With the national media salivating over diaper-clad astronauts and lobotomized slatterns overdosing on diet shakes, the sad saga of Ted Haggard has been all but forgotten. That's too bad because the saga is ongoing and as scandalous as ever.
To begin with, after only three weeks of "therapy," Haggard was pronounced "completely heterosexual" by his evangelical "overseers" (who included James Dobson's first cousin, HB London, but not Massa Ames from Alex Haley's "Roots").
Then -- this is the most salient part -- Haggard signed a non-disclosure agreement with his former congregation, New Life Church, and received an unknown sum of what could only be described as hush money. The agreement included a clause that forbids either Haggard or New Life from stating how much his silence was worth.
Finally, Haggard decided at the urging of National Association of Evangelicals board members to leave Colorado Springs and, together with his very loyal wife, study for his masters in psychology. I'll spare everyone the obvious joke here about lunatics running the asylum.
On February 18, Haggard's "overseers" will appear before New Life Church for a "Day of Hope," during which they will presumably declare a happy ending to the Haggard affair. New Life's parishioners can wash their hands of the whole mess and be born again, again.
The clinical, even rushed handling of the affair suggests that Haggard's so-called rehabilitation was actually an exercise in damage control by the image-obsessed Christian right. New Life and its allies waited patiently for the media circus to leave town, then promptly expelled Haggard into the wilderness. Now that Haggard is gone, Christian right leaders can breathe a sigh of relief. Even if he is caught taking skin flute lessons again, he can no longer taint their movement.
Haggard's old allies can also take comfort in the fact that the national media has left him behind in a sleazy trail of politically irrelevant pseudo-scandals. The significance of the resignation of another pastor from New Life for "sexual misconduct" just weeks after Haggard's dismissal has been completely overlooked. The amount of New Life's payment to Haggard remains unknown. New Life's motives for inducing Haggard's silence are unexamined. Do Haggard's former associates and allies have something to hide? What did they know and when did they know it?
The Haggard scandal may have been a factor in the GOP's midterm losses last November, but until Haggard's ex-allies are called to answer the hard questions about their handling of the scandal's aftermath, he will fade into history like Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and hundreds of other forgotten faith-based hypocrites. And as in the past, the amorphous movement comprising the Christian right will move forward unscathed.
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