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Religious Tolerance logo


The National Association of Evangelicals,
homosexuality, and reparative therapy

Some events following Ted
Haggard's resignation from NAE

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This is a continuation of the essay that describes Ted Haggard's resignation
from the National Association of Evangelicals (NEA):

Reparative therapy controversy as triggered by Haggard's problems:

As of mid-November, 2006, Haggard's statements about his activities with Jones remain lacking in specificity . However, the media, homosexual advocates, religious commentators, etc. appear to believe that Haggard had repeatedly engaged in same-sex sexual activity with the gay escort over a period of a few years. He did state in a letter written to his parishioners:

"There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life. Through the years, I've sought assistance in a variety of ways, with none of them proving to be effective in me."

David Crary of the Associated Press wrote:

"Even as he pledges to undergo further counseling, Haggard's comments have rekindled debate over the premise that people can overcome same-sex attractions through 'reparative therapy.' It's a concept espoused by many religious conservatives, and disputed by many mental health practitioners.

Wayne Besen, a gay-rights activist and author, referring to Haggard's repeated and unsuccessful attempts to change through therapy, said:

"Haggard is Exhibit A of how people can't change their sexual orientation. With all that he had to lose -- a wife, children, a huge church -- he had to be who he was in the end. He couldn't pray away the gay."

Clinton Anderson, director of the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Concerns Office of the American Psychological Association (APA) said:

"There's a profound sadness that someone should be saddled culturally with such a negative attitude toward a part of themselves. From our vantage point as psychologists, his self-repulsion is not necessary, it's not justified."

Joseph Nicolosi, founder and president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is the main U.S. expert promoting the validity, effectiveness, and safety of reparative therapy. He suggested:

"If this man is saying, 'This is a part of me that I abhor,' why can't we respect that? Why do we have to attribute that to something external and take away the dignity of the individual to express how he feels?"

Doug Haldeman, a psychologist from Seattle, WA, who specializes in gay-related matters said:

"There's nothing good that can come from conversion therapy. The wreckage left behind, for some who go through it, is frightening -- they're depressed, suicidal."

Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist from New York, NY and author of "Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man," 1 said that promoters of reparative therapy's ignore the harm that it can do. He said:

"They're selling you something without any warning of what might go wrong." 2

Although various forms of therapy from aversion therapy to reparative therapy, from castration to breast amputation, appear to have been a complete -- or nearly complete -- failure at changing individuals' sexual orientation, two therapies have achieved some success in changing people's sexual behavior:

  • Religiously oriented transformational ministries have convinced some clients with a homosexual orientation to choose to enter a celibate life. This is a profoundly difficult task, because they are often drawn towards forming a loving committed relationship with another person and perhaps entering into a same-sex marriage. Accepting a lifetime of loneliness is very challenging. However, some can be convinced that God hates homosexual behavior, and that God expects them to be sexually inactive.

  • Transformational ministries and reparative therapists have convinced some clients with a bisexual orientation to decide to confine their sexual relationship(s) to persons of the opposite sex. This is easier to do because the client can then still pursue a loving committed relationship and marriage. They merely have to remain faithful to their spouse.

The fundamentalist Christian group, Focus on the Family, regularly conducts Love Won Out conferences which teach the attendees that homosexuality is chosen and changeable. One regular speaker is Joseph Nicolosi from NARTH. Another is Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International. This is a network of conservative Protestant ministries promoting "freedom from homosexuality" through counseling and prayer. He claims that he successfully changed his personal sexual orientation through religious counseling. He expressed empathy towards Haggard, saying, "We're all susceptible to temptation." 2

Predictions of Ted Haggard's future:

Nicolosi said that Haggard could be helped if he was prepared to do:

"... deep, emotional work. ... We're talking about looking at your life squarely in the eye -- facing the realities that you did not get certain central affirmations from your mother or your father." 2

It is not clear what Haggard's sexual orientation is. Many religious conservatives and their media often assume that anyone who is sexually involved with a member of the same sex is a homosexual. The possibility of them being a bisexual is often ignored.

  • Haggard has admitted to committing indiscretions with Jones, but claims that not all accusations against him are true. He might possibly be a heterosexual who enjoys a special massage including drugs.

