Thursday, November 30, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for attacking "patients"

GHANA — A 28-year-old self-styled pastor, Yaw Dadzie, who claim to have divine powers to heal the sick, especially lunatics, has been arrested by the police for his violent behaviour towards his patients.

Pastor Dadzie, who starts prayers for his patients by attacking them physically, said the people who went to him and the lunatics on the streets were possessed by multiple demonic spirits which could only be dealt with through violence.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic at the Sekondi Police Station where the Crime Officer of the Western Regional Police Command, Chief Superintendent Alex Bedie, briefed this reporter on the arrest, Pastor Dadzie said he was not mad but that he was under the instruction of the Holy Spirit.

He said the powers and the size of the demons which attacked the people were beyond human comprehension, adding, “Since the Kingdom of God suffered violence, it must be taken by force to bring God’s people out of bondage”.

He said he had been a member of the Christ Living Faith Church at Kojokrom in Takoradi but he was not given the chance to make use of his God-given potential.

The pastor said he worked as a carpenter, a mason and a steel bender to save enough money to embark on his mission under the instruction of the Holy Spirit.

According to Chief Superintendent Bedie, the police picked up the pastor because of his violent approach, which was a threat to the public and the society.

He mentioned, for instance, that while praying for a woman, the pastor held her neck, pinned her sat on her and instructed somebody to cut her hair, all along ignoring the woman’s cries for help.

Mr Bedie said the police had a tip-off and went to the rescue of the victim. He said they had managed to contact Pastor Dadzie’s family at Kojokrom and a leader of the church he had mentioned to the police.

According to the crime officer, the pastor’s mother, whose name was not given, said she had noticed a sudden change in her son after his return from Yeji, explaining that her son had claimed possessing healing powers.

The leaders of the Christ Living Faith Church had disowned Pastor Dadzie, saying his name was not on the list of members of the church.

He, therefore, advised members of the public to be careful about the activities of the self-styled pastor who claimed to have divine healing powers.


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Wednesday, November 29, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor accused of scamming $300,000

LITTLETON - A local woman says a pastor now preaching in Tulsa, Oklahoma bilked her father of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

According to Sandy Chrisman, Reverend Johnny Chambers encouraged her dad to give him and his worship center in Arizona his entire life savings, more than $300,000.

Chrisman's dad died in 1997 and she has been looking for the money and for answers ever since.

"It's really master manipulation," said Chrisman, "give and it shall be given to you."

She said her father, Robert Stickel, met Chambers at a revival in Arizona in 1997.

In six months, he gave the Chambers and the Chambers' Worship Center all the money he had.

"I mean come on, $314,000 gone, the guy goes around the country and does this," she said.

Chrisman says her dad gave the money, hoping Chambers could heal her brother of brain cancer.

"They would say. 'If you will give all your money Bob, I know I've never met you before, I know God will heal your son,'" said Chrisman. "It was really an act of love. My dad would do anything for his son. I believe that's exactly what happened."

Not long after Stickel died, his family sued. In 2002, a U.S. District Court in Arizona ordered Chambers to repay the money, plus interest to the estate.

To this day, the Chrismans say they have not seen a dime.

"He's been hiding his assets he's been hiding where he is. He's hidden everything," said Chrisman.

The Chrismans say they finally found Chambers at a revival in Tulsa this month. He was served with a subpoena ordering him and his ex-wife Natalie to show up and produce documentation of all their assets Tuesday.

"A pastor should be held to a higher level of accountability behind the pulpit," said Jeff Chrisman, Sandy's husband. "Preying on people's fears, hopes and dreams to further his financial gain. It's not religion, that's a scam."

After nine years of trying to find their father's money, the family hopes the legal system will finally help them find peace.

If Chambers does not show for the meeting and does not produce the required documents, a warrant could be issued for his arrest.

Chambers did not return calls for comment from 9NEWS.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor held for murder

Doug and Vicki Porter stand by Hickman Community Church in 2004. A Stanislaus County sheriff's detective and the district attorney have been investigating Porter for two years.

HICKAM, CA — A former Hickman Community Church pastor has been arrested on a murder warrant linked to the death of an 85-year-old Hickman man in 2004.

Doug Porter was detained by federal authorities Monday afternoon at a border checkpoint near San Diego while trying to return to the United States from Mexico.

Stanislaus County authorities said they believe Porter, 55, intended to kill Frank Craig in a pair of auto crashes two years apart in order to inherit Craig's reportedly multimillion-dollar trust. Craig died in the second crash in April 2004.

Porter is in custody in San Diego. He will be handed over to Stanislaus County sheriff's deputies and returned to Modesto, said Vince Bond, a public information officer for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in San Ysidro.

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Donald Shaver signed the no-bail arrest warrant Wednesday. It includes charges of attempted murder, elder abuse and grand theft, Chief Deputy District Attorney John Goold said.

"It's just the culmination of a long investigation," Goold said. "We'll get into the courtroom and see how it plays out."

Longtime acquaintances from the Hickman area, Craig asked Porter in the late 1990s to help him build an ag-themed museum.

By all accounts a cantankerous character, Craig inherited stocks and real estate when his brother, J.C. Craig, died in San Mateo County in 1998. Frank Craig's other brother, N.J. Craig, said the trust might have contained as much as $4 million.

