New gay allegations leveled at fallen church leader

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A young man who formerly attended New Life Church says that then-pastor Ted Haggard performed a sex act in front of him in a hotel room in 2006 and sent him explicit text messages.

His hidden relationship with Haggard, the man said, was followed by a period of isolation, struggles with drinking, drugs and suicide attempts.

Those latest allegations against Haggard, once an influential national evangelical leader, were reported Monday night by KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs, which interviewed the man, now 25.

In a statement earlier Monday, Haggard apologized for his “inappropriate relationship” with the former church volunteer, but said it did not involve physical contact.

The newly disclosed relationship added a chapter to Haggard’s dramatic fall, which began in November 2006 when a Denver male prostitute alleged a cash-for-sex relationship with Haggard.

Haggard confessed to undisclosed “sexual immorality” and resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church.

The latest revelations involve Grant Haas, who told the TV station that he met Haggard in 2005 when he was 22. He said he told Haggard that he had been kicked out of a Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for his “struggles with homosexuality.”

“It seemed like at that moment his eyes lit up and his whole attitude towards me changed,” he told KRDO. Reached by text message Monday, Haas agreed to be identified by The Associated Press. Haggard’s statement also identified him.

“I’m like, ‘This must be God,’” said Haas, who described wanting to be a pastor himself. “Why would this big guy, this big evangelical leader, be taking such an interest in me?”

Haas told KRDO that one night in Cripple Creek, a casino town west of Colorado Springs, Haggard “asked me if we were going to be godly or bad that night.” He said he told Haggard that he wanted him just to be his friend and pastor — but that Haggard masturbated in front of him.

Haas also said Haggard at certain times sent him between 1,000-2,000 text messages a month, some describing his sexual experiences and drug use from the road.

After the Haggard scandal in November 2006, Haas said he contacted the church immediately.

The church has said it struck a legal settlement with the man — it has not named Haas — in 2007 that paid him for college tuition and counseling as long as he did not speak publicly about the relationship. Brady Boyd, Haggard’s successor as pastor at New Life, called it “compassionate assistance — certainly not hush money.”

According to documents Haas provided KRDO, he is to be paid $179,000 through 2009. Haas claimed the church didn’t follow through on promises to pay for counseling and medical treatment.

“Their main focus was, you know, cover it up, don’t say anything,” he said. “You’ll regret it if you come forward.”

Haggard, in his statement Monday, said he met with Haas two years ago — after the first allegations came to light — and asked him “forgiveness for our inappropriate relationship.” Haggard’s wife and a representative of New Life Church attended the meeting, Haggard said.

Boyd disclosed details of the relationship last Friday. He said then that evidence pointed to a long-running “inappropriate, consensual sexual relationship.” On Monday, Boyd clarified that “sexual” didn’t necessarily mean physical contact.

“Our hearts go out to everyone hurt by the inappropriate actions that took place under former Pastor Ted Haggard,” Boyd said in a statement.

Boyd also suggested that the man would not have come forward if an HBO documentary on Haggard were not airing this week. On Sunday, Boyd told his congregation, “I’m sorry that this wound has been reopened for many of you.”

Alexandra Pelosi, director of the HBO documentary, said Monday she was sorry if that was the case.

“But this is what happens when you don’t handle things properly at the time,” said Pelosi, a daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “If the church had been 100-percent full disclosure at the time, maybe this wouldn’t be a problem now.”

Haas maintains a Web site, on which he acknowledges that many people are visiting the site to learn about his experiences with Haggard. On the site, Haas identifies himself as a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

His résumé says he was an intern at New Life Church in 2005 — the church described him as a volunteer — and currently works at an investment company as a retail account manager.

“As far as my personality, I’m a fun, outgoing guy with a great sense of humor,” he says on the site. “I don’t take myself too seriously and have learned from my past experiences to laugh and enjoy life.”

Haggard, 52, is married with five children.

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