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  • February 09, 2008

    GNW 5: Haggard's ex-gay interruptus

    Posted by: Chris

    1. Gay men cast as love interests in U.S. 'Big Brother 9'Gay men cast as love interests in U.S. 'Big Brother 9': QUICK LOOK: Today CBS announced the cast of the 9th season of Big Brother, and like last season there are not one, but two gay men amongst the roommates and, once more, we're promised... (MORE)
    2. Gay Irish poet's sexcapades with minors shake NepalGay Irish poet's sexcapades with minors shake Nepal: QUICK LOOK: Detectives in Ireland are said to be contacting Nepalese authorities over a growing scandal about a top Irish poet's sexcapades in the Himalayan nation with underage... (MORE)
    3. Haggard quits before finishing 'restoration' programHaggard quits before finishing 'restoration' program: QUICK LOOK: More than a year after former pastor Ted Haggard resigned from his position at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Haggard has severed his official relationship... (MORE)
    4. Imam who called for stoning of gays to be extraditedImam who called for stoning of gays to be extradited to U.S.: QUICK LOOK: Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al Masri, whose sermons celebrated the Sept. 11 attacks and called for gays to be stoned to death, was cleared Thursday for extradition... (MORE)
    5. Queen guitarist had no idea Freddie Mercury was gayQueen guitarist had no idea Freddie Mercury was gay: QUICK LOOK: Queen guitarist Brian May didn't know Freddie Mercury was gay. Brian noticed the late Freddie, who died from an AIDS-related illness in 1991, was "flamboyant" but was... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

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    February 08, 2007

    'Cured' Haggard will pay it forward

    Posted by: Chris

    Haggardprays There is, of course, absolutely nothing credible about Pastor Ted Haggard's latest claim that three weeks of counseling have made him "completely heterosexual."  Just as there's absolutely nothing credible about his claim that his only sexual contact with men ever was with his accuser, a male prostitute who described three years of paid sex and crystal meth abuse. If Haggard really leapt from zero to all that, his case is one for the history books.

    We know that Haggard's M.O., like Bart Simpson before him, is to confess to only those facts he couldn't squirm out of.  His story changed repeatedly, as new evidence emerged, and with each change his credibility was further haggard.  The good pastor hasn't even owned up to his previous lies, like his early claim to not actually knowing escort Mike Jones — until Jones produced voicemail messages from "Pastor Ted."

    On one hand, I'm impressed that Haggard and his wife are sticking to their guns, practicing what they preached, if belatedly. I've often felt change would come faster if conservatives were forced to live by the same ridiculously harsh rules they set for gay people. What's more, Haggard's claim to be "cured" after just three weeks is so ridiculous that only the snake-handling types could believe it.

    On the other hand, I'm amazed at the Haggards' announcement that they plan to seek master degrees in psychology. There is a certain audacity in two people whose lives have proven so horribly and publicly dysfunctional emerging from a few weeks of counseling to announce that they feel themselves good candidates to guide others psychologically.  What's more, they would be expected to learn through their study some very hard scientific truths about sexual orientation that make a mockery out of claims to be cured after three weeks on the couch.

    Then again, Haggard's undergrad degree is from Oral Roberts University, and the couple plans to earn their master's online, so we can imagine the quality of education they'll be receiving.  If ever there were a case of caveat emptor, it would apply to the Haggards would-be pysch patients.

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    December 29, 2006

    2006: The closet's swan song?

    Posted by: Chris

    Bladeyir2006 The Washington Blade and its sister publications came out with their Year in Review issues today, and their choice for the story of the year was, "Swan song from the closet: Politicians, performers made news in 2006 by coming out."  Using the closet to tie together the Mark Foley and Ted Haggard scandals, as well as the celebrities who decided to come out, the story draws some interesting conclusions about the status of the closet as we head into 2007:

    Having confined and defined much, if not most, of modern gay existence, "the closet" showed once again in 2006 that it is still a mighty force, albeit a shadow of its once powerful self. In fact, some believe the closet is steadily inching toward irrelevance, as successive generations of gay and lesbian youth settle into their sexual orientation without first surrounding it with four walls of angst, denial, duplicity and shame.