Frank Craig dreamed of building the museum in eastern Stanislaus County to showcase farm equipment he had acquired over decades. He turned to Porter when he couldn't find anyone to help him with the project. At the time, Porter was a well-known pastor who had built a large congregation at Hickman Commu-nity Church. He also had coached numerous state wrestling champions, including one of his sons, at Hughson High School.

Porter agreed to help Craig. Soon, he gained control of Craig's finances. In November 1999, Craig signed an amendment to his revocable trust. The changes excluded his two sisters as heirs, replacing them with Porter as the successor trustee and Hickman Community Church as the new heir.

Porter created a board to build the museum, naming to it, among others, Lonni Ashlock, who is to stand trial next year on charges of real estate fraud and grand theft. But Porter never broke ground on the museum. Craig, friends said, became frustrated and vocal about the lack of progress.

In March 2002, Porter and Craig were driving east on Lake Road in Porter's pickup when it veered off the road and struck an oak tree. Craig, the passenger, suffered broken legs and injuries to his pelvis, sternum and lungs.

He never walked again without assistance. Porter walked away with minor injuries.

On April 22, 2004, Craig was again the passenger and Porter the driver when Porter's pickup veered into the Turlock Irrigation District's Ceres Main canal, about 1½ miles west of Craig's ranch.

This time, Craig died. Again, Porter walked away.

Some of Craig's friends voiced their suspicions to authorities soon after the accident, and Stanislaus County sheriff's Detective Mark Copeland began to investigate.

Within days of Craig's death, Porter began removing items from Craig's home, Craig's friends said. Two months after Craig's death, Porter told The Bee that Craig "basically left everything in the trust to me, Doug Porter."

Eight months after the crash, Porter sold Craig's 17-acre ranch to a neighboring nursery for more than $400,000, according to Stanislaus County assessor's records.

Since Craig's death, investigators from the Sheriff's Department and district attorney's office have been trying to determine how much money Craig had and how much of it Porter spent.

"It took lots of time," Goold said. "First to get them (financial records) and then to go through them completely."

Porter used $469,000 of Craig's money to buy property for the church, including land where the museum was supposed to stand.

The complicated investigation took more than two years for a number of reasons. It began in the middle of the Scott Peterson case, which tied up many people at the district attorney's office. And in February, Copeland needed five heart bypasses, which took him out of commission for about four months.

Porter resigned from Hickman Community Church in November 2005 "to protect the church from further negative focus," according to an ad the church placed in The Bee. His son, Aaron, replaced him at the pulpit but resigned a few months ago.

Doug Porter's home at a sprawling family complex named Rivendell in La Grange — complete with a lake — is listed for sale at $895,000.

Doug Porter reportedly has been living part time in Mexico while building a new ministry. His wife, Vicki, remains a trustee on the Hughson Unified School District board.

Meanwhile, Craig's family received an undisclosed settlement from Porter's auto insurance provider. They filed a civil lawsuit against Porter in December 2004 contesting the trust. That case is working its way through the courts.

TIMELINE

Late 1990s: Frank Craig enlists Hickman Community Church pastor Doug Porter to help him build a museum to display Craig's collection of farm implements.

November 1999: Craig changes his revocable trust, eliminating his sisters as heirs. He names Porter the successor trustee, essentially giving Porter control of the trust, and names Hickman Community Church as the heir.

March 2002: Craig is the passenger in a pickup driven by Porter. The pickup strikes a tree along Lake Road, west of La Grange. Craig survives, but suffers broken legs and other injuries.

April 2004: Craig again is the passenger in a pickup driven by Porter. This time, the vehicle plunges into an irrigation canal. Craig dies at age 85.

December 2004: Porter sells Craig's ranch to a neighboring nursery for about $400,000.

November 2005: Porter resigns as pastor of Hickman Community Church and concentrates on developing a ministry in Mexico.

Nov. 27, 2006: Porter is arrested on a murder warrant at a border crossing near San Diego as he tries to re-enter the United States from Mexico.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for sexual assaults

DAYTON OHIO — Riverside police arrested Pastor Dennis Bowling early Tuesday after a group of women associated with the Kingdom Harvest Church at 2360 Valley Pike told police Bowling had sexually assaulted female members of the congregation over a 10-year period.

Police met with the women Monday night and gathered physical evidence at the church, said Riverside police Sgt. David A. Crigler. "There were 12 victims there (Monday) night and they alleged either improper contact or rape," Crigler said.
Extras

The ages of the alleged victims ranged from 10 to adulthood, Crigler said. Bowling, 45, has been pastor at the church for 19 years, according to Crigler.

After the meeting, Riverside police and Miami County sheriff's deputies arrested Bowling at a relative's home in northern Miami County. He was taken to the Montgomery County Jail, where he is being held on one count of rape as police continue their investigation.

Crigler said he will meet with Montgomery County prosecutors Wednesday morning to discuss formal charges.

Most of the alleged assaults occurred at the church or in Montgomery County. Others, however, occurred in other parts of Ohio and as far away as Haiti, Crigler said.

Crigler did not discuss how the assaults were carried out or what motivated the women to come forward with their allegations.

The most recent assault allegedly occurred two weeks ago, Crigler said.

