Seven Years Later, Ted Haggard and His Old Church Are Fine, but What About the Man Who Exposed Haggard’s Hypocrisy?

In a cover story for December’s Christianity Today, Patton Dodd explores how New Life Church in Colorado Springs is doing several years after founding pastor Ted Haggard had a dramatic fall from power:

Over the first weekend of November 2006, New Life’s meteoric rise came to a crashing halt. Haggard resigned from his church and the [National Association of Evangelicals] in the wake of accusations of drug use and a sexual relationship with a man in Denver.

New Life was left with $26 million in debt, dwindling resources, and uncertainty at every turn. More accusers came forward. In the coming months, reports of Haggard’s recovery and restoration popped up, usually putting both church and former pastor in a bad light…

The Haggard revelations were like catnip for so many of us since he was arguably the most influential evangelical leader of the time and a key voice for the anti-gay-rights movement.

Dodd writes that, while the church is bouncing back, it’s still trying to reclaim its identity:

The various expressions of Christian discipleship at New Life — liturgy, reexamining theological commitments, refining and humbling the pastoral office, attending to the needs of Colorado Springs’s most vulnerable, and charismatic prayer and worship — are possible in some ways only because New Life remains a megachurch. It remains a big tent, but now it’s one without a unified brand or personality.

What about Haggard? He began a new church in Colorado a few years ago and it’s chugging along. He wasn’t happy with this article, though, as he wrote on his Facebook page:

I am sympathetic for Patton Dodd. Awkward during his high school years, raised by a hard working but struggling Mom as his Dad was an alcoholic who ended up taking his own life in despair. Because of that plight, while at New Life I hired him out of sympathy in order to help fund his education. That turned out to be a bad decision. Sadly, his pain bleeds over in a variety of ways. Now he’s written an article rewriting history. For those of you who attended New Life during my time and know me, please set the record straight on this article that is a fine example of yellow journalism.

Haggard doesn’t specify what history has been rewritten…

Meanwhile, the one person whose voice was ignored in all of this discussion was that of Mike Jones, the former escort who “outed” Haggard after realizing that his client was the same man who frequently went on television to denounce homosexuality.

While Jones did several interviews after the scandal broke, even writing a book about it, he feels that the gay community turned its collective back on him when he needed them the most. You can understand why: Even though Jones exposed the tabloid-worthy hypocrisy of one of the most famous evangelical Christians in the country, he was still an escort and a drug-user. If you were going to draw up your ideal spokesperson for gay rights, that stuff probably wouldn’t be in the description. As a result, he has little to show for his actions.

I first met Jones about six years ago when he did an interview for this site. Since then, we’ve emailed each other periodically. Yesterday, I asked Jones how he was doing years after the scandal. Was he doing as well as New Life Church? Has he bounced back like Ted Haggard?

This is what he told me (quoted with permission):

The positive part of my life is the line of work I am in. I care for Alzheimer’s and elderly individuals. It is not a glamorous job and [is] sometimes very trying, but I feel I am making a difference in people’s lives who may otherwise have no one around who cares. My father is still living who I love very much and I am still close to my younger brother. All other family members never did get over my public life and want no contact with me. Makes me sad but I have come to terms with that.

I always considered myself a gay rights activist. But as time has passed I no longer fall into that category. In fact I could care less about the gay community. I learned no one owns the word hypocrisy and intolerance. Many may look at the following as bitter and maybe I am. When I look back at my story, I have a box full of newspaper articles which indicated that this scandal had changed the political landscape. Even Karl Rove stated that the Haggard scandal helped the Democrats win. Now perhaps I am wrong, but what other gay person has made such a national political impact? Colorado went from a red state to blue.

Recently, Colorado passed Civil Unions. We also have a new Speaker of the House, Mark [Ferrandino], who happens to be gay. I contacted the Speaker by voice mail and email asking to be part of the celebration when the vote happened because of what I had been through and my sacrifice to get to this point in history. I neither received a call back or a response from my email. The gay community has snubbed me big time and tossed me to the side. So I could care less about gay rights! Perhaps I had made a big mistake.

So this is where I am at in life.

But I do offer thanks and gratitude to the individuals who did offer me support.

Despite the frustration he still feels toward the gay community, there’s no argument that he made a courageous and tremendously important decision in exposing Haggard. He didn’t have to, and if he remained silent, who knows how much more powerful Haggard (and the evangelical movement) would have gotten. We owe Jones a huge debt of gratitude for coming clean about what was happening even though it meant putting himself in the line of fire and revealing his own secrets.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Harry

    Mike, if you’re reading this, thank you! There are a lot of “little” people in America who appreciate what you’ve done. And congrats on getting out of the escort business and off drugs. You’re a stronger man than many.