    Far from being a place that only harbors half-truths and paralyzing secrets, the 2006 version of the closet helped fuel best-selling memoirs and a breathtaking power shift in Congress. The closet opened its doors on the set of America's most popular prime-time television series and inside one of the nation's most influential megachurches. And whereas coming out of the closet was long considered social and professional suicide, in 2006 it proved anything but.

    That somewhat rosy assessment is backed up by examples like Lance Bass, the 'N-Sync alum, who revived his fame by coming out, and embattled politicians Mark Foley and James McGreevey, who tried using the closet as "an escape hatch" in the midst of scandal.  Their stories are contrasted with that of Haggard, who stuck to his anti-gay guns even after being outed by a gay escort.

    So we're left to conclude that the closet remains a problem mainly for conservative Republicans. "Outside of Republicans, [the closet] is going to recede as more and more people are going to be out from day one so it won't be an issue," the story quotes David Ehrenstein, author of "Open Secret: Gay Hollywood 1928-1998," as saying.

    "I think there were much larger issues than Mark Foley that influenced the elections, but with that said, I think both the Foley and Haggard scandals reinforced the perception of the right wing forces of the Republican Party as being cynical hypocrites," echoed Mark Foreman, of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

    Of course, official Washington is littered with closeted Democrats who defy such nice caricaturization,
    but the razor sharp political divide in the U.S. over the last decade or so makes black-and-white as popular with the left as it does the right.  That's how Ehrenstein can publicly praise the decline of the closet for all except Republicans while at the same time more discreetly cheer on efforts to involuntarily "out" even the most junior gay Republicans who work in the nation's capital.

    When outing activist-blogger Michael Rogers recently published embarrassing personal photos of a young, already-out student who worked as a lowly advance staffer for Vice President Dick Cheney, Ehrenstein cheered on the effort.  "You shouldn't have blacked-out the faces of the other guys," Ehrenstein wrote in a comment to Rogers, referring to the young staffers' friends, even though they had no apparent connection to Cheney. "They're collaborators," claimed Ehrenstein.

    When one commenter using "Sad" as a moniker took issue with the outing, Ehrenstein was quick to reply, with a reference to outed escort-conservative journalist Jeff Gannon (a.k.a. James Guckert).  "Don't be sad, 'Sad,'" wrote Ehrenstein. "Now go suck off Guckert like a good little KAPO."  Kapos, so you don't miss the reference, were concentration camp prisoners who worked for the Nazis in low-level administrative positions. 

    This is the world according to David Ehrenstein, and it's the other side of the closet that re-entered the debate this year, though it's not mentioned in the Blade review.  The Foley story, especially, raised anew questions about when it's justified to "out" someone in government, whether they're holding elective office or not.  For Ehrenstein and Rogers, there are no limits to be observed, no boundaries of personal privacy to be respected, and for Ehrenstein at least, dissent is tantamount to complicity.  The Task Force's Foreman, as well, though not dirtying his own hands with outings, has publicly said he supports them.

    Neilpatrickharris For most of the rest of us, 2006 was indeed a banner year in adjusting to the changing dynamics of the closet.  As each new public figure emerges, there remain fewer "firsts" like Ellen DeGeneres in prime time or Elton John in music or Martina Navratilova in sport, to grab the biggest headlines.  And so both Neil Patrick Harris ("Doogie Howser, M.D." and "How I Met Your Mother") and T.R. Knight ("Grey's Anatomy") continue to play sexually active heterosexual men in popular TV shows, despite coming out this year in People magazine.  As the Blade story notes, popular culture is once again miles ahead of politics.