The Kingdom Harvest Church is a brick structure with a residence attached. Bowling, who is married with children, lives in Huber Heights, Crigler said. Huber Heights police are assisting in the investigation.

A person who answered the phone at the church Tuesday afternoon declined comment, but said services are still scheduled for Sunday.

The church also is the site of the Christian Training Center, a private school for grades 2 through 12 that has 27 students and one teacher, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

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Update, Dec 1:

Pastor indicted on 11 counts of battery
The accusation of sex with a 15-year-old may be followed with other charges, officials say.

DAYTON — A Montgomery County grand jury on Wednesday indicted a Riverside pastor on 11 counts of sexual battery and a prosecutor said more charges "are expected."

Dennis Bowling, 45, remained in the county jail in lieu of $2 million bail as prosecutors arranged for more witnesses to appear before a grand jury.

Bowling, pastor of Kingdom Harvest Church, 2360 Valley Pike, for 19 years was arrested last week after a group of women from the congregation told police he had sexually assaulted several female members of the church.

Prosecutor Mathias H. Heck Jr. said eight counts were approved on Nov. 22 that involved Bowling and a 15-year-old girl during September.

The 11 counts handed up Wednesday each charge an offense that happened during the three-month period after Sept. 1. However, they do not indicate if they stem from assaults on one child or more.

Mary Montgomery, head of Heck's child abuse bureau, said, "the indictment reflects counts involving at least one victim, but more counts are expected."

Each charge is a third-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Minister already on sex offender registry faces new charges

Tyrone Moore appears on South Carolina's sex offender registry.

On Sundays, he also appears behind the pulpit at a nondenominational North Charleston church.

Police on Tuesday arrested the senior pastor at Full Word Ministries on a new charge of second- degree criminal sexual conduct.

An arrest warrant affidavit accuses Moore, 39, of performing sex acts on a male parishioner in 2002 and 2003, when the parishioner was 17 years old. Moore's past criminal record includes a 1989 conviction for committing a lewd act on a child under 16 and a 1991 conviction for criminal sexual conduct with a minor between the ages of 11 and 14, according to State Law Enforcement Division records.

During a bond hearing Wednesday, much of the discussion centered around whether Moore would be able to return to preach.

"I think the state would be imposing on his religion if he's not allowed to come to his church," said attorney George Counts, who represented Moore during the hearing. "It's a church that he founded."

A victims advocate for North Charleston police, Lisa Bullard, countered by asking, "If he's allowed to return, what message does that send to the victim?"

"I really believe he is sick," the accuser said of Moore during the hearing. "He has done this before and I believe he'll do it again."

Charleston County Magistrate Patricia Baldwin set several conditions on Moore's $200,000 bail.

If he gets out of jail, he is not to be in the company of any children, including his own children, without another adult present. The judge barred him from any contact with the man who said he was abused.

This presented a dilemma. The accuser said he wanted to continue going to the church. Baldwin made him choose which of the two Sunday-morning services he would like to attend, and said Moore can only go to the other service.

The pastor's expression remained calm throughout the hearing, and he answered the judge's questions politely.

The attorney portrayed him as a family man with strong local ties and a dedication to his flock. Married, Moore has four children ages 4 to 16, Counts said. His wife and a woman identified as a family friend also attended.

"He's not a threat to the community," Counts said. "He's been here his entire life."

The victims advocate argued that Moore has been deceptive because he has two different addresses. The sex-offender registry lists one on Realm Street in North Charleston, yet an arrest warrant lists an address on Applebee Court in Goose Creek.

Counts said that he was only handling the bond hearing. Attorneys Carl Grant and Eduardo Curry will be taking over Moore's defense.

Full Word Ministries occupies a brick building at the corner of Gordon Street and Peacock Avenue in the Waylyn neighborhood. It sits directly across the street from the Garrett Academy of Technology.

North Charleston police arrested Moore at his church Tuesday. Their investigation began after the man who claimed to have suffered abuse spoke to a detective in January. Later, he mailed a letter to police detailing allegations of what was happening at the church.

Atheism: the 'Root of Terrorism'

A lavishly illustrated "Atlas of Creation" is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism.

Arriving unsolicited by post, the large-format tome offers 768 glossy pages of photographs and easy-to-read text to prove that God created the world with all its species.

At first sight, it looks like it could be the work of United States creationists, the Christian fundamentalists who believe the world was created in six days as told in the Bible.

But the author's name, Harun Yahya, reveals the surprise inside. This is Islamic creationism, a richly funded movement based in predominantly Muslim Turkey which has an influence U.S. creationists could only dream of.

Creationism is so widely accepted here that Turkey placed last in a recent survey of public acceptance of evolution in 34 countries — just behind the United States.

"Darwinism is dead," said Kerim Balci of the Fethullah Gulen network, a moderate Islamic movement with many publications and schools but no link to the creationists who produced the atlas.

Scientists say pious Muslims in the government, which has its roots in political Islam, are trying to push Turkish education away from its traditionally secular approach.

Aykut Kence, biology professor at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, said time for discussing evolution had been cut out of class schedules for the eighth grade this year.

"The students will just learn there is a theory called evolution defended by Darwin back in the 19th century," he said. "However, views of Islamic thinkers from the Middle Ages about evolution and creation have been included."

