November 02, 2006
Culture wars claim another victim
Posted by: Chris
Now from Colorado comes news that Rev. Teg Haggard (pictured, left) has resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and taken a leave of absence from his 14,000-member church amid allegations that he paid a male escort for sex over a three-year period. The resignation came even though Haggard is denying the accusations, or that he has even met the escort.
The escort, who said his last encounter with Haggard was in August, told the Denver Post he has known for two years now that the man who identified himself as "Art" was actually Haggard, after seeing him on television. He said he decided to come forward only after Haggard became vocal in support of a constitutional amendment on the ballot next Tuesday that would ban Colorado from marrying gay couples. Haggard also opposes a ballot referendum, backed by gay rights groups, that would extend some limited domestic partnership recognition to same-sex couples. More from the Post:
The former prostitute, Mike Jones, 49, of Denver, went public with the accusations on Tuesday, saying he felt compelled to do so because he believes Haggard, a strong opponent of same-sex unions, has been hypocritical. Haggard is married with five children.
"I made myself cry and I made myself sick," Jones said about his decision to come forward. "I felt I owed this to the community. What he is saying is we are not worthy, but he is." Jones says he was contacted three years ago by Haggard for sex — he thinks through a gay newspaper advertisement or an online ad he posted on Rentboy.com.
Jones showed the Post reporter an envelope he said was sent by Haggard to pay for a past sexual encounter, and he played a voicemail as well. But even though the reporter heard the voicemail, the article indicates cryptically: "Jones refused to reveal what the topic of the voicemail was about because there could be legal problems and he wants to consult with an attorney."
Some on the gay left are basking predictably in the calamitous fall of another right-wing hypocrite, but we should take no joy in how this man's family will pay the price for his hypocrisy. Whatever Jones' intent, the Haggard story isn't likely to improve the odds of the marriage amendment failing or the D.P. referendum passing. If anything, it's more likely to galvanize conservatives, much as "the politics of personal destruction" rallied those on the left (and the middle) when Bill Clinton was the target.
If, in fact, Reverend Haggard is a gay man who married a woman, had a family, and yet paid men for sex on the side, then the saddest part of the story is that he probably did view homosexuality as a threat to "the family" and to marriage. For him, it was. And all those gay couples leading happy lives and seeking equal treatment from their government? They are a living-breathing condemnation of the path he felt forced to take. They chose to have their cake (accepting their homosexuality), and now they want to eat it, too (with societal acceptance).
Only Haggard knows whether his anti-gay crusade was motivated by his personal demons — because if he's gay, that's surely how he viewed his homosexuality. But beyond all the tawdry headlines, let's hope fair-minded Coloradans here the real message behind our movement: We seek for ourselves the same things out of life as heterosexuals, and more than that, we want to prevent personal tragedies like Ted Haggard's — the almost inevitable consequence of a gay person trying, through sheer will and/or religious faith, to enter into a heterosexual marriage. The world we envisage doesn't involve such horrible choices, with their absolutely inevitable "collateral damage" — the innocent victims, like Ted Haggard's wife and five children.
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