    Tammybaldwin Because in politics, despite Ehrenstein's partisan assessment of the closet as a Republican problem, the U.S. Congress is a bipartisan, heteros-only club.  We must search back almost a decade to 1998 for the one and only time someone was elected for the first time to Congress despite being openly gay.  Despite all the pro-gay triumphs of November 2006, not a single openly gay non-incumbent even won a primary for the U.S. House or Senate.  And when the new Congress is sworn in next month, that same solitary member of Congress, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), will serve alongside Barney Frank (D-Mass.) as the only elected gays on the Hill.  So much for the closet's swan song.

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    December 22, 2006

    One small step for closeted ministers

    Posted by: Chris

    Haggardpoints_3 Apparently the hot topic among conservative Christian seminary presidents these days is how to avoid the kind of scandals that engulfed Ted Haggard and Paul Barnes, two Colorado evangelicals who resigned after admitting they'd battled all their lives with being gay. Their solution isn't rethinking whether homosexuality is a choice, much less a sin.  But to give struggling ministers an outlet to talk through their problems:

    Seminary professors, Christian counselors and veteran clergy say the best way to help pastors fight temptation is to get them talking — even about their most shameful secrets. They don't want a sordid tell-all from the pulpit each Sunday. But they would like pastors to bare their weaknesses and admit their lapses before a small group of "accountability partners" — friends committed to listen with empathy, then rebuke or advise as needed.

    "Our current environment demands perfection of pastors," said Craig Williford, president of the Denver Seminary. "It doesn't allow leaders to struggle, to be human, to deal with their issues without fear of losing their ministry. We need to help them find safe harbors."

    Because these conservatives buy in to their own theology-as-psychology, they view same-sex attraction as just one sinful temptation among dozens, including pornography, drug addiction, alcoholism and the like.  So the problem in their minds is that these closeted gay pastors are struggling in silence and need some counseling to stay on a moral path.

    Still, bringing homosexuality out into the open, even among a small group of advisers read with their "rebuke," is a very positive step that will likely have unintended consequences if acted upon.  As any gay person can testify, once the genie is out of the bottle and being dealt with directly, even those of us from very conservative religious traditions can move fairly quickly toward acceptance that being gay is a natural part of who we are, as morally neutral as heterosexuality. Gay journalist Gabriel Rotello has it right:

    The biggest weapon in the historical arsenal against gay dignity has always been shame. The desire to avoid the shame that our culture heaps on people with a homosexual orientation is what causes them to often resort to the secrecy, the hiding and the destructive double lives that characterize the Closet.

    Coming out, in the form of admitting homosexual desire, whether you have ever acted on that desire or not, is immensely liberating. The vast majority of people who come out are transformed. They no longer harbor a desire to repress their love because they have faced the enemy — shame — and have survived.

    Rotello goes on to suggest that these closeted pastors come out to their congregations, though that's certainly not likely, nor what the conservatives are actually proposing.  It's also unnecessary at this point.  The first time I acknowledged my struggle with same-sex attraction — to a minister, actually — I set in motion a chain of events that almost inevitably led me out of the closet.  That won't be the case for everyone, since the habits of self-deception can be hard to break, but for most who are willing to take an honest look at themselves and their feelings, that first act of coming out is by far the most crucial.

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    November 15, 2006

    Hoist by their petards

    Posted by: Chris

    Bishops There's some sad, even tragic, justice to how certain religious leaders fall victim to the traps they set for their followers. First there was Ted Haggard, the Colorado evangelist who tried to follow church teaching on homosexuality, married a woman and raised a family, but wound up doing crystal meth and using the services of a male prostitute, perhaps for as long as three years.

    This week's new guidance for gay parishioners, issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is another classic example. Unlike their fundamentalist Protestant brethren, the Catholic bishops acknowledge homosexuality as at least an "inclination" and do not suggest gays should go into therapy to "overcome" it and become heterosexual. Instead, they condemn gays to a life of celibacy:

    The guidelines emphasized the church's position that homosexuality is "disordered" and called on gays and lesbians to avoid sex. … The [guidelines] encourage counseling and support groups to guide gay Catholics toward a chaste life.

