AC360: Rep. Jared Polis & LCR’s Clarke Cooper Discuss Chambliss Scandal

Tonight CNN’s Anderson Cooper discussed the “all faggots must die” comment left by a Sen. Saxby Chambliss staffer here on JMG, bringing on Rep. Jared Polis and Log Cabin head R. Clarke Cooper. (The same pair discussed the issue on MSNBC’s Hardball yesterday.) Tonight’s conversation focused more on the delay in identifying the culprit, although LCR’s Cooper once again attempted to derail the issue by launching into an attack on Obama over DADT.

UNRELATED: CNN really has a problem with my name, this is the third mention in as many weeks in which they get it wrong. Whatevs.

Joe. My. God.

—  John Wright

Lunchtime video: AC360 – Ted Haggard On Fellow Hypocrite Bishop Eddie Long


COOPER: Pastor Ted Haggard left his own mega-church after a scandal involving drugs and a male prostitute. This summer he returned to ministry launching a new much smaller church with his wife, Gayle, who’s the author of “Why I Stayed: The choices I made in my darkest hour.”

I also spoke with Pastor Troy Sanders, an openly gay minister at Victory Church outside Atlanta who in 2008 was part of a delegation from the group Soul Force which met with Bishop Long.

COOPER: Pastor Ted, obviously Bishop Long should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but does it seem explainable to you that he would send out pictures of himself in skin-tight outfits to young men in his congregation?

PASTOR TED HAGGARD, SAINT JAMES CHURCH: Well, we know the pictures are there. We’re not sure where they came from. But there was a movement several years ago where people were concerned about the direction of the church. And there was kind of a masculine movement. Pastors are more masculine sometimes in certain churches; that doesn’t mean he’s guilty.

COOPER: Pastor Troy, how closely do you follow what Bishop Long’s church is doing? Because I read, the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007, Pastor Troy called Eddie Long, quote, “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.”

Is that an accurate description?

PASTOR TROY SANDERS, NATIONAL MINISTER, THE FELLOWSHIP: I think that there are a number of church leaders that come down rather hard on the LGBT community. Now, I was part of the Soul Force American Family Outing that actually took lesbian and gay family members into New Birth.

Full transcript is below the fold.
The CNN Transcript:

We begin though tonight, “Keeping Them Honest” with the sexual abuse allegations against one of most influential ministers in the country. The minister is Bishop Eddie Long of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church outside Atlanta. Three young men now are suing Bishop Long accusing him of enticing them with money, cars, clothes and expensive jewelry in exchange for sexual favors.

These are just allegations at this point but what makes them so startling is that Bishop Long is leader not just of an African- American mega-church with 25,000 members, but a major opponent of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. Here’s some of what he’s preached in the past about gays and lesbians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BISHOP EDDIE LONG, NEW BIRTH MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: And the problem today and the reason why society is like it is, is because men are being feminized and women are becoming masculine.

And everybody knows it’s dangerous to enter an exit. You cannot say I was born this way. I don’t care what scientists say. You can be converted. You were not born that way.

Let me pray with you. Let me tell you, don’t you be conformed to this world but be ye transformed. I don’t know what I am. Turn and take your clothes down and I’ll show you who you are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That’s video from the Southern Poverty Law Center. These are photographs provided by the lawyer involved in this lawsuit, Maurice Robinson and Anthony Flagg, two of the men who have filed suit against the bishop. A third man, Jamal Paris (ph), not shown here has also filed suit.

These men were reportedly referred to by Bishop Long as spiritual sons, a special status his accusers say given to young men in his church whom they say he preyed on. According to the Flagg and Robinson lawsuits, Bishop Long’s accusers were 17 and 18 at the time the alleged encounters took place.

Anthony Flagg, the lawsuit alleges, had to share a bed with the bishop when they traveled together when Bishop Long allegedly took Maurice Robinson to New Zealand for his birthday. This is what his lawyer says happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

B.J. BERNSTEIN, LAWYER FOR MAURICE ROBINSON: On that 18th birthday, Bishop Long engaged in the act of oral sodomy with this young man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Bishop Long’s third accuser, Jamal Paris, says the bishop would quote, “discuss Holy Scripture to justify and support the sexual activity.”

