Evangelical Leader Resigns Amid Sex Scandal

The head of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Rev. Ted Haggard, stepped down form his post amid allegations he had a three-year sexual relationship with another man. Madeleine Brand talks about the scandal with Fernando Quintero, a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY. One of the nation's foremost Evangelical preachers had resigned as leader of his mega-church in Colorado and as head of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Reverend Ted Haggard - who's married with five children - is accused of paying for sex with a male escort for the past three years. That escort - Mike Jones -says he came forward after hearing Haggard campaign against gay marriage.

Mr. MIKE JONES (Male escort): People may look at me and what I've done as immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind. And that is expose someone who is preaching one thing but doing the opposite behind everybody's back.

BRAND: And the Rev. Ted Haggard denied the allegations on Colorado's KUSA TV.

Unidentified Woman: ...gay relationship at all?

Reverend TED HAGGARD (National Association of Evangelicals): I've never had a gay relationship with anybody. I'm steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife. So I don't know if this is election year politics or if this has to do with the marriage amendment or what it is.

BRAND: Fernando Quintero is a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News in Colorado and he joins me now to talk about this scandal. Welcome to the program.

Mr. FERNANDO QUINTERO (Reporter, Rocky Mountain News): Thank you.

BRAND: You actually spoke with the accuser Mike Jones yesterday. Did he seem credible to you?

Mr. QUINTERO: Well, he was certainly resolute in his statement, and he was certainly standing behind what he had to say.

BRAND: And tell us more about the allegations. What he had to say.

Mr. QUINTERO: He said that he had a three-year relationship with Mr. Haggard. He said that he bought drugs for him, specifically crystal meth. He said that he arranged for Mr. Haggard to procure the drugs - he sort of acted as a middleman. And that the last time he saw him was this past summer in August.

BRAND: And he said he came forward now a few days before the election because -for political reasons, really.

Mr. QUINTERO: That's right. He said that he was seeing what was going on, seeing the headlines, watching the news, and he said he could no longer keep silent on what he was calling a hypocrisy on the part of Mr. Haggard and those who oppose gay rights. There are two amendments on the ballot here in Colorado.

One that would provide legal protections to same sex couples that would be equivalent to those afforded to married couples and then the other amendment is sort of the anti-gay amendment, which would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

BRAND: What does this do to the Evangelical movement? Here is a leader in the movement - he leads this mega-church of 14,000 members there in Colorado. What are the members saying about this?

Mr. QUINTERO: Well, they're shaken up. They are coming to his defense, at least the interviews that I've seen with some of his parishioners. They're shocked, they are in disbelief, and it's shaken up a very large church. And Colorado Springs is known as the center of the Evangelical movement in Colorado, and it's really taken the town by storm.

BRAND: Fernando Quintero is a reporter with the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Thank you for speaking with us.

Mr. QUINTERO: You're welcome.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Stay with us DAY TO DAY returns in a moment.

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