The Smoke-Filled Chapel: A Glimpse into NAE’s Discussions on Haggard

The National Association of Evangelicals issued a press release yesterday stating “Rev. Haggard has rightfully submitted himself to the pastoral oversight and ecclesiastical discipline of the independent New Life Church board of overseers.”

The executive committee will huddle soon to discuss their options in dealing with the evermore salacious news coming out of the Haggard scandal.

So what’s on the meeting agenda? “This issue has so many dimensions,” said employment law attorney Tim Downing, an expert in discrimination based on sexual orientation and wrongful discharge litigation.

“My guess is that they are in closed door session to talk about his employment as the group’s president and spokesman,” he said. “If he is an at-will employee, they can do anything. If he has a written contract, they can fire him ‘for cause’. The meth purchase alone would be grounds for termination.”

Federal law would shield Haggard from discrimination as a member of a protected class, such as age, gender or religion. It’s ironic that, as one who actively preached against gays and lesbians, he would not be legally protected if he admits to enaging in homosexual relations with gay escort Mike Jones. That may be part of the motivation for continuing to deny Jones’ allegations of a three-year intimate relationship.

Downing, who has written extensively on issues related to this scandal including how to lawfully conduct an internal investigation and employer drug policies, remarked that if Haggard were to challenge his termination that “he would have a tough row to hoe.” The NAE church leaders are the “biggest champions of bigots against gays. It’s harder for him to argue against these allegations.” 

“Politically and realistically, I expect that they are going to throw him to the wolves” to protect their future fundraising prospects and consolidate their power until the media firestorm subsides.

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Wendy Norris

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