Thursday, November 02, 2006

Evangelical Leader quits, denies male escort's allegations

Fresh from the CNN wire service:

POSTED: 8:47 p.m. EST, November 2, 2006

(CNN) -- 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.
The National Association of Evangelicals is an umbrella group for more than 45,000 churches and some 30 million members across the country.
"I did not have a homosexual relationship with a man in Denver," Haggard told Denver, Colorado, station KUSA. "I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."
Haggard is married and has five children according to the National Association of Evangelicals Web site.
Colorado is one of eight states where voters will consider bans on same-sex marriage in Tuesday's elections, and Haggard has been a supporter of the measure.
In 2005 Time magazine put Haggard on its list of the 25 most influential evangelical leaders, noting his participation in a weekly conference call with White House staffers and other religious leaders.
Haggard, 50, put himself on administrative leave as senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church. Haggard said in a written statement that he could "not continue to minister under the cloud created by the accusations made on Denver talk radio this morning."
"I am voluntarily stepping aside from leadership so that the overseer process can be allowed to proceed with integrity," he said. "I hope to be able to discuss this matter in more detail at a later date. In the interim, I will seek both spiritual advice and guidance."
Under the church's governing structure, a board of overseers made up of four senior pastors of other congregations will lead the inquiry, with the power to discipline or remove Haggard or restore him to the pulpit, the statement said.
The allegations were made Tuesday and Wednesday on Denver radio station KHOW by a man named Mike Jones, who claimed to be a male prostitute and said he had a three-year sexual relationship with Haggard.
Jones told The Associated Press he went public with his accusations because he was "angry" about Haggard's stance in the state's political fight over same-sex marriage.
In the statement issued late Thursday afternoon by the church announcing his leave, Haggard did not repeat his earlier denials.
Amid the furor over the allegations, Haggard received support from another prominent religious conservative leader, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. It also is based in Colorado Springs.
"It is unconscionable that the legitimate news media would report a rumor like this based on nothing but one man's accusation," Dobson said in a written statement issued before Haggard's leave was announced.
"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," Dobson said.
CNN's Delia Gallagher contributed to this report.

The guy Haggard was supposedly paying to have sex with was 49 years old.

I wonder what Rush will have to say on this tomorrow?
Gee, these guys make Jimmy Swaggert look like an altar boy.

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