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Gallagher: Allegations raise political, timing questions

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- A national religious leader with White House ties, the Rev. Ted Haggard, resigned Thursday after accusations by a male prostitute that the pastor paid him for sex during a three-year period.

An official of Haggard's church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said there has been "some admission of guilt," but not to all of the allegations against Haggard. The official didn't give any more details.

CNN faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher spoke with CNN's Miles O'Brien on Friday about issues linked to the accusations against Haggard, including gay rights initiatives which will appear on election ballots in eight states on Tuesday.

GALLAGHER: The accusation is that this evangelical pastor had sex with a man for the past three years. The accuser is a man named Mike Jones. He's 49 years old and he says that Haggard paid him for sex almost monthly for three years.

And Haggard has denied this. (Watch Haggard deny the accusations -- 2:07 Video)

Ted Haggard, remember, is a very important evangelical pastor. Let's take a look at some of the things he's done.

He's 50 years old. He's a married father of five. He's the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, which is an umbrella organization for a lot of evangelical churches. They have 30 million members.

And importantly, he's the pastor of this New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And this church he has grown himself. It has about 11,000 members now and it's known -- very well known in the evangelical community. He was one of Time magazine's top 25 most influential pastors.

So ... it can't be underestimated the kind of impact this is having in the evangelical community.

Within these charges of sex, there were also charges of drug use, specifically, methamphetamines. (Watch Mike Jones insist his story is true and that he has nothing to gain by lying -- 1:20)

O'BRIEN: Obviously, this would upset a lot of evangelicals. Let's put this all in perspective, though. This organization that he headed until he stepped down, the National Association of Evangelicals, a very powerful, influential organization.

GALLAGHER: It is. And Ted Haggard was an adviser to the White House, and the National Association of Evangelicals sets the agenda in many respects for what the Christian right in this country wants.

And so, it's certainly an important organization. However, I think the -- that's a political organization, whereas his being the head of this New Life Church is really where the impact is going to be felt in this.

I mean, for the moment, the evangelicals I've spoken to are completely behind him and supportive of him. But it's still got to play out. And obviously they're very shocked by these allegations.

O'BRIEN: Colorado is one of eight states where there's an amendment to ban gay marriage on the ballot. He's been at the forefront pushing for this amendment. Obviously the allegations of politics might resonate.

GALLAGHER: Yes. There's a lot of question in the evangelical community as to the timing of this and the motivations for it. So that's certainly something to watch come Tuesday.

However, those people I've spoken with say, "Look, you know, we're against gay marriage regardless of what happens with our leaders and so on. We don't vote on that just because what they think about it." So that may be a separate issue to these kinds of allegations, which are scandalous for this community.


CNN faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher



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