Before resigning in disgrace after a three-year relationship with a male prostitute, Ted Haggard — the founder and former pastor of the New Life Church — was one of the Christian Right’s most powerful figures and a close confidante of the Bush White House. In 2006, Haggard — who railed against gays — admitted he was a “deceiver and a liar” and confessed to doing meth and engaging in “sexual immorality” with a male prostitute.
Moments ago, Haggard announced that he would be opening a new, more inclusive church, St. James, that would be open to “gay, straight, bi, tall, short” members and would focus on “helping other people going through the most difficult times of their lives.” “I just want to help people,” he said.
Asked if his new church would take a position on homosexuality, Haggard said “we will take positions.” “I’m going to teach the bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse,” “but I don’t want to be a political activist.” Haggard explained that the church won’t advocate a specific public policy, but would instead “encourage” members to strive towards the ideal of biblical heterosexuality and monogamy:
HAGGARD: We are a church and I believe that God’s ideal plan for marriage is the union of a man and a woman in a heterosexual monogamous relationship, so those are the types of marriages we will do in our church. Now, as for society, working with that question, that is a totally different subject. But within the Church, that’s where we at St. James will be. [...]
Let me say something regarding your question regarding same-sex marriage. … I answered it by saying, ‘it is God’s ideal.’ It is also God’s ideal that people pray continually, it is God’s ideal that all of us have our weight under control. It is God’s ideal that mothers never get so frustrated and heart broken that they yell at their children. It is God’s ideal that there not be any abuse or poverty or shame in people’s lives. … God has ideals, that’s what we discuss. But earth is not heaven. And here on earth, sexuality is very complex and very confusing. Weight issues are a deep struggle that people go through, health issues, prayer issues, whether there is a God issue. … Inside the Church we discuss God’s ideals, but the discussion about public policy is a total separate discussion.
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While he has recently claimed that “I was never a religious right, hateful, anti-gay guy,” at his peak, Haggard catered to the Christian Right’s demonization of gays, calling homosexuality a “sin” and arguing, “We don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity, it’s written in the Bible.” Haggard also said that Western civilization could be devastated by same-sex marriage.