    Putting aside the cruelty of the church teaching some of its parishioners that they must live a life devoid of romantic and sexual companionship — a basic human need — Catholic leaders are incredibly reckless to urge a lifestyle on its parishioners when they're well aware the impact celibacy has had on their own ranks.

    In fact, at the same meeting of U.S. bishops in Baltimore, several hundred thousand dollars was allocated to John Jay College of Criminal Justice to study "the causes and context of clergy sexual abuse of minors." Shouldn't the bishops wait until they have more information on whether attempted celibacy is a factor in clergy sexual abuse before they urge the same on gay Catholics worldwide?

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    November 13, 2006

    Father doesn't always know best

    Posted by: Chris

    Pixneuhaus I was surprised how much there is to agree with what Father Richard John Neuhaus, a leading Catholic conservative, had to say about Ted Haggard's hypocrisy and how the public likely reacted to it. Writes Neuhaus:

    In tones of adolescent rage and petulance, which is the characteristic gay voice, commentator after commentator has accused Haggard of hypocrisy, insisting that what he claims to see as his sin is, in fact, his true self, and demanding that he embrace his sin as his authentic identity. At the core of such commentary is an adamantly binary view of sexuality—one is either straight or gay, all the way. This completely ignores findings otherwise celebrated by proponents of sexual liberation, such as Kinsey’s scale of 1 to 5 in heterosexual/ homosexual orientation.

    I can't disagree that much of what passes for gay commentary, especially in the blogosphere, is about as thoughtful and provocative as a Rush Limbaugh tirade, detailing every salacious fact of the Haggard story with childish glee. Neuhaus is also right to call the P.C. police on the assumptions about Haggard's sexual orientation. If the evangelist is bisexual, then his marriage isn't the sham most gay folks have assumed it to be, and "lusting in his heart" for men (and other women) is a betrayal of his marital vows, at least according to Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and Jimmy Carter in Playboy.

    Another oddity is that gay and gay-friendly commentators assume that any publicity involving homosexuality—whether Ted Haggard or the Florida congressman who flirted with male pages—works to the benefit of their cause. This strikes me as highly doubtful. A congressional predator or Haggard’s liaisons with a male prostitute hardly enhances the public image of gayness. Of course, there are adult men who prey on girls and there are plenty of female prostitutes. But most Americans live in a heterosexual world where such deviance is recognized as deviance. Almost all the people they know do not prey on girls or patronize prostitutes. But what they do know about the gay world? Largely the sleaze that comes to the surface in public scandals.

    I've actually assumed the opposite in both cases, and I agree that when famous people are discovered to be gay in the midst of sleazy scandals like these, or James McGreevey's, it slimes the reputation of gay folks generally.

    Unfortunately, by wallowing in Haggard's hypocrisy, just for the sheer joy of it, gay commentators only emphasize the sleaze factor for mainstream Americans and miss the opportunity to make a much more important claim than that some televangelists are hypocrites. As I pointed out before, the real moral of the Haggard story isn't about personal hypocrisy, but the cold-hearted arrogance of conservative Christian leaders who refuse despite the mounting evidence to see the wrecked lives (like Haggard's and McGreevey's and their families') that result from their misguided teachings about homosexuality.

    Neuhaus personifies that mean-spirited stay-the-course commitment to condemnation, dismissing the Castro and Greenwich Village as "not America," and concluding:

    What most Americans know about being gay is distinctively unattractive and, in their view, morally repugnant. Gay advocates deceive themselves in thinking that the more people know about homosexuality the more they will approve of it.

    Of course every public opinion poll ever completed on the subject suggests the contrary, as a reader to Andrew Sullivan's blog points out. Now if we can stop chortling over Haggard's hypocrisy long enough, maybe we could point that out.

