After a long stretch away from the public spotlight, former evangelical hotshot Ted Haggard has been accused of—you guessed it—an alleged scandal involving other men as well as inappropriate drug use.
If the name isn’t familiar to you, congratulations on being young. Here’s the brief history: In the mid-2000s, Haggard was the President of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was one of the most prominent conservative Christian voices during the George W. Bush era, the guy the media always went to for a sound bite.
Then, in 2006, a male escort (Mike Jones) realized that one of his clients was this pastor on television speaking out against same-sex marriage. Jones went public with the story, alleging that Haggard had paid him for sex and drugs over the course of a few years. Despite Haggard’s initial denials, he later admitted some of it was true… and it didn’t take long for Haggard to step down from the NAE, leave his Colorado church in disgrace, and become a national poster boy for Christian hypocrisy.
The most amazing thing about his downfall was how quickly and thoroughly it occurred. This pastor, once on top of the world, basically became a hermit. He sold insurance for a while, did a handful of big interviews in the subsequent years, and always insisted he was heterosexual.
For the past decade, though, he’s kept a much lower profile. He began a new church, Saint James Church, in Colorado Springs in 2010 and led it with relatively little public scrutiny ever since.
This past April, he sold the building housing his church for nearly $2 million, supposedly shifting his focus to a new model of home-based churches.
And that’s the backdrop for a new story in which two members of Saint James Church allege that Haggard is still making sexually inappropriate advances towards men (including one who was a minor at the time) and using drugs.
The centerpiece of the Denver Gazette story is Rev. Kirk Sethman, who was ordained by and worked with Haggard at Saint James.
Sethman said he’s concerned that as Haggard establishes his home ministry — including providing a children’s and youth ministry room in the basement, as Haggard describes in his sermons — that the potential for Haggard to pursue inappropriate actions with youths is high.
“My prayer is protecting the children and the young adults,” Sethman said.
In their recorded statements, the two young males speak of Haggard taking teens and young men four-wheeling without shirts and their chests muddied, and of a propensity to come in contact with their bodies beyond a typical shoulder squeeze.
The groomer, it appears, is coming from inside the building.
To be clear, there’s no allegation of sexual assault. Ted Haggard is accused of inappropriate behavior at worst. But the illegal drug use is a different issue altogether, and Sethman was a direct witness to that. He says that in 2012, Haggard asked a church member (whom he was counseling) to buy him some meth. Word got back to Sethman, and he brought a doctor who also attended the church to confront Haggard with him.
Haggard admitted he had the drugs and handed a briefcase to Sethman, asking him to get rid of the contents so he could avoid the temptation.
After Sethman left Haggard’s home with the briefcase, he said he decided to open it.
Inside, Sethman said he found a bag of methamphetamine with very little of the nearly 1 gram of meth left from what the young man had bought for Haggard. It also contained a “well-used” glass meth pipe, multiple sex toys, a DVD with two young males on the cover and a credit card with Ted Haggard’s name on it, Sethman said.
He said he didn’t go to the police or tell other church members.
“I was protecting the young man, the church and Ted,” Sethman said. “My choice I made was wrong, but I thought I was doing right.”
In 2019, Sethman confronted Haggard about his past actions and demanded he come clean to the church and police. Instead, Haggard called the police… acting as a victim.
In a tape of the 911 call to police released to The Gazette, Haggard described Sethman as a delusional madman who had Haggard cornered in his church office. He also told the other member who was in the office with Sethman that he would ruin his life.
It’s just drama from there on out. There’s no criminal investigation against Haggard and he’s never been charged with any wrongdoing relating to these allegations.
But the fact remains that the 66-year-old Haggard remains a Christian leader, albeit in a smaller bubble than before. That power gives him access to young men as well as a heap of unearned trust. At this point, you have to wonder why anyone would trust him. Then again, his entire life has been a series of convincing people they should trust him, then letting them down in the worst possible ways.