Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Haggard scandal isn't about gay sex

The headline was an eye-grabber:
“Pastor Ted Haggard faces more gay sex accusations.”

But the more I delved into the January 24th Associated Press story, the more I knew it wasn’t really about “gay sex.”

It was about pastoral abuse and exploitation.

It was about a mega-church cover-up.

This was different from the 2006 story involving Colorado Springs celebrity pastor Ted Haggard and former prostitute Mike Jones. That story elicited little more than a yawn from me.

Another religious leader caught with a prostitute? Ho-hum.

Sure, Haggard showed hypocrisy to the hilt, but in the work I do, I see such an endless stream of pulpit pounders' hypocrisy that I get inured to it. So I try to concern myself with the more egregious stuff like clergy sex abuse and child molestation.

That’s why this new story about Haggard’s sexual “relationship” with a young male congregant made me flinch.

The young man was in his early 20s. So he was of legal age. But here’s the thing. The young man was part of Haggard’s congregation.

Haggard was his “pastor.” That’s not just an empty word. A pastor occupies a position of high trust toward the members of his congregation.

That’s why what Haggard did was so abusive.

It wasn’t merely “inappropriate,” as the church describes it. Rather, Haggard’s conduct was abusive of another human being.

It is inherently manipulative for a minister to use a congregant -- even an adult congregant -- for his own sexual ends. In some states, such conduct might even be a felony, just as it would if a psychologist sexually exploited a client.

What makes Haggard’s conduct all the more troubling is the fact that other church leaders were apparently willing to engage in a complicit cover-up.

Back at the time of the first Haggard scandal, a church board member reportedly said there was “no evidence that Haggard had sexual relations with anyone but Mike Jones.”

Yet, we now learn that this young man spoke with church officials in 2006, and church officials concluded there was an “overwhelming pool of evidence” to support his story.

So what did the church leaders do with that “overwhelming pool of evidence”? They hushed it up. They paid the young man some money with the condition that he not discuss the matter publicly.

And based on the Associated Press report, it appears that, even now, church officials are trying to spin their hush money payment rather than owning up to the wrong of it. They’re opting for gloss rather than transparency.

The money “wasn’t at all a settlement to make him be quiet,” said Brady Boyd, the new senior pastor at the church Haggard founded.

Yet the money that Boyd claims wasn’t to make the man be quiet is money that nevertheless carried the requirement that the man keep quiet.

It’s a fine display of double-talk. That’s what religious leaders often do when they’re trying to defend the indefensible.

But many people outside the church will surely see the pay-off for what it really was -- morally compromised hush money.

Thank God the young man decided to talk anyway. In today’s report, we learn his name: Grant Haas. He’s the one who brought the truth to the table, not the pious church officials.

But for the courage of Grant Haas, the 10,000 members of New Life Church would still be in the dark about the pastor they so greatly trusted and the complicit church officials who covered for him.

Of course, church members may choose to remain in the dark anyway. You can put the truth in front of people, but you can’t make them open their eyes. And when the glare of truth gets too harsh, people often clench their eyes all the tighter.

Even after all this, I expect most people at New Life Church will probably go right on trusting whatever their church leaders tell them. They’ll choose the easy road of seeing this as a “gay sex” problem rather than seeing the betrayal of their pastor’s abuse and their church leaders’ cover-up.

_______________________

Ted Haggard is 52 years old, married, and has 5 children. From 2003 through 2006, he was president of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization with about 45,000 affiliated churches.

Thanks to the Religion News Service for publishing my original version of this commentary.

See video of young Grant Haas, talking about the effect of what Haggard did and about the church's effort to silence him. In a recorded phone conversation, hear Haggard telling Haas: "It is better to forgive."

Read what Ted Haggard said on Oprah.

20 comments:

gmommy said...

The kid doesn't even know to call what Ted H did to him abuse! No one is pointing that out.

Did the vulnerable INTERN who "confessed" his sinful thoughts to his pastor expect the man to drool and masturbate in front of him????
NO!
Ted circled that kid like a wolf circles his prey before attacking!
How dare them call this a stinking relationship and put any of this on an intern 30 years younger than a minister of a mega church who is MARRIED with children.

If Ted were a therapist....the courts would throw the book at him!!!!!!
Oh wait...abusers and Christians throw The book at confused wounded people....and beat the crap out of them with it!

The kid wanted to be a good Christian and his pastor showed him how a Christian behaves. His pastor gave no thought to his "eternal life".
Ted saw this kid as a piece of meat.
I sure hope Oprah acknowledges that he is a PREDATOR when Ted freako is on her show....is that tomorrow????

Christa Brown said...

Ted Haggard talks on Oprah TODAY, Jan. 28. It's at 4:00 Central time.
Find your local listing here.

Read about what Ted Haggard said.

Comment on Haggard at Oprah.com.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Haggard says that during counseling, as an adult, he told about wetting the bed until he was in the 6th grade and how the counselor said something traumatic must have happened during his childhood to cause it. (Kids can have physical problems. It's not always psychological.) He said no, he was raised in an idyllic environment. Now, he had been molested over a period of time by one of his father's employees when he was in the second grade, but he never looked upon that time as "abuse." Huh? I can understand a child not viewing it as abuse at the time (in some circumstances, where it was consensual, etc.), but a grown man can't look back on something like that and realize it was clearly abuse??? No wonder the church is in the state it's in. It's being run by idiots.

New BBC Open Forum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
New BBC Open Forum said...

Question: How could the church in Colorado legally require Haggard to leave the state? They could fire him and kick him out of the church, but I don't understand how a church can require a person to leave the state.

Christa Brown said...

According to the news video shown here from a Denver TV station, the church essentially paid Haggard $300,000 to go away and to stay out of the media spotlight. So, in effect, the church not only paid hush money to the victim but also paid "hush money" to Haggard. And of course I'm wondering how many others they many have hushed up. But I expect the church would likely call it "compassionate assistance." Uh-huh.

john said...

Doesn't it just warm the cockels of your heart to know that the "Lord's money" is being spent in such a compassionate and needy way. Way to go church, you have just lost more credibility.

gmommy said...

Of course,Nass knows a child can never "give consent" in this area.

They can be confused and manipulated by the predator into believing they were participants...and carry that guilt and shame around forever.

Obviously Ted Freak is a very persuasive man. He fooled thousands into thinking he was a messenger of God!
The nice church people and the press are just compounding the chances against this young man being able to live a peaceful life by calling Ted's manipulation and abuse an "affair".

New BBC Open Forum said...

Yes, NASS knows that. What I meant was the child is not physically forced to participate. "Consensual" was a term of convenience. It seems Haggard has no regret over the situation though. It was almost as if he looked back on it with fond memories which I thought was beyond weird.

gmommy said...

I'm sure it was a fond memory for him!
Who was the killer not too long ago that loved the attention he got talking to the police about all the details???
One day they didn't come to interview him and he said it was his worse day since the arrest.

Not that he missed his family. Not that he felt bad for all the families he had destroyed...but he was sad because the police didn't come ask him questions about the people he murdered.

That wife is delusional.

Christa Brown said...

"He fooled thousands into thinking he was a messenger of God!"

Yes, and the thing that amazes me is that he's STILL fooling them. I scanned through the comments on the Oprah site and on the KRDO.com TV station site in Denver, and many people are singing the praises of poor "Pastor Ted" and the church, who they say are being made to look poorly by the media. It's just phenomenal. I can't imagine what more it would take for people to open their eyes.

New BBC Open Forum said...

"I can't imagine what more it would take for people to open their eyes."

Perhaps a personal encounter?

gmommy said...

From an article on this site:
"The letter said the church "received reports of a number of incidents of inappropriate behavior" after Haggard's fall. "In each case, we have tried our very best to do the right thing each time, including disciplinary action when appropriate."

Disciplinary action when appropriate????

Ted got 300,000 to go on a vacation. I bet that's not what they are calling discipline.

Churches are known for victimizing the wounded even more.
I'd like to know exactly what this statement is talking about.

gmommy said...