  • Some of the reports in the media seem to imply that Haggard has engaged in sexual indiscretions with another man. That could imply that he is a homosexual. But he has been involved in a long-term marriage lasting over two decades. They apparently have five children, the two eldest of which were preparing to enter college in 2002. They would be in their mid- twenties today. 3  Some homosexuals enter marriage as an attempt to resolve the problems that they have with their homosexual orientation. But these marriages are almost inevitably doomed and end quickly.

  • The third option is that Haggard has a bisexual orientation, sexually attracted to both men and women. This fits well with all of Haggard's and Jones' statements to date, and with the length of Haggard's marriage.

Michael Brewer, public policy director for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Colorado appears to be concerned that the "restoration process" underway for Haggard may be used against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the future. If Haggard is a homosexual and decides on a life of celibacy or is a bisexual and decides to abandon sexual activities with men, religious conservatives may claim that he has now been converted to a heterosexual orientation.

Brewer said:

"I am concerned he will go through this restoration process and come out the other end a confirmed heterosexual and become a poster child for the illegitimate process of reparative therapy." 4

On the other hand, Haggard's previous attempts at therapy have all failed; the current process might also be unsuccessful.

The actual outcome:

After three weeks of intensive counseling, Haggard left the treatment center. Rev. Tim Ralph, one of his team of overseers said: "He is completely heterosexual. That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing." Haggard said that he and his wife Gayle are considering moving to Missouri or Iowa, and plan to pursue master's degrees in psychology. 5,6

It is not impossible for a person to make the transition away from homosexuality to become "completely heterosexual" as long as one uses the definitions that are commonly employed by religious and social conservatives -- that is, that homosexuality is defined by one's behavior. However, it appears to be essentially impossible to make such a transition if one uses the definitions employed by everyone else -- that is, that homosexuality is defined by one's feelings of sexual attraction.

During his counseling he appears to have simply decided to stay away from same-sex sexual encounters and remain with his wife in a monogamous relationship. This is interpreted in one of two ways, depending upon how the term "homosexuality" is defined.

  • He continues to have a bisexual orientation and decided to become monagamous: To gays, lesbians, religious liberals, therapists, psychologists, human sexuality researchers, etc. homosexuality is one of three sexual orientations. A sexual orientation is determined by the gender(s) that a person finds sexually attractive. (The other orientations are heterosexuality and bisexuality.) Haggard appears to have been a bisexual prior, and during his brief encounter with reparative therapy. If so, then he probably remains a bisexual today. That is, he remains sexually attracted to both men and women. Even though he has decided to be monogamous in the future, his feelings of attraction to other men probably remain as strong as ever. His change is as simple as an adulterer deciding to stop philandering and stick with his wife. Internally, he has not changed at all; he remains a bisexual.

  • He is an ex-gay: To religious conservatives, homosexuality is a behavior. If a person engages in sexual activity with members of the same sex, then they are homosexual; otherwise they are heterosexual. Haggard seems to have decided to concentrate on maintaining a monogamous relationship with his wife. Thus many religious conservatives would consider him an ex-gay.

In late 2006, we had assumed that Haggard would probably be used by gays, lesbians, religious liberals, etc. as a "poster boy" who demonstrates the fixed nature of one's sexual orientation. Meanwhile, we expected that he would probably be used by religious conservatives as a "poster boy" who demonstrates the ease with which homosexuals can become heterosexual. But little of this actually happened. Haggard seems to have been allowed to descend out of the limelight.

Wikipedia reported that Haggard:

"... received $115,000 for the 10 months he worked and also received an $85,000 anniversary bonus shortly before the scandal broke; after the scandal broke, the board of trustees of New Life Church agreed to give him an $138,000 severance. Additionally, the Haggards have a home in Colorado Springs, Colorado that is valued at more than $700,000 and Haggard still receives royalties from books he has authored." 

In a statement during 2007-AUG, Haggard requested cash donations for his family so that he could attend classes at the University of Phoenix. He pursued a degree in counseling; his wife Gayle is enrolled in a psychology course.