    (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)

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    Hell Hath No Fury

    Posted by: Chris

    A thoughtful op-ed from yesterday's Washington Post looks behind the McGreevey, Foley, Haggard scandals and identifies how religious intolerance lies underneath all three:

    Our condemnatory attitudes began in the latter part of the Middle Ages. Until then the Christian church in Western Europe, and thus the general culture, had largely tolerated or ignored homosexual acts. But everything changed when Thomas Aquinas and other religious writers labeled not only homosexual acts but all non-procreative sexual behavior "unnatural." The Roman Catholic Church continues to promote this idea today.

    Not a remarkable revelation itself, but it comes from a United Methodist minister, who takes her own faith to task for advertising "open hearts, open minds, open doors" even as it closed all three to gay parishioners and their families. As a former Methodist myself, I feel her pain. But there's even one more twist to the column, as this particular Methodist minister knows of what she speaks:

    I was married to a closeted gay man for 15 years, and we had three children before the truth of his sexual orientation emerged. The emotional devastation of that revelation and our subsequent divorce has been profound for me, my children, my former husband, our extended family and our friends.

    It's way beyond time to hear from "the scorned women" who are the "collateral damage" behind the conservative religious teaching that gay people should treat their sexual orientation as a temptation to be overcome, and marry someone of the opposite sex.

    Gaylehaggard_1 Unfortunately so many, including Ted Haggard's wife, are too invested in their failed ideology to see what's best for them and their children, not to mention their closeted spouse. On the same day Haggard admitted to his church he was a "deceiver," here's what Mrs. Haggard said in her statement to the congregation:

    A letter from Gayle Haggard was addressed to the women of the church. She professed her commitment to her marriage and the church's teachings.

    "For those of you who have been concerned that my marriage was so perfect I could not possibly relate to the women who are facing great difficulties, know that this will never again be the case," she wrote, drawing one of the morning's few laughs. "My test has begun; watch me. I will try to prove myself faithful."

    It's certainly understandable that even those wives and husbands who come to understand the societal forces that pressured their gay spouse into heterosexual marriage aren't the first to champion gay acceptance and equality. But Rev. Ermalou Roller, the author of the WaPo piece, offers a powerful explanation for why they should:

    Broken relationships with[in my own] family have been largely, if not totally, healed. But many people are not as fortunate. They, and our society at large, miss out on the fullness of life that is tragically denied to so many because the rest of us don't want to deal fairly and fully with such a difficult and embarrassing subject. Families are torn apart, careers ruined, gifts and graces underutilized, and lives destroyed. Thus, ironically, the anguish that gays and lesbians suffer because of their rejection isn't visited just upon them, as horrible as that is. It affects us all.

    Amen, sister Ermalou!

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    November 09, 2006

    Kneeling at the altar of hypocrisy

    Posted by: Chris

    If it's true as Andrew Sullivan blogs today that the Vatican's lead defamer on the incompatibility of homosexuality and the priesthood may himself be guilty of abusive sexual exploits with a 23-year-old male seminarian, then step aside, Ted Haggard. You've been out-hypocritized.

    Anatrella Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family, explained the new Vatican ban on even celibate gay seminarians thusly:

    Homosexuals are not in the adequate position to marry, to adopt children and to accede to deaconate and priesthood (only men in coherence with their masculine identity are able to receive the sacrament…

    And thusly:

    On a more theological level, Anatrella argues that gay priests cannot effectively incarnate a "spousal tie" between God and the church, nor the "spiritual paternity" a priest is supposed to exhibit.

    And now stands accused in a French lawsuit thusly:

    According to the complaint, filed on 30 October in Paris, a French ex-seminarian named Daniel Lamarca said that, while being treated by Anatrella in 1987, he had sexual relations with the cleric, who Lamarca went to in the hope of "curing" him of his homosexuality. The patient was 23 at the time and spoke of "bodily work" therapy sessions with Anatrella that, according to the accuser, would progress into sex.

    At least Haggard's prostitute was a willing participant and not the alleged victim of a horrible abuse of authority. Here's hoping the mainstream media will pick up this story and give it it's due.

