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Thursday, February 08, 2007

BREAKING NEWS: Protestants Tithe To Support Payoffs for Sexual Misbehavior

Hush money is no longer the sole domain of the Catholic church.

Haggard Agrees Not To Discuss Scandal Publicly
Years-Long Recovery Lasted 3 Weeks

POSTED: 8:22 pm MST February 7, 2007
UPDATED: 10:58 am MST February 8, 2007

DENVER -- Ted Haggard and the mega church he founded in Colorado Springs have signed an agreement that bars him from speaking publicly about the scandal that led to his departure from the church, co-pastor Rob Brendle said Wednesday.

Haggard resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was forced out as senior pastor at the 14,000-member New Life Church last year after a Denver man made sex and drug allegations against him. Haggard publicly admitted to "sexual immorality."

Haggard told church members in an e-mail Sunday that his family planned to leave Colorado Springs and that he and his wife planned to pursue master's degrees in psychology.

Haggard signed an agreement last week that he would not rejoin the ministry at New Life Church, which he founded in 1985, Brendle said. Haggard agreed to relocate from Colorado Springs and not to speak publicly about the scandal.

The agreement included a financial settlement -- and a stipulation that neither the church nor Haggard would disclose the amount.

Brendle said that the decision for the Haggards to leave Colorado Springs was mutual.

"We recognize that his contributions to our church are immeasurable, as our founder and as our senior pastor for 22 years. At the same time, we recognize that his indiscretions are inexcusable," Brendle said.

Haggard went to a Tucson, Ariz. religious retreat after his resignation, where he was to undergo a "restoration plan" for his problems. The counseling team charged with restoring Haggard spiritually said earlier that the process could take as long as five years.

He stayed three weeks.

Haggard's intensive counseling was geared toward returning him to a life "that conforms with the teachings of the Bible and the example of Jesus," a pastor at his former church said.

"Beyond that, it's fruitless to speculate," associate New Life Church Pastor Rob Brendle said regarding claims that Haggard is "completely heterosexual" after counseling. "That (his sexual identity) is something that likely only Ted knows for sure."

Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur, one of four ministers who oversaw Haggard's three weeks of intensive counseling, told The Denver Post that Haggard is convinced he's heterosexual and his behavior wasn't a constant thing. Ralph said their investigation found Haggard was only involved with a former male prostitute, Mike Jones, who came forward with sexual allegation.

"Give me a break," Jones told The Gazette of Colorado Springs Wednesday, adding that Haggard performed oral sex on him over the three years they saw each other.

"Until he's honest with himself, he'll never be happy," Jones said.

Haggard's counseling after his gay affair have rekindled debate over the controversial premise that people can overcome same-sex attractions through "reparative therapy." It's a concept espoused by many religious conservatives, and disputed by many mental health experts.

"After three weeks of counseling, you suddenly become completely heterosexual after a three year homosexual relationship? That's not the way things work in real life," said Matt Foreman, executive director of the Washington-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which in the 1970s worked to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

When the directions about tithing were set down in Scripture, I don't think this is what the writers had in mind.