Now Bishop Long denies all of the allegations. These photos of Bishop Long in tight gym clothes which appear to have been taken by the bishop himself were reportedly sent to another one of his so- called spiritual sons and released by B.J. Bernstein, the attorney involved in the lawsuit who you just saw moments ago.

Bishop Long’s lawyer says the photos do not corroborate the charges and in a radio interview, the attorney said that Bishop Long is a health advocate and a weight lifter who wears muscle shirts.

Again we stress, these are allegations; three lawsuits by three men.

Earlier I spoke about the allegations though with two ministers with deep experience in the intersection of religious, sexuality and in the case of one of the ministers, national scandal.

Pastor Ted Haggard left his own mega-church after a scandal involving drugs and a male prostitute. This summer he returned to ministry launching a new much smaller church with his wife, Gayle, who’s the author of “Why I Stayed: The choices I made in my darkest hour.”

I also spoke with Pastor Troy Sanders, an openly gay minister at Victory Church outside Atlanta who in 2008 was part of a delegation from the group Soul Force which met with Bishop Long.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Pastor Ted, obviously Bishop Long should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but does it seem explainable to you that he would send out pictures of himself in skin-tight outfits to young men in his congregation?

PASTOR TED HAGGARD, SAINT JAMES CHURCH: Well, we know the pictures are there. We’re not sure where they came from. But there was a movement several years ago where people were concerned about the direction of the church. And there was kind of a masculine movement. Pastors are more masculine sometimes in certain churches; that doesn’t mean he’s guilty.

COOPER: Pastor Troy, how closely do you follow what Bishop Long’s church is doing? Because I read, the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2007, Pastor Troy called Eddie Long, quote, “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.”

Is that an accurate description?

PASTOR TROY SANDERS, NATIONAL MINISTER, THE FELLOWSHIP: I think that there are a number of church leaders that come down rather hard on the LGBT community. Now, I was part of the Soul Force American Family Outing that actually took lesbian and gay family members into New Birth.

COOPER: Right. You actually, you met with Bishop Long back in 2008.

SANDERS: Yes.

COOPER: What was your impression?

SANDERS: Well, the first impression that I had was very hospitable to us but it was very clear that there was a difference in theology. Like there was a very clear difference between what we believed and the oppressive theology that the church is known for.

COOPER: Pastor Ted, do you — has there been a — do you think this pastor was particularly homophobic?

HAGGARD: Well, the times I met him I didn’t get that indication. But I do think it’s important that churches be able to embrace the type of theology that they believe in and be able to communicate it with clarity. When a church embraces a certain theological slant, then people join with that, that’s why we have freedom of religion.

COOPER: Pastor Troy?

SANDERS: Anderson, with all due respect, I agree wholeheartedly that we have the right to believe what we believe but it is absolutely hypocritical if you’re going to stand in any pulpit across this country and preach against homosexuality when you have homosexual tendencies.

The gospel of Jesus Christ hinges on truth. And any message — I’m a preacher — and message — I’m also a same-gender loving man and as a requirement I cannot preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and not walk in truth around my sexuality. I cannot do it.

COOPER: Pastor Ted, what about that? I mean you weren’t one of the leading figures among evangelicals who preach anti-gay rhetoric but you made a number of comments over the years about homosexuality being a sin. You campaigned in support of the Defense of Marriage Act saying that it would be devastating for the children of our nation and for the future of western civilization. Did you feel like a hypocrite?

HAGGARD: Well, I think every Bible teacher struggles with some issues in the scripture. We’re responsible to teach the Bible. We teach pray continually, but every one of us are growing in our prayer lives. We haven’t achieved that. We all teach sexual fidelity in marriage and the Bible teaches that, we encourage people in that. But there are some times when adultery or different things come into the pulpit and come into the church.

It’s just like any ideal. We have police officers that get speeding tickets. We have — we have people in congress that write our tax legislation that don’t pay their taxes.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But, Pastor Ted, there is a difference between, you know, somebody saying you should obey the law and you get a speeding ticket and somebody preaching something which is completely antithetical to a deeply-held — something that —

HAGGARD: I understand the point you’re making. I understand the point you’re making and I’m sympathetic to it. I just think it’s important to understand the human condition. And this is why Christ died for all of us. It’s because we have people all over the country that have said I’m going to be married to you until death to us part, good times, bad times, et cetera. They end up divorced.

