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Religion Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Rev. Ted Haggard: Still playing the game
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Nov 8, 2006, 01:14

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Once again a self-appointed spokesman for �God� and the leader of a politically active (and lucrative) faith-based empire has been exposed as a hypocritical fraud. The Rev. Ted Haggard, former head of the National Association of Evangelicals and a well-known anti-gay moral crusader, recently joined an infamous group with several illustrious members:

  • Rev. Henry J. Lyons was forced out as leader of the National Baptist Convention after his then-wife set fire to a waterfront mansion the reverend secretly owned with his mistress. He was convicted in 1999 of swindling millions of dollars from companies that wanted to do business with members of the denomination. Lyons was sentenced to five years in prison.

  • Archbishop Eugene Marino, a Roman Catholic prelate from Atlanta, resigned in 1990 after a two-year affair with a woman half his age. The woman claimed Marino had performed a marriage ceremony for them in which the two exchanged rings.

  • Rev. Terry Hornbuckle, founder of the Agape Christian Fellowship in Arlington, Texas, was sentenced in August 2006 to 15 years in prison for sexually assaulting two female parishioners, as well as a third woman. Two of the victims said the minister had drugged them.

  • Self-proclaimed prophet Pastor Leonard Ray Owens of Fort Worth, Texas, told a young woman that a sex spirit and lesbian demon were inside her and needed to be cast out, police said. The pastor then asked her to lie on the floor and began yelling at her as if she were a demon, saying, �Loose her in the name of Jesus,� according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The woman told police that Owens pulled down her pants as he called for the demons to come out. When she tried to get up, he pushed her down, the affidavit said. The pastor then began to fight with her as if she were a demon before climbing on top of her, pinning her down, and raping her, police said.

Then Owens . . . ordered her to wash her face in the name of Jesus and to read Psalm 105:15, which says to do no harm to prophets . . .

But the unholy trinity at the head of this nefarious group consists of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Paul Crouch. The �indiscretions� of Bakker and Swaggart are familiar to most. Paul Crouch�s may be less so.

According to a September 12, 2004 Los Angeles Times story, Paul Crouch, president of Trinity Broadcasting Network, paid Enoch Lonnie Ford $425,000 in 1998 in exchange for his silence about an alleged homosexual affair they�d had in 1996 at a TBN-owned cabin near Lake Arrowhead, California. As reported,

The world�s largest Christian broadcasting network responded on Wednesday to recent news articles about its operations and once again denied a claim by a former employee that he had a gay affair with its founder. The Trinity Broadcasting Network issued a press release claiming that articles published by the Los Angeles Times over the past week failed to accurately depict the Costa Mesa-based organization in a fair light. �The newspaper's publisher has its own agenda,� said TBN spokesperson Colby May. �Its reporting has been selective and subjective.� [The LA Times has run over 3000 stories about Crouch and TBN.]

The strong response from the Christian TV network comes after recent stories by the Times that showed its founder, Paul Crouch and his wife, Jan Crouch, earn more than $750,000 together in salaries and have an array of luxuries at their ready, including a TBN-owned jet and 30 homes across the United States. The Orange County-based network collects more than $120 million a year from viewers in dozens of countries, and it maintains much of the money helps the needy. The network in its statement defended its financial practices and said long-term contracts and capital projects require extensive cash reserves.

TBN denied Crouch had had a homosexual affair, but confirmed the hush money paid to Ford under a �secret agreement.� Why would Crouch pay hush money -- under a �secret agreement� -- if there were nothing to hush up?

Crouch�s denial was as believable as the ones Ted Haggard initially offered when his relationship with a male prostitute and drug use were exposed:

The Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned as one of the nation�s top evangelical leaders, admitted Friday [November 3, 2006] he had contacted male prostitute Mike Jones �for a massage� and bought drugs from him.

Haggard said he never had sex with Jones and never used the methamphetamine drug he bought.

He told reporters earlier this week that he did not know Jones, who claims to have had a three-year sex-for-money relationship with him.

Haggard, 50, resigned Thursday as leader of the National Association of Evangelicals -- a group representing more than 45,000 churches and 30 million people -- and he also stepped down temporarily from leadership at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

He was one of a group of religious leaders who regularly participated in conference calls with White House aides.

Haggard told CNN affiliate KUSA-TV Friday that he received Jones� name as �a referral� from a hotel where he was staying in Denver.

He did not name the hotel. �I did call him,� Haggard said. �I called him to buy some meth, but I threw it away.�

�I was buying it for me but I never used it. I was tempted, I bought it, but I never used it.�

�He told me about it. I went there for a massage.� [link added]

Right from the start, the lies were transparent. Why would Haggard contact a prominent local male prostitute for �a massage�? If he did get Jones� name as ��a referral� from a hotel where he was staying in Denver,� one has to wonder what kind of hotel Rev. Haggard had chosen to patronize, and why. Those who claim to be defending moral purity and �God�s will� would surely check out a business before patronizing them, wouldn�t they?