  • Rob P

    Mike Jones will always be a hero to me.

  • KMR

    I like your summary. He is owed a huge gratitude. He exposed a religious leader for the hypocrite that he was, stopped a large church and their growing, negative propaganda and reminded people that power very often corrupts even those who profess to be godly. Thanks to him many of us learned a powerful lesson. I wish Mr. Jones much peace, goodwill, and whatever he considers success.

    • http://empiricalpierce.wordpress.com/ EmpiricalPierce

      Power very often corrupts, especially those who profess to be godly.

  • brian dean

    Ted Haggard is completely heterosexual:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZmHC75FDqQ

    • Cattleya1

      Roy is such a great iconoclast! I had forgotten what a hoot this video was. As for Mike Jones – I used to run STD and AIDS clinics. Sex workers are people too. They are doing what they have to do to get by. I am glad it turned out well for Mike. I grieve over the ones who don’t do so well. Ted was, after all, paying for it all. It makes me wonder about the people who go to his new church. Why do they want to listen to him every Sunday? How could they give him money? He landed on his feet and went right back to scamming stupid people. It is why I will never be rich.

      • Liz Erbe Wilcox

        I was stunned at how quickly the so-called christians in our community cast Ted and his family aside once his sins came to light. Not one stood by him in his time of need, not one. There was no compassion for the fallen as I believe their christ would have shown him.

        You must read Gale Haggard’s ‘Why I Stayed” to understand what this ‘church’ did to their family. It was a disgusting display of hatred unlilke any I have seen.

        Did Ted do wrong? Yes, he did.

        • http://rolltodisbelieve.wordpress.com/ Captain Cassidy

          What would you have had your community do instead? I can see forgiving him for his transgressions, I can see condemning the weird “reparative therapy” thing they tried to do to him, I can see standing by the guy and his family, but what, do you think that he should still be in a position of power? This article shows us that he hasn’t actually learned how to be honest or authentic and that he still can’t face reality. I don’t think any church with sense would want Haggard anywhere near its pulpit.

          • Liz Erbe Wilcox

            My point was simply that christians tout compassion, forgiveness, etc. but the ones such as Dobson turned their backs. This is not what I would have expected from one who portrays themself as christian.

            Clearly, he should have been exposed, no question about it.

            • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

              Dobson did what he preaches. It has nothing to do with compassion or forgiveness, but rather judgmentalism and putting people in tiny boxes, there to suffocate instead of living their lives.

              I feel sorry for Gale Haggard and their children. They didn’t ask for the circus. But Ted Haggard? When you reap the bitter fruit of hatred and intolerance that you sowed, I can only feel a sense of schadenfreude.

  • http://Www.theirishatheist.wordpress.com/ The Irish Atheist

    I have a lot of respect for this man. It’s people like him who make me proud to say I’m an LGBT ally.

  • Todd Heath

    Mike, you’ll always have the deepest love and respect from this member of the gay community.

    You embody the very spirit of Stonewall. It was the freaks, drug users, Drag Queens, “Dykes”, and outcast that were the core of the gay rights movement during this period. “Respectable” gays distanced themselves from Stonewall until they saw the success of the movement and then they tried to claim they were a part all along. (Read about the Mattachine Society for those unaware of gay rights history.)

    • Mary O’Grady

      Exactly correct, Todd Heath.

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    I think he did the right thing. I’ve had friends who escorted at various points because they needed the money. We live in a highly hypocritical society. People use illegal drugs but vote for politicians who rail against them and propose tougher laws against them. And prostitutes wouldn’t exist if there weren’t plenty of people looking for those services and willing to pay for them. It’s almost a joke in our culture now when the anti-gay politician gets caught in a gay sex scandal. Just last month a Congressman who proposed drug testing for welfare recipients got busted for cocaine possession. it seems to me that the louder someone rants about morality, the more they are likely to be doing exactly what they are railing against.

    I know that Jones wasn’t always treated well by the gay community, but in exposing the hypocrisy of Ted Haggard he did help the movement towards gay rights. I’ve also been impressed by him in interviews and embarrassed by the cluelessness of the reporters. One in particular didn’t seem to clue in that it wasn’t a problem that Haggard wasn’t wearing a condom because he wasn’t the one doing the inserting in their sexual activities. But then the idiocy of what passes for “reporters” these days is hardly breaking news.