BTW...I hate the word "incident".
I wish I could make it disappear from the dictionary.

That word was used so many times in the reading of the bogus investigation report at BBC... instead of sin, crime, or abuse.

A minister preying on vulnerable wounded women who think they are getting approved to be workers in SS is not an incident.
A child being molested is not an incident.

And they left out what the pervert had done that wasn't public yet.

"Incident" is now a trigger word for me. I have to take a beta blocker to slow my heart down, and my neck feels like it is being pinched every time I hear that filthy word.

New BBC Open Forum said...

I hate the word "incident".

It's an attempt to sanitize it, like "moral failure."

New BBC Open Forum said...

From the story:

"Ted began counseling foreign dignitaries and consulting on a weekly basis with President George W. Bush."

Which had what exactly to do with the story? Is there anything Oprah won't drag George W. Bush into?

gmommy said...

So poor Teddy couldn't live on $300,000 for a year...money was tight???
He has no idea what that means...but I hope he does soon!

Also, what is Oprah smoking!
She thinks that NOW he would make a BETTER minister!

This is NOT the same Oprah who was a trail blazer in exposing the reality of sexual abuse.

This Oprah is the one who believes thyroid disease is some kind of an emotional repression.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Not only was $300,000 apparently not enough to live on, did you catch the part about people generously "donating" the use of their houses to the family during the year they were in exile? They had a home in Colorado. I still don't understand how the church could legally kick him out of the state. Out of the church, yes. But not his house -- unless it belonged to the church and apparently it didn't. And under no circumstances, the state. He had to agree to those conditions. They kept talking about "their" house in Colorado. I kept wondering why they didn't sell it. According to Colorado law, he committed no crime -- that we know of. I just don't get it.

The previous article was interesting, too. From that article, "Over a 14-month period ending Dec. 31, 2007, New Life Church paid the Haggard family $309,020 in salary and benefits, according to a church document obtained by The Associated Press.

"The payout included $152,360 in salary for Ted Haggard, $62,177 in salary for his wife, Gayle, $26,426 for counseling, $11,168 for legal fees and $26,000 to help care for the couple's special-needs son, who is in his early 20s."

He looked like he was really suffering out there on that hot golf course, too. Reminded me of O.J. looking for the "real killer."

"This Oprah is the one who believes thyroid disease is some kind of an emotional repression."

That would be the one! What got me about Oprah was when Haggard's wife said something about people having the choice to not act on their instincts (in this case, same-sex attraction, and one of the few truths spoken during the whole show), and Oprah said, "No, I won't go there." In other words, if you're a man and you're attracted to men, there's nothing wrong with acting on your impulses. You should "be who you are." And the audience applauded enthusiastically. Blech.

Christa Brown said...

I too was disgusted by the "poor Ted" routine. This guy had to go on his first ever job interview at age 50. Gee... welcome to the world of real people, Ted. This guy, even after he was paid $300,000 to leave the church, still had friends who had homes they were willing to let Ted and his family live in for extended periods. So... he was kicked out of the church but his well-heeled friends shared their wealth so that he got to live rent-free. Boo hoo. He had to take out a loan against his house in Colorado Springs (a house that, as I recall, they said was worth $700,000 - presumably paid for by church people whose love and trust he betrayed). Must be tough. I think the HBO special that airs tomorrow night is going to show more of Ted's "sad" financial straits and loss of prestige. In this sour economic climate when a lot of honest, decent, hard-working people are struggling, I hope more people will be disgusted with Ted's "poor me" attitude.

The Oprah show was taped before these latest revelations of Haggard abusing a young congregant, and I can't help but wish that Oprah had somehow found a way to address it more at the end. I'm glad the Denver TV station gave the young man some TV talk time. He deserves air time a whole heckuva lot more than Haggard does.

Christa Brown said...

"He had to agree to those conditions."

Yes, that's what I think, too, and I guess $309,020 was the incentive for him to agree to the "exile."

The picture of him out there on the golf course really struck me too. It's not exactly the past-time of people who are struggling.