People have ideals that they violate themselves because of things that go on in the human condition. And so I think all of us need to be aware of that before we start name-calling too quickly.

SANDERS: Ok. I’m not — certainly, Anderson, I’m not name- calling but I think that there has to be a place in our religious discourse to critique scripture. Because the same Bible now, the premise that I cannot stand for is that homosexuality is sin or wrong because the same scriptures that we use to lift up that said that women could not preach, that say we could not eat pork or that two twines of fabric could not be (INAUDIBLE) and that slavery was actually instigated and upheld by that same, ancient oppressive text.

At some point we have to re-evaluate what we believe. We cannot couch it in we all are sinners and we all have our shortcomings. No, there’s things we have to give off, we have to let go of around oppressive theology. And homosexuality and homosexual oppression, homophobia in the church is one of those things.

HAGGARD: So you’re promoting one biblical interpretation, so respect the other churches enough to promote a different one.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: But we all do. That’s what we do as theologians, period. That’s what we do as preachers of the gospel. We stand up and present a gospel that is either inclusive or exclusive. We make that choice.

HAGGARD: Well, but that’s what you’re saying and that will work for your church and your congregation. But there may be a congregation down the street that wants to apply some different verses. And so let them work — let them work through that battle.

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: If we’re going to apply differences let’s walk in truth, though. We have to walk in truth.

(CROSSTALK)

HAGGARD: Everybody says —

SANDERS: We cannot preach a gospel that we do not live. If we know we are same-gender loving we should not get up in pulpits and preach against it.

HAGGARD: Everybody says they walk in truth.

COOPER: Let me ask the Pastor Ted —

HAGGARD: Yes, well, every — everybody — everybody thinks they — it — it’s — you’re claiming — you’re calling other people names. You’re claiming to have the perfect understanding.

SANDERS: No, I’m not. I’m not.

HAGGARD: And I’m just saying you need to be more inclusive yourself.

SANDERS: I — Pastor Ted, I am certainly not claiming to have any perfect understanding.

But what I am claiming to say is that when we get up, we make a choice as to whether we preach inclusion or exclusion, whether we’re divisive with our theology, and whether we walk in truth.

COOPER: If it turns out this is true, what — Pastor Ted, what do you think it says about this bishop?

HAGGARD: I think every person that loves the Scriptures and loves God wants to be a better man than they are. And everyone is growing from glory to glory to glory. Everyone is in a process under the word of God and with one another and with the Holy Spirit, and that we need to let that process continue.

COOPER: Pastor Troy, let me ask you essentially the same question.

SANDERS: If this is true, then there are internal contradictions that are playing out in the public eye.

COOPER: Pastor Ted Haggard —

HAGGARD: I think —

COOPER: Sorry. Go ahead.

HAGGARD: I think there are internal contradictions in everyone about a variety of things.

SANDERS: I agree with you wholeheartedly, but this gospel of liberation we preach calls us all on the carpet. I’m not excluded. Ted Haggard, you wasn’t excluded. And Bishop Eddie Long is not excluded either.

COOPER: Pastor Ted Haggard —

HAGGARD: But here’s what I’m saying. Those — those who independently chose to call me on the carpet were not helpful. It was those who loved me, helped me, comforted me. And this type of broad- based, generalized analysis of people outside your group is not what’s helpful to him or to the process.

SANDERS: And what I’m saying is, it didn’t take a scandal for me to come out and walk in truth. I called myself on the carpet and others.

HAGGARD: That’s your choice.

SANDERS: So, there are other options, besides waiting until we get into scandal, to be called on the carpet around walking in truth.

(CROSSTALK)

HAGGARD: But that’s every human being’s choice. This is America. You can’t use your religion to tyrannize others.

COOPER: Guys, an interesting discussion.

Pastor Ted Haggard, Troy Sanders, appreciate your perspectives. Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you.

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—  John Wright