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    November 06, 2006

    The vulnerable male heterosexual

    Posted by: Chris

    If we held out any hope that the very public meltdown of a leading evangelist would give his allies some pause to reconsider their instruction on homosexuality, the early signs aren't encouraging. If anything, it seems that Ted Haggard's fall has hit way too close to home for many conservatives, leading them to circle the wagons to protect their most vulnerable: themselves, the heterosexual male.

    Remember how the New York state supreme court defended limiting marriage to straight couples because, in part, it increased the odds that heterosexual males would stick around after impregnating their women? Well, this defense of traditional marriage as a curb on straight male sexuality is growing stronger.

    From the National Review, conservative Jewish author David Klinghofer makes the rather incredible argument that if gay couples can marry, more straight men will succumb to gay sex temptations:

    Haggard confirms what we’ve said all along. It is pervasive moral weakness that makes [defending traditional marriage] necessary. 

If everyone were in control of his appetites, there would be no need for the government to be involved in endorsing some sexual relationships while withholding endorsement from others.

    The more society undermines ancient standards of moral conduct, the harder it becomes to withstand temptation. This is why gay marriage threatens heterosexual marriage. When the awe in which people once held matrimony is diluted, by treating it as a man-made and thus amendable institution rather than a divinely determined one, heterosexuals find sexual sins of all sorts harder to resist.

    Oh, come on. He isn't saying that heterosexual men are more likely to indulge gay vices if we gay guys can marry, is he? Oh yes he is:

    Did the acceptability of gay love in today’s culture hasten Haggard’s fall? No doubt it did. It’s possible that the same man in a better time and place would have been beset by no such temptation.

    Such willful ignorance about the basics of sexual orientation is a common theme. A number of Christian websites have been linking to a blog post by Pastor Mark Driscoll, who leads a large evangelical church in Seattle, who gives rather telling advice to other pastors in the wake of Haggard's fall on how to avoid sexual sin. These heterosexual male pastors are so vulnerable, he argues, that their church secretaries should be men — heterosexual men — preferably with beautiful wives of their own:

    Churches should consider returning to heterosexual male assistants who are like Timothy and Titus to serve alongside pastors. … I have been blessed with a trustworthy heterosexual male assistant who can travel with me, meet with me, etc., without the fear of any temptations or even false allegations since we have beautiful wives and eight children between us.

    Markdriscoll_1 Having a spouse who is very attractive physically is apparently also crucial to these spiritual leaders. Driscoll emphasizes it repeatedly when faced with temptation. ("Thankfully, I was married to a beautiful woman.") He even puts it on the pastor's wife to keep herself in shape to satisfy her man (a pretty ballsy request considering that from this photo it looks like Driscoll could use some time on the StairMaster):

    It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Solomon is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.

    Driscoll goes on to urge pastors not to ever work alone in the church office, and to never ever travel alone. Ben Witherington, another influencial fundamentalist, has similar advice, urging close scrutiny of the heterosexual male minister: "Who's checking the minister's emails, voice mails and the like? In Haggard's case it is voice males which did him in." Yes, Witherington wrote "voice males" not "voice mails." Freud strikes again.

    One reverend, commenting on Wetherington's advice, goes even further: "I'm a pastor and my rule is quite simple: it's never ok to be alone with anyone except my family. Even in counseling my rule is strictly adhered to. If someone needs to talk to me, either someone they choose can be there or my wife will be there. Period."

    Witherington blames Haggard's sin on the delicate phase of the "male menopause," in the late 40s and early 50s, when "there is a biological clock ticking which sends the subtle message that time is running out on one's sexual life, and 'it's now or never' if one is going to have some sort of fling or walk on the wild side. This internal prompt leads to immoral behavior."

    Are heterosexual males really so vulnerable? As gay men, we interact daily with friends and acquaintances who are also gay men (and often in great shape and physically very attractive) and yet somehow we manage to avoid the temptation to bed them. Yet it would be inconceivable for these self-styled moralist leaders to have a female close friend (much less one more attractive than his wife).