Like the Bible, the Koran says God made the world in six days and fashioned the first man, Adam, from dust. Other details vary but the idea is roughly the same.

But unlike in the West, evolution theory has not undermined the traditional creation story for many Muslims.

"Science is hardly an issue in Turkey, therefore evolution could hardly have been an issue," said Celal Sengor, a geology professor at Istanbul Technical University.

Darwinism did become an issue during the left-versus-right political turmoil before a 1980 military coup because Communist bookshops touted Darwin's works as a complement to Karl Marx.

"It looked like Marx and Darwin were together, two long-bearded guys spreading ideas that make people lose their faith," said Istanbul journalist Mustafa Akyol.

After the coup, the conservative government thought a dose of religion could bolster the fight against the extreme left.

In 1985, a paragraph on creationism as an alternative to evolution was added to high school science textbooks and a U.S. book "Scientific Creationism" was translated into Turkish.

In the early 1990s, leading U.S. creationists came to speak at several anti-evolution conferences in Turkey.

Since then, a home-grown strain of anti-Darwinist books has developed with a clearly political message.

"Atlas of Creation" offers over 500 pages of splendid images comparing fossils with present-day animals to argue that Allah created all life as it is and evolution never took place.

Then comes a book-length essay arguing that Darwinism, by stressing the "survival of the fittest", has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism.

"The root of the terrorism that plagues our planet is not any of the divine religions, but atheism, and the expression of atheism in our times (is) Darwinism and materialism," it says.

One Istanbul school unexpectedly received three copies recently. "It's very well done, with magnificent photos - a very stylish tool of creationist propaganda," said the headmaster, who asked not to be named.

The driving force behind these books is a reclusive Islamic teacher named Adnan Oktar who over the past decade has published a flood of books under the pseudonym Harun Yahya.

"Harun Yahya has managed to create a media-based and popular form of creationism," said Taner Edis, a Turkish-born physicist at Truman State University in Missouri.

Harun Yahya, which is probably a pool of writers, has turned out over 200 books in Turkish and translated many of them into 51 other languages.

Oktar, 50, appears on the group's Web site sporting a clipped beard and dapper suits. His works can be found in Islamic bookshops around the world and downloaded for free over the Internet.

Nobody seems to know how all this is funded. The Harun Yahya organization, based in Istanbul, declined to comment despite interview requests from Reuters.

Intelligent Design (ID), a more recent argument about life's origins that is championed by U.S. Christian groups, may also be making the leap across the Atlantic.

ID says some organisms are too complex to have evolved without some superior cause, but avoids calling that cause God because that would ban it from U.S. science textbooks.

Akyol, a Muslim believer who says Darwinism is incompatible with his faith, has been waging an uphill struggle to popularize ID here. But most Turks show no interest because they see no need to avoid naming God.

His lonely campaign got an unexpected boost last month when Education Minister Huseyin Celik hinted on television that he might want to see it added to Turkish textbooks.

"If it's wrong to say Darwin's theory should not be in the books because it is in line with atheist propaganda, we can't disregard intelligent design because it coincides with beliefs of monotheistic religions about creation," he told CNN Turk.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

A Free-for-All on Science and Religion

Maybe the pivotal moment came when Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, warned that "the world needs to wake up from its long nightmare of religious belief,” or when a Nobelist in chemistry, Sir Harold Kroto, called for the John Templeton Foundation to give its next $1.5 million prize for "progress in spiritual discoveries" to an atheist — Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist whose book "The God Delusion" is a national best-seller.

Or perhaps the turning point occurred at a more solemn moment, when Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and an adviser to the Bush administration on space exploration, hushed the audience with heartbreaking photographs of newborns misshapen by birth defects — testimony, he suggested, that blind nature, not an intelligent overseer, is in control.

Somewhere along the way, a forum this month at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., which might have been one more polite dialogue between science and religion, began to resemble the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told.

Carolyn Porco, a senior research scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., called, half in jest, for the establishment of an alternative church, with Dr. Tyson, whose powerful celebration of scientific discovery had the force and cadence of a good sermon, as its first minister.

She was not entirely kidding. "We should let the success of the religious formula guide us," Dr. Porco said. "Let's teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome — and even comforting — than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know."

She displayed a picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft of Saturn and its glowing rings eclipsing the Sun, revealing in the shadow a barely noticeable speck called Earth.

There has been no shortage of conferences in recent years, commonly organized by the Templeton Foundation, seeking to smooth over the differences between science and religion and ending in a metaphysical draw. Sponsored instead by the Science Network, an educational organization based in California, and underwritten by a San Diego investor, Robert Zeps (who acknowledged his role as a kind of "anti-Templeton"), the La Jolla meeting, "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival," rapidly escalated into an invigorating intellectual free-for-all. (Unedited video of the proceedings will be posted on the Web at tsntv.org.)

A presentation by Joan Roughgarden, a Stanford University biologist, on using biblical metaphor to ease her fellow Christians into accepting evolution (a mutation is "a mustard seed of DNA") was dismissed by Dr. Dawkins as "bad poetry," while his own take-no-prisoners approach (religious education is "brainwashing" and "child abuse") was condemned by the anthropologist Melvin J. Konner, who said he had "not a flicker" of religious faith, as simplistic and uninformed.

