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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 November 2006, 02:40 GMT
Top US pastor sacked amid sex row
A portrait of Ted Haggard hanging at the New Life Church campus in Colorado
Mr Haggard's departure was best for the church, the board said
One of the US's most influential evangelical preachers has been dismissed by his church for what it called "sexually immoral conduct".

The Reverend Ted Haggard, a vocal opponent of gay marriage, on Friday admitted buying drugs and having a massage from a gay masseur.

But he denied using the methamphetamine or having sex with the man.

The New Life Church said its inquiries and his public statements proved Pastor Haggard had committed immoral conduct.

It has been decided that "the most positive and productive direction for our church is his dismissal and removal," the Colorado-based church said in a statement on its website.

'Pastor Ted'

Mr Haggard, who on Thursday stepped down as the head of the 30m-strong National Association of Evangelicals, said he bought methamphetamine but "never used it".

Ted Haggard

The issue is being played out against the backdrop of a vote in Colorado and seven other US states on Tuesday on whether to ban same-sex marriages.

Mr Haggard, 50, has been a vocal opponent of the unions.

Denver man Mike Jones, 49, told a radio show he had been paid to have sex with Mr Haggard nearly every month over the past three years.

Mr Haggard said he had not had sex with Mr Jones but did receive a massage after being referred to him by a Denver hotel.

Mr Haggard, who is also known as "Pastor Ted" and has five children, has close contacts with the White House.

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