sign of Haggard’s high regard in evangelical circles, a news conference was called for later yesterday in Colorado Springs, where civic and religious leaders planned to rally in support for Haggard. But it was quickly cancelled for reasons no one would explain. But we soon found out.

Mike Jones didn’t just have baseless allegations, he had proof. He released two voicemail messages that Haggard left (using the alias “Art”) to a local Denver television station. That station called on voice recognition expert Richard Sanders to listen to the tapes. He verdict: “This certainly sounds like the same person.” Here is what the tapes revealed:

August 4, 2:18 pm

“Hi Mike, this is Art. Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply. And I could pick it up really anytime I could get it tomorrow or we could wait till next week sometime and so I also wanted to get your address. I could send you some money for inventory but that’s probably not working, so if you have it then go ahead and get what you can and I may buzz up there later today, but I doubt your schedule would allow that unless you have some in the house. Okay, I’ll check in with you later. Thanks a lot, bye.”

August 4 at 5:10 p.m.

“Hi Mike, this is Art, I am here in Denver and sorry that I missed you. But as I said, if you want to go ahead and get the stuff, then that would be great. And I’ll get it sometime next week or the week after or whenever. I will call though you early next week to see what’s most convenient for you. Okay? Thanks a lot, bye.”

The Denver Post describes their relationship this way:

They met at least once a month at Jones’ Denver apartment, and Haggard paid cash, Jones said. “He was very nice and very soft-spoken,” Jones said. “We never talked about anything heavy-duty.” …

About six months ago, Jones said, he was watching TV when he saw a History Channel program on the Antichrist that included Haggard as an expert. He researched Haggard on the Internet. “Once I pulled him up, I’m going, ‘He’s big.”‘

According to Denver’s KUSA-TV Channel 9, Jones contacted the station two months ago saying that Haggard has been paying him for sex over the past three years, all the while preaching that homosexuality is a sin. This angered Jones, who said:

“People may look at me and think what I’ve done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody’s back.”

In retrospect, one might have recognized some of the warning signs earlier. Haggard was inordinately preoccupied with homosexuality, preaching that it wasn’t just evil, but evil incarnate. According to that same Harpers article:

The life of the gay man, in the evangelical imagination, seems to be an endless succession of orgasms, interrupted only by jocular episodes of male bonhomie. The gay man promises Christian men a guilt-free existence, the garden before Eve. As such, he is not just tempting but temptation embodied…

He was always on the lookout for spies. At the time, Colorado Springs was a small city split between the Air Force and the New Age, and the latter, Pastor Ted believed, worked for the devil. Pastor Ted soon began upsetting the devil’s plans. He staked out gay bars, inviting men to come to his church; his whole congregation pitched itself into invisible battles with demonic forces, sometimes in front of public buildings.

This scandal is huge; bigger, I think, than the Mark Foley scandal. A leading light among “values voters” has been revealed to be a hypocrite — a term that I almost never use. But what other term is there to describe someone who has made a very comfortable living and whose power reached as far as the White House by demonizing millions of Americans, but all the while he is cheating on his wife by having sex with another man?

My heart goes out especially to his wife and children. I also offer my prayers and condolences to all of those who trusted him for their own spiritual and moral formation. But it will take a very long time for me to fulfill my Christian mandate to forgive our enemies in his case. I suspect I am not alone in that. Haggard was not a man of God. He made an idol out of power and influence. But his idol, like all idols do in the end, let him down.

See Also:

Ted Haggard: “I’m Not Gay”
The Megachurch, Mike Jones, and the Suspension of Disbelief
“There Is A Part Of My Life So Repulsive and Dark…”
Blessed Are The Opportunists
Haggard Resigns; “I Know What You Did Last Night”
Prayers and Assistance for the Haggard Family
I Did Not Have Sex With That Man!
Jones “Fails” Lie Detector?
Fall of the House of Haggard

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