After enduring two days of talks in which the Templeton Foundation came under the gun as smudging the line between science and faith, Charles L. Harper Jr., its senior vice president, lashed back, denouncing what he called "pop conflict books" like Dr. Dawkins's "God Delusion," as "commercialized ideological scientism
— promoting for profit the philosophy that science has a monopoly on truth.

That brought an angry rejoinder from Richard P. Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, who said his own book, "Blind Faith: The Unholy Alliance of Religion and Medicine," was written to counter "garbage research" financed by Templeton on, for example, the healing effects of prayer.

With atheists and agnostics outnumbering the faithful (a few believing scientists, like Francis S. Collins, author of "The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief," were invited but could not attend), one speaker after another called on their colleagues to be less timid in challenging teachings about nature based only on scripture and belief. "The core of science is not a mathematical model; it is intellectual honesty," said Sam Harris, a doctoral student in neuroscience and the author of "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" and "Letter to a Christian Nation."

"Every religion is making claims about the way the world is," he said. "These are claims about the divine origin of certain books, about the virgin birth of certain people, about the survival of the human personality after death. These claims purport to be about reality."

By shying away from questioning people's deeply felt beliefs, even the skeptics, Mr. Harris said, are providing safe harbor for ideas that are at best mistaken and at worst dangerous. "I don’t know how many more engineers and architects need to fly planes into our buildings before we realize that this is not merely a matter of lack of education or economic despair," he said.

Dr. Weinberg, who famously wrote toward the end of his 1977 book on cosmology, "The First Three Minutes," that "the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless," went a step further: "Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization."

With a rough consensus that the grand stories of evolution by natural selection and the blossoming of the universe from the Big Bang are losing out in the intellectual marketplace, most of the discussion came down to strategy. How can science fight back without appearing to be just one more ideology?

"There are six billion people in the world," said Francisco J. Ayala, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine, and a former Roman Catholic priest. "If we think that we are going to persuade them to live a rational life based on scientific knowledge, we are not only dreaming — it is like believing in the fairy godmother."

"People need to find meaning and purpose in life," he said. "I don't think we want to take that away from them."

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. "I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong," he said.

"The Earth isn’t 6,000 years old," he said. "The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian." But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being — Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever — is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. "Science does not make it impossible to believe in God," Dr. Krauss insisted. "We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it."

That was just the kind of accommodating attitude that drove Dr. Dawkins up the wall. "I am utterly fed up with the respect that we — all of us, including the secular among us — are brainwashed into bestowing on religion," he said. "Children are systematically taught that there is a higher kind of knowledge which comes from faith, which comes from revelation, which comes from scripture, which comes from tradition, and that it is the equal if not the superior of knowledge that comes from real evidence."

By the third day, the arguments had become so heated that Dr. Konner was reminded of "a den of vipers."

"With a few notable exceptions," he said, "the viewpoints have run the gamut from A to B. Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"

His response to Mr. Harris and Dr. Dawkins was scathing. "I think that you and Richard are remarkably apt mirror images of the extremists on the other side," he said, "and that you generate more fear and hatred of science."

Dr. Tyson put it more gently. "Persuasion isn't always 'Here are the facts — you're an idiot or you are not,'" he said. "I worry that your methods" — he turned toward Dr. Dawkins — "how articulately barbed you can be, end up simply being ineffective, when you have much more power of influence."

Chastened for a millisecond, Dr. Dawkins replied, "I gratefully accept the rebuke."

In the end it was Dr. Tyson’' celebration of discovery that stole the show. Scientists may scoff at people who fall back on explanations involving an intelligent designer, he said, but history shows that "the most brilliant people who ever walked this earth were doing the same thing." When Isaac Newton's "Principia Mathematica" failed to account for the stability of the solar system — why the planets tugging at one another’s orbits have not collapsed into the Sun — Newton proposed that propping up the mathematical mobile was "an intelligent and powerful being."

It was left to Pierre Simon Laplace, a century later, to take the next step. Hautily telling Napoleon that he had no need for the God hypothesis, Laplace extended Newton's mathematics and opened the way to a purely physical theory.

“What concerns me now is that even if you’re as brilliant as Newton, you reach a point where you start basking in the majesty of God and then your discovery stops — it just stops,” Dr. Tyson said. “You’re no good anymore for advancing that frontier, waiting for somebody else to come behind you who doesn’t have God on the brain and who says: ‘That’s a really cool problem. I want to solve it.'"

"Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance," he said. "Something fundamental is going on in people's minds when they confront things they don’t understand."

He told of a time, more than a millennium ago, when Baghdad reigned as the intellectual center of the world, a history fossilized in the night sky. The names of the constellations are Greek and Roman, Dr. Tyson said, but two-thirds of the stars have Arabic names. The words "algebra" and "algorithm" are Arabic.

But sometime around 1100, a dark age descended. Mathematics became seen as the work of the devil, as Dr. Tyson put it. "Revelation replaced investigation,"” he said, and the intellectual foundation collapsed.

He did not have to say so, but the implication was that maybe a century, maybe a millennium from now, the names of new planets, stars and galaxies might be Chinese. Or there may be no one to name them at all.

