Pubdate: Sat, 04 Nov 2006
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2006 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper
Author: Stephanie Simon, Los Angeles Times
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


Top Evangelical Leader Says He Knew Escort But Their Association Was 
Not Intimate

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- One of the nation's most influential 
evangelical leaders admitted Friday that he visited a gay prostitute 
for a massage and bought methamphetamine for his personal use -- 
though he said he threw the drugs away without using them.

The Rev. Ted Haggard denied the allegation that the two men met for 
sex as often as every month for the past three years. But he did say 
he went to the man's apartment for a massage and later called him to buy meth.

"I never kept (the meth) very long," Haggard told a TV reporter who 
questioned him as he was leaving his home in Colorado Springs, a 
short drive from his 14,000-member mega church. "I was tempted. I 
bought it. But I never used it."

The man Haggard met in Denver, Mike Jones, has advertised as an 
escort in gay magazines. His Web site promises massages "with the 
pleasure of the man in mind." Haggard said he was referred to Jones 
for a massage by a Denver hotel.

"No concierge in Denver would have referred me," Jones told MSNBC on Friday.

Jones said he decided to come forward because he thought Haggard's 
public stand against same-sex marriage was hypocritical. The pastor 
has spoken out in favor of a measure to ban same-sex marriage that 
appears on Tuesday's ballot in Colorado.

Jones failed portions of a lie-detector test arranged by a Denver 
radio station Friday morning. The test showed deception specifically 
in the questions about his alleged sexual trysts with Haggard.

Nevertheless, a panel of pastors from outside New Life Church is 
looking into the accusations. So are Denver police investigators.

A popular leader The National Association of Evangelicals, which has 
30 million members, accepted Haggard's resignation as president 
Friday, with an acknowledgment that he had committed serious 
misconduct and needed "moral healing."

Friday night, hundreds of cars packed the New Life Church parking 
lot. A man bundled up against the cold held a sign that read: "God 
still loves you, Pastor Ted, and so do I."

In the three years Haggard, 50, has led the evangelical association, 
he has significantly raised its political profile. Though he doesn't 
campaign for specific candidates, he has said he votes a "straight 
ticket" -- and has left no doubt that the ticket is Republican.

Asked Friday whether Haggard had participated in the administration's 
weekly call with evangelicals, White House spokesman Tony Fratto 
said, "He had been on a couple of calls, but was not a weekly 
participant in those calls. I believe he's been to the White House 
one or two times."

Damaging to GOP hopes? The Haggard scandal saddened many evangelicals 
and left them wondering how their movement can reclaim its voice in 
politics, and whether any disillusionment will affect Tuesday's 
midterm election. Conservative evangelicals are a key part of the 
Republican base, and even before Haggard's misconduct hit the 
headlines, political analysts suggested many might be inclined to 
stay away from the polls.

The Haggard scandal "adds one more challenge for the Republicans," 
said Floyd Ciruli, an independent pollster based in Denver.

Even a mild depression in voter turnout in Colorado could affect two 
critical House races. Both the fifth and fourth congressional 
districts are heavily Republican, and polls show the GOP candidate in 
both districts is ahead. But the races are close enough that Vice 
President Dick Cheney came to Colorado Springs on Friday to campaign 
for Republican Doug Lamborn -- and President Bush is scheduled to be 
in Greeley, Colo., Saturday to rally support for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman