On Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith played the role of amateur theologian as he interviewed disgraced evangelical pastor Ted Haggard, who had an affair with a gay prostitute, asking: "You believe that gays are sinners?...You think God hates homosexuals?" Haggard ultimately replied: "Jesus proved his faithfulness to me more than ever. You know, he said he came for the unrighteous, not for the righteous...so I don't fit into the religious righteous crowd anymore. He really came for me. I'm the chiefest of sinners." Haggard’s wife, Gayle, also added: "And I think the teachings of Jesus are forgiveness and love. And what he tells us not to do is judge." Smith liked that non-judgmental response, saying to Ted: " She says is better than you do, I'm sorry."
Throughout the segment, Smith preached moral relativism over "fundamentalist" Christian beliefs. At one point, Haggard explained why he waited so long to seek counseling: "I wish I'd done it 20 years ago, but I think the culture that I was in kept me from being able to do that." Smith replied: "Having grown up in a fundamentalist church and an evangelical background, there's -- everything is very black and white." Haggard agreed: "Very black and white." Smith then attacked Haggard’s former church: "You've spent your life building this church. This church is really, literally, your community. And your church says you have to leave this day...you have to go away. And in the best New Testament sense, isn't that the point at which the church should be embracing you?"
Later, Haggard again spoke of his counseling: "I believe that for me, for me, and my understanding of the scripture...that I need to live in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship...I just had a compulsion with them that needed to be processed with a good counselor. And since I've been able to do that." Smith wondered: "So you've been -- you've been cured, so to speak?" Smith then shifted back to theologian: "Here's what I think about, I think about on Communion -- on Communion Sunday, don't they sing, ‘Just As I Am’?...So if that's who you really are, why do you have to listen to man's laws as opposed to God's laws?" However, the hymn that Smith quoted, clearly speaks of repenting for one’s sins as well: "Just as I am, and waiting not / To rid my soul of one dark blot, / To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, / O Lamb of God, I come, I come."
Here is the full transcript of the segment:
HARRY SMITH: A few years ago, Ted Haggard was a powerful and influential evangelical pastor. Then he was caught in a sex scandal with a male prostitute. Coming up, our one-on-one with the fallen minister and his wife. They also talk about their new life together.
HARRY SMITH: Ted Haggard's fall from grace made national headlines. As president of the National Association of Evangelicals, he had millions of followers. But in 2006, his career as a spiritual leader ended abruptly when he was -- when it was revealed that he had had a sexual relationship with a male prostitute.
TED HAGGARD: You find a person of the opposite sex and you make a lifelong commitment to them.
SMITH: Ted Haggard seemed to be a devoted husband. He was married with five children and pastor of Colorado's New Life Church, but he was living a double life.
MIKE JONES: He had a relationship with me. We had gay sex.
SMITH: When Mike Jones, a self-confessed male prostitute, went public with claims that Haggard had paid for sex and drugs, Haggard initially denied it.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Do you know Mike Jones?
HAGGARD: No, I do not know Mike Jones.
SMITH: Haggard eventually admitted that some of the claims made by Jones were true. He was banished from his church. In a good-bye letter read by another pastor, Haggard made this confession.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN [QUOTING HAGGARD'S LETTER]: 'I am guilty of sexual immorality. There's a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I've been warring against it all of my adult life.'
SMITH: A new HBO documentary titled 'The Trials of Ted Haggard' chronicles the former pastor's struggles after his fall from grace. And Ted and Gayle Haggard are with us this morning. Good morning.
TED HAGGARD: Good morning.
GAYLE HAGGARD: Good morning.
SMITH: And still together.
TED HAGGARD: Oh, very much together.
GAYLE HAGGARD: Absolutely.
SMITH: More together now than when the scandal broke?
TED HAGGARD: Better marriage now than before the scandal. Our children are all together with us. The family has come together beautifully. Actually, that's what saved my life.
SMITH: Interesting. I want to get back to that in a second, because you have been on, as this film shows, a real odyssey. I mean, you -- it's Old Testament, almost, like in his being cast into the wilderness. Let's -- I want to go back to the scandal itself. Your congregation finds out, there are news reports about this alleged gay relationship, about drug use. As it turns out, your church also knew about an inappropriate relationship you had with a church member.
SMITH: Are you a gay man?
HAGGARD: No. Actually, it's complicated. And what I've -- what I've determined is, through all two years now of counseling, is that I just don't fit in the boxes. People want you either to be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, whatever. And my counselor says I'm a heterosexual with complications, whatever that means.
HAGGARD: And -- but now, through this counseling process that I've been through, I'm very secure in who I am in my relationship with my wife. Actually, my wife and I always had a wonderful relationship, which confused me. And now it's better than ever, and I have no compulsive behaviors anymore. It's been great being able to process through these last two years. And I think the pain helps-
SMITH: You wish you'd done that 20 years ago?