  • Stev84

    According to other reports, New Life Church is as homophobic as ever:
    http://www.5280.com/magazine/2012/12/jeanne-assam-still-waiting?page=0,2

    Short: first brainwashed a lesbian into thinking she could be straight (as usual they preyed on someone very desperate who had just lost her job and lacked a perspective on what to do with her life), then lauded her as a hero when she shot a gunman rampaging there, then kicked her out when she was outed

    • Rob P

      I read part of that linked story and while what happened to her shouldn’t have, this quote from her is scary. “If he killed himself, Satan would have gotten him. I know [killing him] was the most merciful thing I could have done.”

  • LWMT

    Thank you Mike! Haggard demonstrated real immorality by profiting off a lie. You did the right thing to expose him. I wish everyone in your life could see how valuable a contribution you made to society but know that you do have many allies and people that respect you.

  • Toni

    I knew many ‘closeted’ civil rights workers as I grew up in the south..Including my father. The fear of being shunned, or much worse, kept many a brave soul from stepping out. The gay rights movement is no different from the civil rights movement, and you, Mike Jones, are one of the true heroes. You have my complete admiration. Ted Haggard was, and is, an evil man and what you revealed about him showed the hypocrisy of these ‘holier-than-thou’ megachurch preachers. You need only be proud of your courage.

  • SeekerLancer

    It’s not yellow journalism if you’re the one doing the lying, Ted.

  • Brian Westley

    I’m always amused by the phrase “meteoric rise”, as that’s exactly what meteors don’t do…

    • sane37

      They technically do before the ball of flames (depending on approach).

  • Randay

    “an escort and drug-user”, so where is the bad part?

    • sane37

      American society’s hangups about people actually being free to live how they want.

  • Corey Robey

    Mike should be happy that he scored points for humanity in its struggle against inhumanity. Whatever he perceives the gay community as doing or not doing is kind of beside the point. He outed an anti human hypocrite. That makes him a hero.

    • sane37

      The problem with being a hero is that the pay sucks

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Mike, I want to thank you for everything that you did and I am sorry that the gay community did not support you when you exposed the hypocrisy of Haggard. You did a great service and it should have been different.

    As Todd Heath mentioned you are like the people at stonewall that stood up and wouldn’t deal with the police crap anymore.

  • Anon

    Twice he says he “could care less.” I think he means couldn’t care less.

    • http://www.last.fm/user/m6wg4bxw/ m6wg4bxw

      When I read or hear it, I think, “How much less could you care?”

      Reckless use of negations makes me crazy sometimes.

  • CamasBlues

    Mike Jones – I hope you’re reading this, because I want to add my voice to the other commenters here & say, you are a hero & thank you for speaking out. I am sorry you’ve had to pay a high price for doing the right thing. I am glad your father & brother are there to be close to you & I hope things get better.

    And that Facebook quote from Haggard? Ugh. What an epic DOUCHE.

  • Neil

    Mike Jones deserves every plaudit for his exposure of Haggard as a classic example of conservative hypocrisy. I’d be curious as to what he expected as support from this idea known as “the gay community”. As several gay commenters have demonstrated here, Mr Jones’ efforts are well appreciated by many people in the community. But there isn’t necessarily this monolithic thing that’s referred to as “the gay community” that can somehow be blamed for not acting in a particular way.

    If Mr Jones feels let down by particular organisations or politicians then he has every right to talk about how they did so. I’m not sure I see much value in running down gays and lesbians for not being that monolith. Isn’t the reward for activism the sort of change that Mr Jones describes? What kind of support was he expecting, I wonder. It sounds like he feels let down by Mark Ferrandino. And he probably has a point. As for gays and lesbians generally, I’m not so sure I understand what was supposed to happen for him.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Mike, I am grateful for and inspired by your courage, and I’m disappointed in the gay community’s abandonment of you. They owe you better than that. I hope some day they recant their foolish embarrassment because you were not perfect, and they honor you for the brave point man that you are.

    I understand your bitterness. Please don’t let that grow and fester. Let it fade, let it heal. You did the right thing.

    “One’s virtue is all that one truly has, because it is not imperilled by the vicissitudes of fortune.” –Boethius

  • L.G. Keltner

    Mike, you may not have the squeaky clean history that people expect role models to have, but that doesn’t detract from what you did. In fact, your actions in exposing Ted Haggard seem far more brave because of the personal impact it had on you. You exposed someone who was harming others with his hateful words while at the same time opening yourself up for hatred and abuse. You may not be perfect (and none of us are, so I can’t stand the fact that we demand perfection of our heroes), but your courage and honesty in this situation make you a worthy role model as far as I’m concerned.


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