Before he left to fly back home to Austin, Dr. Weinberg seemed to soften for a moment, describing religion a bit fondly as a crazy old aunt.

"She tells lies, and she stirs up all sorts of mischief and she's getting on, and she may not have that much life left in her, but she was beautiful once," he lamented. "When she's gone, we may miss her."

Dr. Dawkins wasn't buying it. "I won't miss her at all," he said. "Not a scrap. Not a smidgen."

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Friday, November 17, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor arrested for felony sexual abuse

An Anchorage pastor accused of molesting a teenage girl he led in worship has been arrested. The Anchorage Police Department said Pastor Dwight Greene turned himself in Wednesday afternoon.

Late Tuesday, police had actually sought the public's help in finding Greene on suspicion that he was intentionally evading them. Greene, who leads the Calvary Chapel of Anchorage, is now in jail and waiting to appear before a judge to answer charges of felony sexual abuse.

"There is a warrant for felony sexual assault of a minor," said APD spokesperson Anita Shell.

Greene is accused of sexually abusing a teenage member of his congregation, a young person he taught in bible study. APD said she was a 15-year-old member of the church who had cataloged sexual abuse by Greene in her diary and that her father discovered the confessions in the diary. The girl wrote, "Today he told me he wanted to kiss me. When he does this stuff I don't even know what to do or say. It's scary but I can't tell anyone."

According to police, the abuse also involved sexual touching.

Police had sought Greene at his personal business, Instant Imprints, and been conducting surveillance there in hopes of making the arrest there.

"There are plastic garbage bags that are covering all of the windows [at Instant Imprints]," said police.

Police, thinking that was odd behavior, thought Greene might be hiding out inside. But a search came up empty handed. Police said Greene has not cooperated much since the investigation started, but they did say he made an admission during a recorded phone call with the girl's father. In it, the father confronted Greene about the diary entries and he is said to admit touching the girl's breast.

"Are you out to hang me because I made a mistake? You should walk in my shoes, about how I have felt about that. This thing has eaten me like a cancer," Greene said to the girl's father in a telephone call.

It appears Greene's attorney had hoped to avoid his arrest by arranging to have him appear voluntarily in court, but a judge denied that request.

Meanwhile, worship services for Calvary Chapel are suspended until further notice.

Greene, who is 50 years old, has been married 28 years, has adult children and has spent his life in Anchorage. He also recently lost a discrimination lawsuit in which he sued FedEx Kinko's, claiming he had been fired because of his race and religious beliefs. The case is under appeal.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor Admits Sex With Teen Girl

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. -- A high school pastor at Greenwood Community Church surrendered to authorities Wednesday after stating he had been sexually involved with a 16-year-old girl.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office said that Donald Richard Ryan, 33, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was arrested for investigation of felony sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and investigation of unlawful sexual contact, a misdemeanor.

"For the past two and one-half years, he has been counseling the 16-year-old female," a sheriff's statement said. "During the relationship, inappropriate cell phone text messages and e-mails were exchanged, which culminated with sexual contact."

Ryan was being held Wednesday on a $50,000 bond while deputies continued their investigation of the allegations. The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office has asked anyone in the community, who may have information pertaining to inappropriate activity regarding Ryan, to call the Sheriff’s Office at 303-795-4711.

He was listed as the head of High School Family Ministries on the church's Web site, but his name had already been removed on Wednesday afternoon.

The church is located in Greenwood Village, Colo., and is listed as an evangelical Presbyterian church.

Friday, November 10, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

A scientific look at speaking in Tongues


The passionate, sometimes rhythmic, language-like patter that pours forth from religious people who “speak in tongues” reflects a state of mental possession, many of them say. Now they have some neuroscience to back them up.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania took brain images of five women while they spoke in tongues and found that their frontal lobes — the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers. The regions involved in maintaining self-consciousness were active. The women were not in blind trances, and it was unclear which region was driving the behavior.

The images, appearing in the current issue of the journal Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, pinpoint the most active areas of the brain. The images are the first of their kind taken during this spoken religious practice, which has roots in the Old and New Testaments and in charismatic churches established in the United States around the turn of the 19th century. The women in the study were healthy, active churchgoers.

“The amazing thing was how the images supported people’s interpretation of what was happening,” said Dr. Andrew B. Newberg, leader of the study team, which included Donna Morgan, Nancy Wintering and Mark Waldman. “The way they describe it, and what they believe, is that God is talking through them,” he said.

Dr. Newberg is also a co-author of “Why We Believe What We Believe.”

In the study, the researchers used imaging techniques to track changes in blood flow in each woman’s brain in two conditions, once as she sang a gospel song and again while speaking in tongues. By comparing the patterns created by these two emotional, devotional activities, the researchers could pinpoint blood-flow peaks and valleys unique to speaking in tongues.

Ms. Morgan, a co-author of the study, was also a research subject. She is a born-again Christian who says she considers the ability to speak in tongues a gift. “You’re aware of your surroundings,” she said. “You’re not really out of control. But you have no control over what’s happening. You’re just flowing. You’re in a realm of peace and comfort, and it’s a fantastic feeling.”

Contrary to what may be a common perception, studies suggest that people who speak in tongues rarely suffer from mental problems. A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not. Researchers have identified at least two forms of the practice, one ecstatic and frenzied, the other subdued and nearly silent.