    Aside from their apparent lack of self-control, are these evangelicals really so ignorant about basic human sexuality? I feel completely comfortable saying that even the most attractive, single, flirtatious female secretary would never tempt me into sexual sin. And though "male menopause" is thankfully still a few years off, I can't imagine my ticking biological clock leading me into trysts with women. I don't find them sexually attractive; I'm gay.

    Do these leaders really fail so completely to grasp the way human sexuality works? Or is the fundamentalist ministry full of closeted gay and bisexual men? Do they have so little faith in the effectiveness of their moral teachings that they must go to such extreme lengths to ward off sexual sin? They are, after all, but a few steps down the slippery slope from the Islamic fundamentalists, who cover their women in burkas to prevent men from engaging in sexual sin.

    In this context, it's clearer why Haggard's "overseers" fired him, even though he still denies being gay or having sex with another man. Receiving a massage from a gay man was "sexually immoral conduct" enough.

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    November 04, 2006

    So what if Haggard's a hypocrite?

    Posted by: Chris

    That's what some conservatives are asking, and it's worth it to answer the question.

    That Ted Haggard is a hypocrite, there is little doubt. Based on the allegations he has already admitted, this mega-church pastor and evangelical leader bought crystal methamphetamine and received a massage from a gay escort. His church board concluded today that "without a doubt… committed sexually immoral conduct." More than likely, we will come to learn that, as alleged, he paid the escort for sex, perhaps over a three-year period, all while Haggard was married with five children.

    Beyond the general hypocrisy of engaging in such conduct despite his pastoral role, Haggard has also been active in support of a constitutional amendment on Tuesday's Colorado ballot that would limit marriage to heterosexual couples. As Haggard's accuser, Denver escort Mike Jones, has put it: "What he is saying is we are not worthy [of marrying], but he is." 

    Haggardpoints_1For anyone who's felt the sting of religious disapproval, such hypocrisy resonates because it takes the moral judges down a few notches. For gay people who live our lives on the business-end of the extended forefinger from religious conservatives, comeuppance for a hypocrite like Haggard (an adulterous, drug-using, "john") is both galling and satisfying. Who is he to judge?

    But hypocrisy only gets you so far. We certainly can't claim that all those who oppose same-sex marriage or condemn gay relationships are similarly hypocrites, or even argue that if they don't live up to some other aspect of their sexual teachings, it somehow proves their judgment on homosexuality is bankrupt. "Let he without sin cast the first stone" is fine as far as it goes, but embrace it too closely and you'll find you're left with no one entitled to say much of anything about anything.

    We also can't conclude from Haggard's morality tale that being an evangelical Christian is more likely to lead to cheating on your partner, paying for sex, or buying crystal meth than does being gay. Plenty of completely out, well-adjusted gay men engage in one or more or all of the above. We can't even claim Haggard is worse than his accuser, who admits to years of being an escort and helping Haggard buy his meth. Jones isn't a better man simply because he never preached against such things. Hypocrisy isn't the only standard to live by.

    Andrew Sullivan has posted an excerpt from a piece by David Frum from National Review that defends Haggard as all in all a better man than most gay folks for at least trying:

    Consider the hypothetical case of two men. Both are inclined toward homosexuality. Both from time to time hire the services of male prostitutes. Both have occasionally succumbed to drug abuse. One of them marries, raises a family, preaches Christian principles, and tries generally to encourage people to lead stable lives. The other publicly reveals his homosexuality, vilifies traditional moral principles, and urges the legalization of drugs and prostitution. Which man is leading the more moral life?

    Frum concludes the admittedly-hypocritical preacher is more moral for making the effort, and rather than be condemned for his preaching, he should be congratulated for it:

    If a religious leader has a personal inclination toward homosexuality — and nonetheless can look past his own inclination to defend the institution of marriage and to affirm its benefits for the raising of children — why should he likewise not be honored for his intellectual firmness and moral integrity?