That Haggard admitted buying crystal meth -- a favorite snort of some gay men out for a night of unbridled SEX -- but then said he �threw it away� sounds like a bad imitation of Bill Clinton�s �I didn't inhale.� Much more telling are the two voicemail messages from Haggard -- who called himself �Art� -- that Mike Jones provided Denver talk radio station KHOW.

The first cast very serious doubt on the �explanation� Haggard offered: �Hi Mike, this is Art. Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply� [italics added].

As Jones noted -- and any drug user can confirm -- �supply� means the drug being sought. Haggard�s asking �if we could get any more� clearly suggests he had used meth before and that he liked it -- and the sex that followed -- and wanted more.

The second voicemail attests to Haggard�s persistence: �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.� Clearly, another tryst with Jones was in Haggard�s plans, not the singular �massage� meeting he claimed he�d had with Mr. Jones.

As Mr. Jones said, �The more denial he gives, the messier he looks.� That statement was included in the November 4 CNN story, �Church forces out Haggard for �sexually immoral conduct��:

The Rev. Ted Haggard agreed Saturday to resign as leader of the megachurch he started in his basement more than 20 years ago after its independent investigative board said he was guilty of �sexually immoral conduct.�

Finally, in a November 5 letter to his former congregation, Haggard admitted a �lifelong� sexual problem. The only real �problems� that Haggard had was being untrue to himself and living a lie: �I am a deceiver and a liar,� as he put it.

But the �confession� -- though plaintive and self-deprecating -- stopped short of openly admitting the truth, but it did expose the �ex-gay� myth yet again.

Parts of Haggard�s �confession� were cloaked in oblique statements such as

There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I�ve been warring against it all of my adult life. . . . The public person I was wasn�t a lie; it was just incomplete. . . . The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true . . .

�There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I�ve been warring against it all of my adult life�? Does that mean his homosexuality or the fact that he�s been �a deceiver and a liar� of pathological proportions?

If it means his sexuality -- as would seem likely -- does that mean he was an active homosexual in his earlier years, and perhaps even beyond his trysts with Mr. Jones? He did say, �Through the years, I�ve sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me.� So much for the efficacy of �ex-gay� therapies even for the evangelically motivated.

�The public person I was wasn�t a lie; it was just incomplete.� Word-splitting at its evangelical best. The �public person� and the public things that public person said were not just �incomplete.� He was an outright fraud and his statements were hypocritically disingenuous.

�The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true . . ." Well, which ones are and which ones aren�t? If you�re �confessing,� do it with clarity and honesty, Mr. Haggard, and then offer some proof. Credibility is not your forte.

For his part, Mike Jones was straightforward from the beginning and truly �Christian� at the end of his interview. Some excerpts . . .

When did you first meet Ted Haggard? Roughly three years ago. I never asked him how he found my number, but I guess it was from a Web site or a newspaper somewhere, because I was advertising at the time as a male escort. When I answered the phone, he indicated he was visiting from Kansas City and that his name was Art. For the first year, he called from a blocked number, then mostly from pay phones from the Colorado Springs area.

When did you first realize who he was? In the spring of 2006. I was lying on the couch, relaxing, watching the History Channel -- a show on the DaVinci Code and the antichrist. All of a sudden, his face came up. They were interviewing him. It was Art. I didn�t get his name, so in my mind I was thinking, I�m going to order a copy of this show, just so I can see who this guy is. To me it was a coincidence. The very next morning at 5 a.m., I was at the gym working out on the treadmill. Somebody the night before had turned the TV to the religious channel and there he was. When I got home and looked him up on the computer, I was like, �Ted Haggard . . . oh, crap . . . this guy�s huge.� . . .

When was the last time you saw him? August 7 or 8. I had seen him two or three times after I knew who he was. It was weird. I was really contemplating telling him, �Hey, I know who you are.� I didn�t. I never brought it up to him. And of course, he never offered. He was not emotional at all. He�d pop on over, we�d [have sex]. It was pretty bland. He was never here more than an hour. The only thing he divulged to me at one time was that he was married. He did not seem nervous to me at all.

When did drugs come into the picture? About two years ago he asked, �Hey, Mike, what do you know about meth? I don�t do it personally, but I know people who do.� I told him that some people think it enhances their sexual experience. He asked if I could help him get some. I located someone he could connect with. After that, he got it on his own. The last time he saw me, he was trying to get some and couldn�t, which resulted in him sending me money though the mail in August, postmarked Colorado Springs. He wrote �Art� on the corner of the envelope. I just read that his middle name is Arthur. . . .

What are your hopes, if any, for Ted Haggard? You know, I wish him peace. . . .

�I wish him peace.� Perhaps bible-thumping anti-gay bigots -- and their fellow Republican hypocrites -- might want to take note of that Christian virtue and declare peace with reality and offer it to their fellow human beings.

Haggard offered a seemingly similar statement at the end of his confession, but did so with the usual unctuous spin of moral superiority, a hallmark of evangelicals: �Please forgive my accuser. . . ."

What�s to forgive? Jones told the truth about himself and Haggard, something the �deceiver and liar� has still not completely done. And the game goes on . . .

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