The new findings contrasted sharply with images taken of other spiritually inspired mental states like meditation, which is often a highly focused mental exercise, activating the frontal lobes.

The scans also showed a dip in the activity of a region called the left caudate. “The findings from the frontal lobes are very clear, and make sense, but the caudate is usually active when you have positive affect, pleasure, positive emotions,” said Dr. James A. Coan, a psychologist at the University of Virginia. “So it’s not so clear what that finding says” about speaking in tongues.

The caudate area is also involved in motor and emotional control, Dr. Newberg said, so it may be that practitioners, while mindful of their circumstances, nonetheless cede some control over their bodies and emotions.

link

Thursday, November 09, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Jesus Camp no more

Organizers of an evangelical summer camp for children featured in the documentary "Jesus Camp" are discontinuing the camp because of negative reaction sparked by the film and recent vandalism at the camp site in Devils Lake, North Dakota.

"We have decided to hold different activities in future," Pentecostal pastor and camp organizer Becky Fischer told Reuters.

Fischer was the central figure in "Jesus Camp," a documentary about Pentecostal evangelical Christians, some of whom send their children to summer camp where they pray, "speak in tongues" and are urged to campaign against abortion.

In the months since the film was released the campground was vandalized and Fischer was inundated with negative e-mails and phone calls.

In one of the film's scenes, a cardboard effigy of President George W. Bush is placed on stage before an assembly, so attendees can pray he make America "one nation under God."

The film has no voice-overs or narrative. Heidi Ewing, who directed the film with Rachel Grady, said the aim was to show a slice of American culture unfamiliar to many in America and abroad.

When it was released in May, a Variety magazine reviewer said, "Liberals might also be alarmed by images of 7-year-olds in camouflage face-paint performing spiritual war dances."

Fischer was criticized by some for "brainwashing" the children.

The film also features scenes with disgraced evangelical leader the Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned as pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs last week after a gay sex and drug scandal.

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To view The Daily Show report: Click here

Sunday, November 05, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Church fires Haggard for 'immoral' acts

After resigning as head of a national evangelical group, Ted Haggard is removed from his New Life leadership post.

DENVER — An investigative committee of independent pastors concluded "without a doubt" on Saturday that the Rev. Ted Haggard had committed "sexually immoral conduct" and removed him from his duties as senior pastor at a mega-church in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The committee's decision took away Haggard's last position of church leadership — and cast doubt on his assertion that he had visited a male prostitute for a massage but never had sex with him.

Last week, Haggard resigned from the presidency of the 30-million member National Assn. of Evangelicals under allegations that he had a three-year sexual relationship with the man. Haggard also has said that he bought methamphetamine from the prostitute but did not use it.

The statement from New Life Church's investigative committee did not list the evidence the group considered. But the strong wording left little doubt that Haggard's conduct involved more than an illegal drug buy.

"It's not just about meth. It's not just about a massage. I guess that's what we are to infer," said the Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the evangelical association.

"We all have to be humble and recognize that people — even our leaders — have feet of clay," Cizik said. "So we love. And we forgive."

A letter of explanation and apology from Haggard will be read at New Life services today. His wife of 28 years, Gayle Haggard, will also address the congregation. The couple have five children.

Haggard, 50, built the church after he said he experienced a vision during a three-day solitary fast on Pikes Peak, the majestic mountain that soars above Colorado Springs. Given to visions — he says he can see demons, and he sometimes speaks in tongues — Haggard preached his first sermon in his unfinished basement on a cold morning in January 1985. His pulpit was a stack of old buckets. His pews were lawn chairs.

From the start, the church — and its leader — broke the mold.

Haggard led ebullient worship services filled with song and dance; he prayed over names in the phone book; he sent his members out walking through Colorado Springs with instructions to pray for specific parcels of land. He wrote a tract about his goals with the title "Making It Hard for People to Go to Hell From Your City."

Haggard's exuberance and inveterate optimism began attracting crowds, and New Life outgrew one space after another.

Nearly 22 years after that first service, the church has a congregation of 14,000 and a huge complex on the edge of Colorado Springs. Each Easter, the sanctuary is transformed into a theater for an extravagant passion play with a cast of hundreds, live animals, Cirque du Soleil-style acrobats portraying angels — and special effects worthy of Broadway.

Telegenic and proud of his accomplishments, Haggard welcomed reporters to the church campus (though he did send out a memo cautioning congregants to refrain from dancing in the aisles and speaking in "glassy-eyed heavenly mode" when TV cameras were rolling). His openness with the media only raised his profile further.

"He is probably one of the top five most prominent evangelicals in America and therefore in the world," said Ted Olsen, news director for the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. "Hardly a day went by where we did not see Haggard quoted by someone. It was pretty rare for him not to have an opinion."

Through their sorrow and bewilderment this past week, church members have been quick to say that the scandal will not bring down New Life — or shake their faith.

"This is a pruning, in a sense," said Patty VanTassel, 50. "New Life Church is not about Ted Haggard. It's about God … and rescuing people from sin."

Many others have repeated a variation of that line: We don't worship Ted Haggard; we worship God.

