A prominent evangelical preacher is denying allegations by a former gay male escort that the two had a three-year sexual relationship.
Ted Haggard, founder of the 14,000-member New Life Church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, told KUSA Channel 9 that the escort is lying.
"I’ve never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I’m steady with my wife. I’m faithful to my wife," Haggard said.
Mike Jones, 59, of Denver, made his allegations on the Peter Boyles show on KHOW 630 AM, saying he was compelled to come forward because he believes Haggard, an opponent of same-sex unions is being hypocritical.
"After sitting back and contemplating this issue, the biggest reason (for exposing it) is being a gay man all my life, I have experience with my friends, some great sadness of people that were in a relationship through the years" and were not able to enjoy the same rights and privileges as a married man and woman," Jones told Boyles on air.
"I felt it was my responsibility to my fellow brothers and sisters, that I had to take a stand, and I cannot sit back anymore and hear (what) to me is an anti-gay message."
Jones, who told a bankruptcy judge last year that he is a self-employed fitness consultant, told Boyles that he was paid money by Haggard, who he says made frequent trips to Denver for sexual liaisons, that he has recorded voicemails and a letter from Haggard, and that he had also witnessed Haggard use methamphetamine.
Jones offered to take a polygraph examination, and Boyles said that will occur Friday during his morning radio show.
New Life Church has vowed to launch an independent investigation of the claims, but no details have been released yet on the process or timeline for the inquiry. Some community leaders in the Colorado Springs had scheduled a rally this afternoon in support of Haggard but canceled the gathering at the request of the church.
Related article: http://thinkprogress.org/2006/11/02/haggard-evangelical-prostitute/
Accused pastor admits he bought meth
But Haggard claims he never used drug that he bought from gay escort
NBC News and news services
Updated: 3:06 p.m. ET Nov 3, 2006
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The Rev. Ted Haggard admitted Friday he bought methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay prostitute who claims he was paid for drug-fueled trysts by the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Mike Jones, the 49-year-old Denver man who raised the allegations this week, quickly refuted Haggard’s denial.
Shortly after Haggard told reporters outside his home, "I bought it for myself but never used it. I was tempted, but I never used it,” Jones told MSNBC-TV’s Rita Cosby that Haggard snorted meth in front of him about once a month for two years.
Haggard said he received a massage from Jones after being referred to him by a Denver hotel, but Jones told MSNBC, “He always came to my place.”
Haggard, 50, said he never had sex with Jones. On Friday, as he was leaving his home with his wife and three of his five children, he said he bought the meth because he was curious.
Haggard stepped down as president of the 30 million-member association Thursday and also gave up leadership of his 14,000-member New Life Church pending the investigation into allegations he had sex with Jones over the past three years.
"It is important for you to know that he confessed to the overseers that some of the accusations against him are true,” Ross Parsley, the acting senior pastor at New Life Church stated in an e-mail to church members.
“He has willingly and humbly submitted to the authority of the board of overseers, and will remain on administrative leave during the course of the investigation,” the e-mail stated. A copy was obtained by KMGH-TV in Denver.
Haggard, who has been called one of the most influential evangelical Christians in the nation, denied the allegations late Wednesday, telling NBC affiliate KUSA-TV of Denver: “I've never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I’m steady with my wife, I’m faithful to my wife. So I don't know if this is election year politics ... or what it is.”
Alleged voice mails
Jones provided to KUSA-TV what he said were voice mails from Haggard. The station had University of Colorado expert Richard Sanders compare them to its earlier interview of Haggard.
“It certainly sounds like the same person,” Sanders said, adding that he expected to have a final report later Friday.
KUSA-TV reported excerpts late Thursday.
“Hi Mike, this is Art,” one call began. “Hey, I was just calling to see if we could get any more. Either $100 or $200 supply.”
A second message, left a few hours later, began: “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.”
Jones said Haggard, whose middle name is Art, was referring to methamphetamine. “There’s some stuff on there (the voice mails) that’s pretty damning,” he said.
Jones said he also has an envelope he said Haggard used to mail him cash.
Gay marriage on state ballot
The allegations come as voters in Colorado and seven other states get ready to decide Tuesday on amendments banning gay marriage. Besides the proposed ban on the Colorado ballot, a separate measure would establish the legality of domestic partnerships providing same-sex couples with many of the rights of married couples.
Jones told The Associated Press he decided to go public with his allegations because of the political fight. Jones, who said he is gay, said he was upset when he discovered Haggard and the New Life Church had publicly opposed same-sex marriage.
“It made me angry that here’s someone preaching about gay marriage and going behind the scenes having gay sex,” said Jones, who added that he isn’t working for any political group.
Jones, whose allegations were first aired on KHOW-AM radio in Denver, claimed Haggard paid him to have sex nearly every month over three years. Jones also said Haggard snorted methamphetamine before their sexual encounters to heighten his experience.
Jones said he had advertised himself as an escort on the Internet and that a man who called himself Art contacted him. Jones said he later saw the man on television identified as Haggard.
He said that he last had sex with Haggard in August and that he did not warn him before making his allegations this week.
Haggard was appointed president of the evangelicals association in March 2003. He has participated in conservative Christian leaders’ conference calls with White House staffers and lobbied members of Congress last year on U.S. Supreme Court appointees after Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement.
After Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, Haggard and others began organizing state-by-state opposition. Last year, Haggard and officials from the nearby Christian ministry Focus on the Family announced plans to push Colorado’s gay marriage ban for the 2006 ballot.
At the time, Haggard said that he believed marriage is a union between a man and woman rooted in centuries of tradition, and that research shows it’s the best family unit for children.
“Homosexual activity, like adulterous relationships, is clearly condemned in the Scriptures,” the evangelicals association says on its Web site. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin that “brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God.”
Haggard’s resignation from the NAE seems unlikely to do lasting damage to the organization, an umbrella group for a diverse and independent-minded membership. At his own church, Haggard’s decision to step aside — if it became permanent — would have a more profound effect.
“One would hope and pray that this matter would be resolved expeditiously and quickly and he can be restored back to being the pastor of the church and the leader of the NAE,” said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative Washington think tank.
‘That’s not Ted’
New Life Church member Brooks DeMio, 44, said he thinks Jones is a liar and can’t believe Haggard would engage in sex with a man.
“He loves the Lord, homosexuality is a sin and that’s not Ted,” DeMio said. “His desire is to serve other people and uphold the word of God. ... I don’t know him well enough to give a complete character description, but I know him enough to know it’s not true.”
Carolyn Haggard, spokeswoman for the New Life Church and the pastor’s niece, said a four-member church panel will investigate the allegations. The board has the authority to discipline Haggard, including removing him from ministry work.
“This is really routine when any sort of situation like this arises, so we’re prepared,” Carolyn Haggard said. “The church is going to continue to serve and be welcoming to our community. That’s a priority.”