Wikipedia continues that in 2008-NOV:

"... Haggard said in guest sermons at an Illinois church that his sins had roots in sexual abuse by an adult when he was seven years old. Haggard is starting an insurance agency in Colorado Springs, CO." 7

The Associated Press reported that:

"In [2008-] February, New Life Church announced that Haggard prematurely ended a 'restoration' process designed to help him heal. 8

Reparative therapy normally extends for many years and has a near-zero success rate at changing a person's sexual orientation. However, some bisexuals can enter therapy, remain bisexual, and be convinced to confine their sexual activities only to persons of the opposite sex. Some homosexuals can enter therapy, remain with a homosexual orientation, and be convinced to remain celibate. Presumably, Haggard falls within the former category and felt that a much shorter than normal interval of therapy was sufficient for him to avoid same-sex activity.

In 2010-JUN, he launched a new church. 10

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Haggard appears on television:

Haggard was scheduled to appear in a 41 minute HBO documentary about recent events in his life, to be aired on 2009-JAN-29. 8

Slightly over two yearsafter he terminated his therapy, on 2010-APR-23, Haggard appeared on Larry King Live along with Jennifer Knapp -- a Christian singer who had recently come out of the closet and revealed that she is a lesbian. Knapp and Haggard had a debate that also involved Pastor Bob Botsford, senior pastor at Horizon Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group. Botsford stressed that homosexual sexual behavior was a choice and is always intrinsically sinful, regardless of the nature of the relationship. Knapp stressed that homosexuality is something that one discovers about oneself and is unchosen, normal, and natural for a minority of adults.

When King asked Haggard "Do you, Ted, believe that homosexuality is a sin?" Haggard dodged the question, saying that individuals:

"... become different people as they grow. That's happening in Jennifer's life, and it's happening in the pastor's life. Our role isn't just to call out one particular sin and say all these people are in trouble. Our role is to say we're all in a process, and we need to encourage one another. So Jennifer has a group of believers she meets with. They study the scripture. They can go on that. They can do that process. That process obviously is not going to be Pastor Bob's church. It will be another group of believers which is why we have a diversity of churches."

King asked Haggard another direct question: "... do we choose whether we are gay or whether we are hetero? Do we choose that, in your opinion?" Haggard dodged that question also, responding:

"I think that is a very, very complex thing that I don't want to get into here. What I do want to say here, though, is that I believe that the Bible is the word of god [sic] and it's inspired and inherent [sic]. And I believe Jesus was very clear and the scriptures were very clear when they say the command is to love. The command that covers them all, predominant, "love the lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself." 9

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jack Drescher, "Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man," Analytic Press, (1988). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store One gay reader reviewed the book for and commented: "... during the period I was reading it, I felt so many times identified with the text, so close to many of the patients, so happy to realize I am not alone. I wanted to thank the author for his book." Another reviewer, a therapist, said: "The writing is so accessible I think gay patients will find it invaluable as well."
  2. David Crary, "Haggard scandal renews sex therapy debate. Some specialists say orientation can't be changed," Boston Globe, 2006-NOV-16, at:
  3. Mark Spense, "The real problem with ex-pastor Ted Haggard," Tampa Pirate, at:
  4. Kevin Simpson and Eric Gorski, "Pastor's case stirs debate," Denver Post, 2006-NOV-12, at:
  5. "Minister called 'completely heterosexual.' Peer group recommends Ted Haggard move out of town," Associated Press, 2007-FEB-06, at:
  6. Chris Ortiz, "Give me a break!," Chalcedon Blog, 2007-FEB-14, at:
  7. "Ted Haggard," Wikipedia, at:
  8. "Defrocked pastor promoting documentary about own gay sex scandal," The Associated Press, 2008-DEC-18, at:
  9. "Christian singer comes out as lesbian," Larry King Life, 2010-APR-23, at:
  10. "Lawsuits: Megachurch pastor coerced 3 men into sex," Associated Press, 2010-SEP-23, at:

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Home > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Reparative Therapy > here

Copyright © 2006 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2006-NOV-17
Last update and review: 2010-SEP-23

Author: B.A. Robinson
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