Failure to excommunicate

haggardFrom a media standpoint, Ted Haggard really is the gift that keeps on giving. And Associated Press reporter Eric Gorski has kept on the story of the former evangelical leader. His latest report tells us that Haggard will be assisting with promotion for a documentary following his life after he was brought down in a 2006 sex and drugs scandal. "The Trials of Ted Haggard" is the latest from Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and will air on HBO. The story is very well written and packed with details and context. I'm highlighting it here for this portion that begins with a quote from the company that promotes HBO projects:

The 41-minute documentary "follows Haggard and his family as they move from houses to motels as the excommunicated pastor tries to redeem himself and support his loved ones," it says.

Of course, Haggard wasn't excommunicated. Excommunication is a theological term. It can be used outside of the theological realm but in a religious sense, it refers to the formal exclusion from the sacraments of the church. But what separates this story from most is that Gorski actually knows enough to say this in his story. Here's how it proceeds:

Haggard was not excommunicated, but rather dismissed as pastor by a church oversight board. Under a severance deal with New Life Church, Haggard agreed to leave Colorado Springs and not talk about the scandal publicly, church officials said. He received a year's salary, or about $130,000.

The deal expired at the end of 2007, which allowed Haggard to move his family back to their Colorado Springs home, the church's new pastor, Brady Boyd, said earlier this year. But Haggard continued to tell reporters last summer and again this fall that he was forbidden to talk to the press.

Boyd said Wednesday that church leadership decided in the last few weeks to release Haggard and his wife, Gayle, from any legal obligations. He said they can do as they wish, including promote the documentary.

I know we shouldn't heap praise when a reporter simply does what he's supposed to do. But I feel like doing it anyway. So many times reporters think their responsibility ends with accurately quoting a source. But what happens when the source says something that contradicts the facts? Gorski provides a great example of how to do it.

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