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Ted Haggard Takes
Another Man

Ted Haggard Takes
Another Man


The Ted Haggard saga continues -- this time with the announcement there was another man, one the New Life Church paid off. Will the vicious cycle ever end?

I know we're all tired of hearing about Ted Haggard. Most agree that he's a sad, emotionally confused person and should just be left to figure it out on his own. But new information has surfaced that warrants further discussion.

The Associated Press reports that after news broke of Haggard's relationship with prostitute Mike Jones, a male church volunteer in his 20s came forward to disclose a consensual relationship Haggard as well. While this is certainly interesting in the context of Haggard's continued denial that he is anything but straight, it goes deeper than that.

After coming forward to New Life Church leadership, the volunteer was paid an undisclosed amount of money for counseling and college tuition on the condition that he not publicly disclose his relationship with Haggard. Of course the church denies it was hush money.

"It wasn't at all a settlement to make him be quiet or not tell his story," New Life's Reverend Brady Boyd told the AP. "Our desire was to help him. Here was a young man who wanted to get on with his life. We considered it more compassionate assistance -- certainly not hush money."

Compassionate assistance? I bet. Would the New Life Church have offered to pay his college tuition if he wasn't sitting on information that would undermine prior public statements made by the church? I doubt it. After all, church officials demanded in their agreement that he not speak publicly about it. If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck ...

What is even more offensive here is the utter hypocrisy of the church hierarchy. On the one hand, they preach from the pulpit condemning homosexuality as immoral and sinful. On the other, they cover up instances in their own ranks. Sound familiar anyone? Perhaps New Life Church took its cues from the Catholic Church.

While I assume hypocrisy, maybe these church leaders are just clueless. Perhaps they have absolutely no idea the environment that their interpretation of the Bible and subsequent preaching have created. Since I recently worked with furniture designer Mitchell Gold on his book project, Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, it is clear to me that these church leaders contributed to the very scenario they paid handsomely to cover up.

Were it not for the antigay environment propagated by religious institutions such as New Life Church, the natural inclination of Ted Haggard would not have manifested itself via a prostitute in an inconspicuous hotel room. Nor would it have brought him together with a young, closeted church volunteer. These stories of forbidden love are perfect for the tabloids or a Lifetime movie but are hardly healthy examples of dealing with sexuality.

Rather than paying hush money to this volunteer, church leaders would do better to spend some time reflecting on how they contributed to the problem and how they might change themselves to confront reality. That reality is this: No matter how hard they pray, counsel, or insist, gay people are not sinful, they are born with their sexual orientation, and no amount of counseling will change that.

So many congregations exist that openly welcome LGBT people into their pews. Their houses of worship are filled with love and acceptance and feel as if the true meaning of God has been found.

The action of New Life Church, which dovetails with its fear-mongering preaching, fails to achieve this environment of love. Maybe one day the church members and hierarchy will experience the feeling of empowerment that comes with shedding the chains of fear and embracing their fellow citizens as whole and wonderful children of God.

Until then, we will continue to watch from the outside as they ignore reality. I wonder how many other sad stories we will hear along the way.

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Lane Hudson