    Frum's hypothetical gives a free pass to the role Haggard's anti-gay teachings played in leading him to do what he did. How can Haggard be said to be defending the twin pillars of marriage and family when, by resisting his "inclination toward homosexuality" and marrying a woman, he's wrecked both marriage and family? If Haggard was too close to see that, surely Frum shouldn't be.

    But the biggest problem with Frum's hypothetical is that it doesn't allow for a third, not-so-hypothetical gay man, who opposes Haggard's theological and policy positions without "vilifying traditional moral principles." This third man, "inclined toward homosexuality," doesn't try heterosexual marriage, which places at risk the happiness of a wife and children, but instead accepts that he's gay and settles down with another man, perhaps even to raise a family and otherwise "lead a stable life."

    Haggard's conservatives allies, including Frum, don't have to be hypocritical to pass judgment on this third gay man's path, even though it is an honest one and backed by the wealth of social science support. They're just horribly unjustified. For them to persist in their judgment, despite evidence like Haggard of the wrecked lives that will result, isn't hypocritical either, but it's arrogant and cold-hearted. And to advocate that our government adopt as the law of the land — in our founding documents, no less — their moral-theological view isn't an example of hypocrisy, but it's downright oppressive.

    And that, my friends, is much worse than being a hypocrite.

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    "Rev does sex flap flip-flop"

    Posted by: Chris

    [Update: Eagle-eyed Dan Savage points out that in this video interview, Pastor Ted admitted buying meth and denied having gay, extramarital sex while his children sat watching from the backseat. Don't blame the reporter: She began the interview by asking him if he wanted to get out of his car to talk.]

    Haggardandwife The New York Daily News takes the prize so far for headlines on the Ted Haggard scandal, and in this case, how the evangelical leader is changing his story as more facts emerge. (The New York tabs always have the best headlines, of course. My personal fave, the New York Post on the day after the president's daughter was arrested for underage drinking in Austin: "Jenna and Tonic").

    Honorable mention so far goes to Rolling Stone, for "Haggard's Unhappy Ending: Admits Meth, Man-on-Man Massage." Let me know if you see any other good ones.

    The media will be engaged over the next cycle or so, sorting through the mess of allegations and denials. So far, Haggard first denied even knowing Mike Jones, the Denver escort who claims he was paid for sex monthly by the evangelical conservative, who he also claims he helped purchase crystal meth. Jones, 49, said that Haggard, 50, liked the drug because it enhanced sex.

    Once Haggard came forward with a voicemail and envelope from Haggard, the preacher confessed to exactly the facts he couldn't squirm out of: He now admits knowing Jones, getting a massage from him, and buying meth. But since the provable facts (so far) stop there, so does Haggard: no sex, he threw out the meth, and he was referred to Jones by some hotel he stayed at Denver.

    Haggard even stopped in his car with his wife to talk to the media to say "how grateful" he and his family are that Jones failed a lie detector test — at least on questions about a sexual relationship. But the expert who performed the test said the results could have been skewed because Jones was feeling quite haggard, with only two hours of sleep the night before. Jones will take two more tests early next week.

    No word on whether "grateful" Haggard is willing to take a test himself.

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    November 02, 2006

    "I know what you did last night"

    Posted by: Chris

    Haggardpoints… "If you send me a thousand dollars, I won't tell your wife."

    File this videoclip away under "What in the hell was he thinking?" Right alongside Gary Hart daring the press to prove he had been unfaithful to his wife, or Bill Clinton claiming he never had sex with "that woman." Or better yet, file it away under "His Karma Ate His Dogma":

    This is Rev. Ted Haggard, who resigned today from the National Association of Evangelicals, and took 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.

    It's on YouTube courtesy of the folks behind "Jesus Camp," a now-must-see documentary about the training of "Christian youth to assume leadership roles" in the evangelical movement. Read more below for why even such brazen hypocrisy isn't cause for glee.

    (Hat tip: Pam's House Blend)

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    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.

    TedhaggardThe 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.

    Mikejonesad 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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