But Charles Chandler, who runs a support program for ousted preachers, said mega-churches like New Life sometimes put their pastors on a pedestal. The ministers are more than spiritual leaders; they're almost rock stars — their images beamed on enormous television screens as they preach, their books sold front and center in the lobby, their photos plastered across church websites.

"People almost put you on a throne," Chandler said. "You're vulnerable when that happens. You can take yourself too seriously."

In his group, Ministering to Ministers, Chandler has seen some pastors behave immorally in a gesture of what he calls "professional suicide."

"They can't handle the pressure, but they can't bring themselves to step down, so they do something stupid," he said. Others struggle with sexual or chemical addictions for years — and preach mightily about that very subject to try to cover up, Chandler said.

"They don't want to recognize that it's part of their life," said Chandler, who is based in Richmond, Va.

When caught, Chandler said, a minister's instinct often is not to confess, but to deny, as Haggard did when he was confronted with questions about the prostitute, Mike Jones. The pastor said at first that he did not know Jones. Later, after Jones released voice mail messages he said were from Haggard, the pastor acknowledged that he had visited the prostitute for a massage and bought methamphetamine from him.

The church's board of overseers said Saturday that they would "continue to explore the depth of Pastor Haggard's offense so that a plan of healing and restoration can begin."

Haggard's friends and followers are praying for that restoration. "God alone is judge, and he has the power to heal, restore and bring some good out of this," Cizik said. "It's hard to believe that there could be good of this. But that's a biblical promise."

link

Related post: link

Dr. Dino goes to jail

Pensacola evangelist and tax protester Kent Hovind winked at his wife and gave her a reassuring smile as he was led away to jail.

Jo Hovind clutched the necktie he had been wearing. She kept her eyes on her husband until he was out of sight.

A 12-person jury deliberated for 21/2 hours on Thursday before finding the couple guilty of all counts in their tax-fraud case.

Kent Hovind, founder of Creation Science Evangelism and Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola, was found guilty of 58 counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. He faces a maximum of 288 years in prison.

Jo Hovind was charged and convicted in 44 of the counts involving evading bank-reporting requirements. She faces up to 225 years in prison but was allowed to remain free pending the couple’s sentencing on Jan. 9.

Kent Hovind briefly held onto her arm as the verdict was read. Neither reacted at first. But minutes later, she held her face in her hands.

“Nobody likes to pay taxes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said in her closing argument. “But we do because it’s the law, and he is not above the law.”

The jury also granted the prosecution’s request for the Hovinds to forfeit $430,400. That amount equals the value of the checks signed and cashed by Jo Hovind in the 44 counts.

U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers released Jo Hovind until sentencing but denied Kent Hovind’s request to be released. He most likely will be detained at either Escambia County Jail or Santa Rosa County Jail until sentencing.

Heldmyer said Kent Hovind was a flight risk and a “danger to the community.”

His attorney, Alan Richey, argued that the Internal Revenue Service pursued his client because of his religious beliefs.

Kent Hovind, whose life’s mission is to debunk evolution, says he and his employees are workers of God and therefore exempt from paying taxes. He pays his employees in cash and does not withhold their taxes or pay his share as an employer.

“There’s a difference between wrong and committing a crime,” Richey said in his closing argument. “You can do all the wrong things you want and still not commit a crime.”

Jo Hovind’s attorney, Jerold Barringer, argued that his client was a simple piano teacher and grandmother who was not aware of bank-reporting regulations concerning large amounts of cash. Any cash transaction at a bank more than $10,000 triggers a currency-transaction report forwarded to the IRS. She was found guilty of using several methods to take out just enough money to avoid triggering the report.

The Hovinds and their attorneys declined comment. Their supporters, who took up most of the six rows in Rodgers’ courtroom, dwindled in number as the day went on.

Jo Hovind’s son, Kent Andrew Hovind, and two women escorted her out of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Pensacola.

Richard Hogan, an acquaintance of Kent Hovind who observed the last day of the two-week trial, said he felt especially bad for Jo Hovind.

“He was the leader, and she probably went along with him,” said Hogan, 53. He first met the Hovinds when their children were homeschooled.

“It’s pretty tough to fight Goliath,” Hogan said. “The first time the IRS calls, you should go ahead and deal with it. It didn’t have to come down to this.”

* * * * *

The Hovind case, at a glance

The Hovinds were charged with a total of 58 counts of tax evasion.

Counts one through 12 include Kent Hovind’s alleged failure to collect nearly $470,000 in employee taxes.

Counts 13 through 57 include both Kent and Jo Hovind. They are charged with structuring cash transactions of $430,500 to avoid reporting requirements.

Count 58 includes the following charges against Kent Hovind:

Filing a frivolous lawsuit against the IRS, demanding damages for criminal trespass.

Filing an injunction against an IRS agent.

Making threats against investigators and those cooperating with the investigation.

Filing false complaints against the IRS for false arrest, excessive use of force and theft.

link

Thursday, November 02, 2006                                                                                       View Comments

Sex allegations lobbed at Ted Haggard

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.

link

Related article: http://thinkprogress.org/2006/11/02/haggard-evangelical-prostitute/

UPDATE, 11.03.06:

Accused pastor admits he bought meth
But Haggard claims he never used drug that he bought from gay escort
BREAKING NEWS
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.”

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15536263/