The Bible loves a good redemption story, but forgiveness only goes so far. These religious leaders who fell from grace shocked the world when their crimes and scandals became public. The fallen pastors and leaders include famous men like Ted Haggard, one of many anti-gay activitists caught being gay, and Tony Alamo, who was sentenced to 175 years in prison for pedophilia and marrying an eight-year-old girl.
The pastors who have fallen into sin have all kinds of excuses: it wasn't technically illegal, it was a youthful mistake, it was a conspiracy orchestrated by the Vatican. But none of that excuses the hypocrisy of religious "authorities" preaching one standard for their flock and then flaunting those rules in their private lives.
The names of fallen pastors are famous, from Bill Gothard to Jim Bakker. And don't forget Josh Duggar––apparently molesting his own sisters isn't one of the things the Duggars can't do. Once you finish reading about pastors who fell from grace, see how they rank on the all-time list of the most drastic falls from grace in history.
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Evangelical pastor Ted Haggard ranted against the evils of premarital sex, adultery, and gay marriage. That is, until he was caught in a gay sex scandal in 2006. A male escort named Mike Jones publicly claimed that Haggard had been a client for years. Not only that, Haggard had allegedly used crystal meth in front of his male lover.
Ted Haggard was forced to resign from his church. Following his downfall, he attempted a form of conversion therapy and embraced his heterosexual side. His wife stood by Haggard during the scandal.
- Age: 64
- Birthplace: Yorktown, Mount Pleasant Township, Indiana, United States of America
- Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
Jim Bakker was perhaps the most popular televangelist in the 1980s, though his wife Tammy Faye gave him a run for his money. That all ended when Bakker was brought down by an enormous scandal that included sexual abuse and fraud.
In 1987, Bakker's secretary publicly accused the televangelist of raping and drugging her. After Bakker resigned from his ministry, he was charged with accounting fraud and sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Bakker was replaced by Jerry Falwell, who called his predecessor, "the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history."
- Age: 80
- Birthplace: Muskegon, Michigan, United States of America
Bill Gothard is famous for his homeschooling ministry, known as the Gothard Institute of Basic Life Principles. He promoted extreme submission of women and ordered them to dress modestly. Gothard was also close with the Duggar family and a number of Republican politicians.
In 2014, more than 30 women accused Gothard of molestation and assault, including underage girls. The allegations included sexual harassment, inappropriate touching, molestation, and rape. Gothard was forced to resign from his ministry, though he resurfaced on the Internet with a blog in 2016.
- Age: 85
- Birthplace: Illinois
- Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
Shoko Asahara might better be called a cult leader. He founded Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese doomsday cult, in 1984. He preached an end to marriage and sexual relations, but it later came out that Asahara was having sex with many of his female followers––and collecting glass bottles filled with their pubic hairs.
By the mid-'90s, Asahara was apparently no longer willing to wait for the apocalypse, because in 1995 he was the mastermind behind the deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway. 13 people died and thousands were injured. In 2004, he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. He has not yet been executed.
- Age: 65
- Birthplace: Yatsushiro, Japan