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Ted and Gayle Haggard (Photo by Nora Feller/HBO)

Fall from grace

Religion | A new documentary on Ted Haggard airs this week on HBO, as additional allegations against the former pastor surface

As HBO prepares to premiere "The Trials of Ted Haggard," a documentary about the fallout from the former pastor's 2006 sex and drug scandal, new accusations have surfaced. Grant Haas, a former volunteer at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., where Haggard was pastor, revealed earlier this week that Haggard performed a sex act in front of him in a hotel room in 2006 and sent him thousands of explicit text messages.

Haas, who was 22 at the time of the incident, provided KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs documents that showed he was to be paid $179,000 by New Life through this year. Haas claims he is coming forward now because the church did not follow through on promises to pay for his counseling and medical treatment.

"Their main focus was, you know, cover it up, don't say anything," Haas said. "You'll regret it if you come forward."

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Haggard, 52, said in a statement released Monday that he met with Haas two years ago-after the first allegations came to light-and asked him "forgiveness for our inappropriate relationship."

Brady Boyd, Haggard's successor as pastor at New Life, called the money the church has given to Haas "compassionate assistance-certainly not hush money."

In a statement, Boyd said, "Our hearts go out to everyone hurt by the inappropriate actions that took place under former Pastor Ted Haggard." A year ago, the church released a statement saying, "[T]he process of restoring Ted Haggard is incomplete and [New Life] maintains its original stance that he should not return to vocational ministry." At that time Haggard was reportedly continuing an "accountability relationship" with Tommy Barnett, senior pastor of Phoenix First Assembly of God in Arizona.

Boyd also suggested that Haas 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."

On Monday, Alexandra Pelosi, director of the HBO documentary that premieres on the cable network Thursday (8 p.m. EST), said she was sorry if that was the case: "But this is what happens when you don't handle things properly at the time. If the church had been 100 percent full disclosure at the time, maybe this wouldn't be a problem now."

Haggard, who also headed the politically powerful National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), initially was embroiled in scandal in late 2006, when Mike Jones, a male escort, accused him of engaging in homosexual sex and using methamphetamines. Haggard, while admitting to an "improper relationship," denied using the drugs or having sex with Jones.

Following his resignations from New Life and the NAE, Haggard and his five children moved through Texas and Arizona, trying to deal with the aftermath of the scandal and to find work. And Pelosi and her cameras were there to chronicle his journey.

Pelosi, who is the daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, had featured Haggard in a 2007 HBO documentary titled "Friends of God: A Road Trip with Alexandra Pelosi." During filming, which took place just months before the original scandal broke, Pelosi developed a close relationship with Haggard. She, along with her husband, later helped Haggard move and start a new career selling insurance.

Although "The Trials of Ted Haggard" fails to answer any specific questions about Haggard's past behavior, it does follow him through moments of despair and of faith, and it doesn't shy away from telling the story of allegations of homosexual sex and drug use and of his eventual downfall.

It's apparent that Pelosi sees the fallen leader with a sympathetic eye, as a victim of the Church, saying at an event earlier this month, "The people who go to church get told every Sunday, 'We forgive.' He was not forgiven. That, to me, is what is interesting about it."

Haggard's latest accuser has been quoted as saying he wanted to come forward this week because the documentary portrayed Haggard as a victim.

In an interview published by The New York Times, Pelosi said, "My film is not about whether Ted had one indiscretion or 1,000. Clearly he has issues. This film is about what happened to a man and his family after his fall from grace."

One person who was aware of Haggard's struggles long before they became public was his wife. In an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show Wednesday, Gayle Haggard said her husband told her early in their 30-year marriage that he "struggled with some thoughts."

"I felt it was the thing that could destroy Ted if he gave in to it," she said. "So I prayed for him and I felt as though he was winning the battle."


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