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SNAP
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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

SNAP on Ted Haggard's ex-church & evangelicals

At a news conference today in Denver, SNAP leaders called on Ted Haggard's ex-church to apologize and evangelical leaders to stop requiring gag orders in clergy sex abuse cases.

Statement by Jeb Barrett of Denver, SNAP Denver Director - 1/28/09

We're here to discuss two of the most fundamental lessons to be learned form the Catholic church's on-going, horrific clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis.

For victims, the lesson is that clergy sex victims should be go to police officials, not church officials.

We’re at the police station today because this is where ministerial misconduct should be reported – at police headquarters, not at denominational headquarters.

Whenever possible, these hurtful and often illegal acts should be investigated by the independent professionals in law enforcement, not by the biased amateurs in church offices.

Some, not all, clergy sexual misconduct can be criminally prosecuted. But to play it safe, it should all be reported to criminal authorities, not church authorities.

For church officials, the lesson is twofold. One, it's wrong to deceive the public and your flock, and two, it's wrong to coerce victims into silence with hush money

This is our focus today, not on Ted Haggard, but on Haggard’s colleagues – officials in the New Life Church and in the National Association of Evangelicals. Our focus is not on the original misdeeds, but on the subsequent misdeeds.

Ted Haggard is a sexually troubled man. That's not new.

He paid a prostitute for sex. That's not new.

He misled his former congregation. That’s not new.

He's accused of using illegal drugs. That's not new.

What IS new is that he's been credibly accused of what is being called 'a sexual relationship' with a much younger congregant, who also volunteered in Haggard's church.

What IS new is that church officials paid him a settlement.

What IS new is that church officials insisted on a 'gag order,' binding him to silence.

What IS new is that this is being made public because his victim took the initiative.

And what IS new is that even now, church officials are mischaracterizing that settlement, denying it was intended to 'gag' this victim.

That's what is new. . .and that's what is disturbing and wrong and hurtful.

Individual sexual misconduct by clergy is awful. It's sometimes illegal. It's always harmful.

But that harm is severely compounded, when other clergy try to hide sexual misconduct and insist that victims keep silent by using hush money and gag orders.

Years ago, the staff of New Life Church should have disclosed this second instance of Haggard's sexual misconduct. Years ago, they should have helped Haggard’s young victim without requiring his silence.

Right now, the staff of New Life Church should disclose any other sexual misconduct by Haggard, or by any other current or former church staff member. They should publicly apologize for and explain their deceit and secrecy. And they should publicly and legally release any other victims from their 'gag orders,' if any exist.

This should be done by all church officials of all religious groups. But today, we're especially urging the National Association of Evangelicals to void any existing gag orders with clergy sex abuse victims and pledge to never use them in the future.

(Other religious institutions have and still do require gag orders in clergy sex settlements. But its prominence and its newly-disclosed deception and secrecy make it crucial now that New Life Church take corrective action now, and the National Association of Evangelicals do likewise.)

Have other religious groups learned nothing from the horrific and on-going Catholic abuse and cover up scandal? Why is it so hard for church officials to be honest in these cases, where honesty is so critical to protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded?

Here’s the bottom line: Ministers, like therapists and doctors, can’t have any kind of sex with those whom they serve. Ministers are inherently powerful figures who persuade less powerful individuals to trust and confide in them. There is a built-in imbalance, an inequality that should never be exploited, particularly for sexual gratification.

But just as important is the trust and power invested by church members in church officials. That too should never be exploited. That’s why gag orders and hush money are wrong and must be stopped.

CONTACT

Jeb Barrett of Denver, SNAP Denver Director (720) 222 2412 cell

Christa Brown of Austin, SNAP Baptist Director (512) 217 1730 cell
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Directtor (314) 862 7688 home


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
 


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