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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Evangelical leader resigns amid sexual allegations



CNN has an interesting headline tonight - Evangelical leader quits, denies male escort's allegations
The president of the National Association of Evangelicals resigned Thursday after denying an accusation by a male prostitute that the pastor paid him for sex over three years.

The Rev. Ted Haggard said he is also temporarily stepping aside from the pulpit of his church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, pending an internal investigation by the church.
I have to confess, although I try to track the rabid religious right, I had never heard of Haggard. So who is this guy, besides one of the Dobson-Hutcherson crowd? Most recently he was in the news because he objected to the film Jesus Camp, in which he appears.

From the Denver Post on Sept. 15: Fire, brimstone around "Jesus" film
Haggard was upset with his cameo, in which he jokingly says "repent" to the camera and declares that evangelicals determine elections when they vote.
So he um, botched the joke then? Again, the Denver Post:
In an e-mail, he called the film yellow journalism, with "a strong agenda like any Michael Moore film with the cinematography of 'The Blair Witch Project."'
Personally I thought it was more like "Red Dawn" meets "Deliverance," but hey, whatever. Once more from the Denver Post:
"Jesus Camp" shows children in camouflage and prayers about spiritual warfare, militarist imagery that Haggard said most Christian groups stopped using after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"It does represent a small portion of the charismatic movement, but I think it demonizes it," said Haggard, a charismatic Christian who does not usually speak in tongues from the pulpit. "Secularists are hoping that evangelical Christians and radicalized Muslims are essentially the same, which is why they will love this film."
Um, we're not "hoping" fundamentalist Christians are as insane as radical Islamists, we're fearing it. Slight difference there, Reverend Ted. Look, Haggard is denying the allegations, so duly noted. But his accuser is on the record and on camera.

Right now it's a case of "he said, he said."

Yet another allegation of sexual misbehavior against a conservative leader is the last thing the Republicans need.

It's certainly not nuts to speculate that this is tied to the election, but then, let's break out the world's smallest fiddle for the poor old GOP. Lee Atwater didn't repent until he was almost dead and Karl Rove probably never will repent.

Haggard isn't some obscure backwoods preacher, this guy was the head of a very large and very powerful fundamentalist organization upon which the GOP relies heavily. ABC is reporting:
Haggard, who is often credited with rallying conservative Christians behind President George W. Bush for his 2004 re-election, talks to Bush or his advisors every Monday, Harper's Magazine reported last year.
My goodness. This could be quite damaging to the administration as well.

Then there is the personal reaction that Americans must be having to this round of news stories, which is to shake their heads and wonder: what on earth is wrong with these people?

MORE-- A Colorado TV station reports that Haggard has "admitted to some indiscretions."
The church's Acting Senior Pastor, Ross Parsley, tells KKTV 11 News that Pastor Haggard has admitted to some of the indiscretions claimed by Mike Jones, but not all of them.
Well then, isn't that special?

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