The summer camp featured in the documentary "Jesus Camp," which includes scenes with disgraced preacher Ted Haggard, will shut down for...
The summer camp featured in the documentary “Jesus Camp,” which includes scenes with disgraced preacher Ted Haggard, will shut down for at least several years because of negative reaction sparked by the film, according to the camp’s director.
“Right now we’re just not a safe ministry,” Becky Fischer, the fiery Pentecostal pastor featured in “Jesus Camp,” said Tuesday.
The documentary, which hit select U.S. theaters during the summer, portrays Fischer, 55, as drill instructor to a group of young evangelical children steeling themselves for spiritual and political warfare.
Led by Fischer, the children pray in tongues, as is common in charismatic strains of Pentecostalism; tearfully beg God to end abortion; and bless President Bush at a weeklong camp in Devils Lake, N.D.
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Fischer has drawn fire from some corners for “brainwashing” the children. After vandals damaged the campground last month and critics besieged Fischer with negative e-mails, phone calls and letters, the pastor said she’s shutting down the camp for at least several years.
“I don’t think we’ll be doing it for a while,” she said.
Fischer lives in Bismarck, N.D., and is chief pastor at The Fire Center, a church devoted to children’s ministry there. She has run the weeklong “Kids on Fire” summer camp, which is featured in the film, since 2002, with 75 to 100 children attending each year.
The documentary also includes scenes of Haggard, the evangelical leader accused of gay sex and drug use.
In one scene, directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady visit Haggard’s 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo. He tells the vast audience, “We don’t have to debate about what we should think about homosexual activity. It’s written in the Bible.”
Then Haggard looks into the camera and says kiddingly: “I think I know what you did last night,” drawing laughs from the crowd. “If you send me a thousand dollars, I won’t tell your wife.”
Later, another joke for the filmmakers: “If you use any of this, I’ll sue you.”
The married, 50-year-old father of five admitted in a letter read Sunday to his followers that he was “guilty of sexual immorality.” He has yet to address specific claims by a male escort that Haggard paid him for sex over the past three years.
Haggard also leads the audience in praying for President Bush to select a Supreme Court nominee who supports their beliefs (it would end up being Samuel Alito) and later brags about the rapid expansion of evangelicalism.
“It’s got enough growth to essentially sway every election,” Haggard says with a smile. “If the evangelicals vote, they determine the election.”
Haggard has acknowledged that he paid Mike Jones of Denver for a massage and for methamphetamine, but said he didn’t have sex with Jones and didn’t take the drug.
He resigned last week as president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents 30 million people, and was removed Saturday as leader of his own church.
For the last three years, Fischer has rented a campground in Devils Lake from the Assemblies of God, one of the largest national churches in the Pentecostal movement. But Fischer said she was asked not to return after vandals broke windows and caused $1,500 in damage at the campground in October.
Fischer said she has asked the distributors of “Jesus Camp” not to release the film in Bismarck because she fears for the safety of the 70 children who attend The Fire Center.
Grady, the co-director of “Jesus Camp,” said the negative reaction to the film “has weighed a little heavy on our hearts.”
“Not that we had anything to do with it, but [the campground] wasn’t getting vandalized before the film and it was after it, and we need to acknowledge that,” Grady said.