HAGGARD: I wish I'd done it 20 years ago, but I think the culture that I was in kept me from being able to do that.
SMITH: Having grown up in a fundamentalist church and an evangelical background, there's -- everything is very black and white.
HAGGARD: Very black and white. And this process that I've been through, I just -- I'm so grateful because I was able to process and work through things. And I think the documentary shows part of -- some of the things that motivated such dramatic change in me.
SMITH: You've spent your life building this church. This church is really, literally, your community. And your church says you have to leave this day-
HAGGARD: You have to go, yeah.
SMITH: -you have to go away. And in the best New Testament sense, isn't that the point at which the church should be embracing you?
TED HAGGARD: Well, that was-
GAYLE HAGGARD: Absolutely.
TED HAGGARD: Especially for Gayle, because I deserved what I received. And so the way my view is, if people hate me, if people resent me, if people call me names, that's justice. I deserve that.
HAGGARD: If somebody's kind, or gives me grace, or is gentle, then that's a gift.
HAGGARD: But not true for Gayle. Gayle -- Gayle is not co-dependent. She's not weak, but out of her strength and her devotion, she said, 'I'm going to stay with him.' And because of it, she lost the vast majority of her friends and the fellowship of the church.
SMITH: We'll have more with Ted and Gayle Haggard in a moment. And if you want to find out more about the HBO documentary, go to our website, earlyshow.cbsnews.com.
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Let's head over to Harry for more of his one-on-one interview with fallen evangelical pastor Ted Haggard and his wife, Gayle.
SMITH: This film shows you sort of going from house to house, traveling around in Arizona in this U-Haul. You can't get a job.
SMITH: Your kids -- two of your kids are with you, at least. In the lowest of the low times, how was it for you?
GAYLE HAGGARD: Well, I was brokenhearted. I felt as though I had to walk through this with my husband, which I wanted to do. I loved him deeply. I love him more now and respect him more now. We're more intimate now because of the truth and the honesty in our relationship. We're really grateful that we walked through this together. But I was brokenhearted at the loss. And I don't think the loss was representative of all the people in the church by any means. I feel as though they didn't have the opportunity to reach out to us that I think they would have done.
SMITH: You still an evangelical?
TED HAGGARD: Oh, absolutely.
SMITH: Still fundamental understanding of the Old Testament?
HAGGARD: I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I believe Jesus is the Son of God.
SMITH: You believe that gays are sinners?
HAGGARD: I believe that for me, for me, and my understanding of the scripture-
HAGGARD: -that I need to live in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship. And before I tried -- I never -- I never blatantly walked away from those principles. I just had a compulsion with them that needed to be processed with a good counselor. And since I've been able to do that-
SMITH: So you've been -- you've been cured, so to speak?
HAGGARD: No, because I don't think I was sick. I don't think I was sick. I think -- I think all of us make decisions about our-
SMITH: Isn't that part of -- there's a paradox, then-
HAGGARD: It is.
SMITH: -at minimum, right?
HAGGARD: It is. I'm a mess.
SMITH: So this is the real you?
HAGGARD: I am a mess.
HAGGARD: Yeah, but -- but I'm so-
SMITH: Here's what I think about, I think about on Communion -- on Communion Sunday, don't they sing, 'Just As I Am'? Isn't that-
HAGGARD: 'Without a plea.'
HAGGARD: That's right.
SMITH: So if that's who you really are, why do you have to listen to man's laws as opposed to God's laws?
HAGGARD: Yeah, well, I think I am-
SMITH: You think God hates homosexuals?
HAGGARD: No, I do not. I -- actually, in this process, Jesus proved his faithfulness to me more than ever. You know, he said he came for the unrighteous, not for the righteous. He said he would leave the 99 and go for the 1 that wandered away.
SMITH: That's you.
HAGGARD: All that's good for me. And so -- so I don't fit into the religious righteous crowd anymore. He really came for me. I'm the chiefest of sinners.
SMITH: Most important lesson through this whole two-plus-year ordeal for you Gayle?
GAYLE HAGGARD: Most important lesson for me, I think, is that love covers a multitude of sins. And that when I would choose to love in the midst of my heartache, I would heal. But when I judged or when I was scrutinizing toward Ted, I would just spiral down. And I think the teachings of Jesus are forgiveness and love. And what he tells us not to do is judge. And so I think I learned the value of that. I mean, at the end of the day, love really does -- does win out. And when we have each other at the end of the day rather than separated, alone, and empty, I think that's a lot to be thankful for.
SMITH: She says is better than you do, I'm sorry.
TED HAGGARD: Much better. Well, Gayle's the hero of this story. I deserved what I got and what I'm getting. But Gayle is the hero of the story. Because of it, our children are fine and they're growing. We're fine.
SMITH: Ted, thanks.
SMITH: Gayle, thank you very, very much.
GAYLE HAGGARD: Thank you.
SMITH: To catch the next air dates of this HBO special, go to our website. That's cbsnews.com.