Evangelical leader says he bought drugs

Reverend Ted Haggard, the former president of the National Association of Evangelicals and one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders, today admitted he bought the illegal drug methamphetamine from a gay escort in Denver, but denied ever having sex with the man.

Mr. Haggard resigned as president of the evangelical association and stepped down as senior pastor of the New Life megachurch in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Thursday after Michael Forest Jones, a self-described gay former prostitute , accused him of having sex for three years and using drugs, commonly known as crystal meth, during those encounters.

Earlier, in an email sent to parishioners and obtained by local media, Ross Parsley, the acting pastor of New Life Church, said: “It is important for you to know that he confessed to overseers that some accusations against him are true.

Speaking to Denver TV station KUSA outside his home in Colorado Springs today, Mr Haggard said a hotel in Denver referred him to Mr Jones for a massage. He said he met Mr. Jones and purchased the drug. “I was tempted, I bought it, but I didn’t use it,” he said today. The station posted the video interview on its website.

He said he threw the drug away shortly after buying it. “I never kept it very long because it was wrong,” he said.

When asked if he had sex with Mr Jones, he replied: “No, I didn’t.” He also stated that he had never used the drug with Mr. Jones, as Mr. Jones claimed.

Mr Haggard, 50, married with five children, has always denied the sexual accusation, saying in a television interview: “I am stable with my wife. I am faithful to my wife.

He also said he had never met the man making the accusation.

In his message, Mr Parsley said Mr Haggard “has voluntarily and humbly submitted to the oversight board and will remain on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation”.

Credit…Reuters

On Thursday, Mr Haggard said: “I am voluntarily stepping down from leadership so that the oversight process can take place with integrity. I hope to be able to discuss this issue in more detail at a later date.

The Reverend Richard Cizik, vice president of government affairs for the evangelical association, said the group’s 15-member executive council would meet today to decide whether to accept the resignation.

The evangelical association says on its website that same-sex sex is condemned in Scripture, and Mr Haggard has advocated for an amendment to the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

Mr Jones, 49, told KUSA that Mr Haggard had paid him for sex for the past three years and had used methamphetamine on several occasions.

“People can look at me and think what I’ve done is immoral,” Mr Jones, who said he’s no longer a prostitute, told KUSA. “But I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind, and that’s exposing someone who preaches one thing and does the opposite behind everyone’s backs.”

Mr Jones took a polygraph in further interviews and partially failed, local broadcasters said. They said the examiner said he would like to retest because Mr Jones was exhausted at the time of the first test.

Mr Haggard said in a lengthy interview with KUSA that he has never used drugs of any kind and does not smoke or drink alcohol.

Mr. Haggard has backed an amendment to the state Constitution banning same-sex marriage, which Coloradans will vote on next week. He told KUSA that the charges may have been politically motivated.

“It angered me that someone was preaching about same-sex marriage and going backstage having gay sex,” Mr Jones said.

Barry F. Howard