Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ex-pastor of Hammond, Indiana's First Baptist Church, Jack Schaap, headed to prison for 12 years after transporting minor across state lines for sex

Hammond's First Baptist Church is the Indiana's biggest church.  It also operates Hyles-Anderson College, a non-accredited institution. From WikiPedia:

     In 1991, a First Baptist Church of Hammond deacon molested a 7-year-old girl in her Hammond Sunday school class. During a Sunday school class "a church worker reportedly witnessed the act and removed the girl from the room, police said." The Chicago Tribune in a 1991 article reported that Hyles was sued for $1 million by the parents of the girl... the lawsuit "claims the minister told the child's parents that Ballenger 'just loved children,' and, 'You don't have a case.'" The church settled the lawsuit out of court and the terms were not disclosed.
      At the criminal trial, three young women testified deacon A.V. Ballenger "had fondled them years ago." One of those girls testified that she was molested on the Hammond church bus. A former security officer at the church testified he saw Ballenger fondle a young girl in 1978 or 1979 in a Sunday school room after being called to the room by a female teacher. In 1993, Ballenger was sentenced to five years in prison.

     In 1993, WJBK aired Preying from the Pulpit, a news series, examined "allegations of child molesting, abuse and sex scandals in several churches across the nation appear to be part of a pattern of such scandals among churches affiliated with the First Baptist Church of Hammond." It examined fresh claims of sex abuse in five different fundamentalist churches where church workers who molested children were traced back to Hyles-Anderson College. Besides the abuse, the program examined Hyles' teaching, including a 1990 sermon where "Hyles pretended to pour poison into a glass and asked an associate pastor, Johnny Colsten, to drink from it. Colsten said he would." The report "said the sermon has the 'ring of Jonestown' to it—the mass suicide in Guyana in 1978 by followers of cult leader Jim Jones." Hyles called the program "poor journalism" and organized a national campaign to respond.
     In 1997, Hyles and the First Baptist Church of Hammond were sued "for negligence in connection with alleged sexual assaults on a mentally disabled church member over a six-year period." The lawyer for the woman, Vernon Petri, "says Hyles is a defendant because he failed to protect the woman", such that "controls have to be set to be sure things are conducted appropriately." However, Christianity Today pointed out that no criminal charges were ever filed in the case. Also, Hyles denied the allegations that either he or his church were negligent in the care of the woman in an October 12 advertisement in the Hammond Times. According to the lawyer, "a church program instructor led her to a room and served as a lookout while two to three males raped her." The women developed a "serious" infection and doctors "found, embedded in her, a plastic object." The "civil suit filed in Lake Superior Court in Gary claims the Chicago woman was "induced by agents" of the church in 1991 to ride a bus to attend Sunday." The women and church settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.

Above: convicted sexual predator Jack Schaap preaches at a Youth Conference staged by Hammond Indiana's First Baptist Church

     After Hyles' death in 2001, Jack Schaap, Hyles' son-in-law, succeeded as pastor. In July 2006, the Church Report magazine named First Baptist number 24 on its list of the 50 most influential churches in the United States.
     On July 31, 2012 Schaap was fired "due to a sin that has caused him to forfeit his right to be our pastor." 
     In September 2012, Schaap was charged in a U.S. District Court for taking a minor across state lines to have sex with her and signed a plea agreement. In October, nearly a quarter of the Hammond church staff were laid off. An article in the January 2013 issue of Chicago Magazine about First Baptist Church stated, "A string of assaults and sexual crimes committed by pastors across the country have one thing in common: The perpetrators have ties to the megachurch in Hammond, Indiana." In January 2013, Schaap asked the court for the minimum 10-year sentence, claiming he was under great stress, exhausted and depressed at the time of the relationship.

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