NEW YORK (AP) — Ravi Zacharias, who died in Could after a high-profile profession main a world Christian ministry, engaged in sexual misconduct with therapeutic massage therapists and carried on many amorous extramarital relationships by way of textual content message and electronic mail, in keeping with a scathing, in-depth report from a regulation agency employed by the ministry.
5 of the therapists mentioned Zacharias touched them inappropriately, and one mentioned she was raped, in keeping with the report. It mentioned investigators looking Zacharias’ cell units discovered greater than 200 images of youthful ladies, together with nude photographs of a salon worker in Malaysia.
In blunt phrases, the report by Atlanta-based Miller & Martin mentioned Zacharias had lied in claiming in 2017 that “I’ve by no means engaged in any inappropriate habits of any form.”
Coinciding with the report’s launch on Thursday, the board of administrators of Ravi Zacharias Worldwide Ministries issued a assertion of “company repentance.” The board apologized for earlier statements that belittled accusers and pledged steps to assist victims, fight abuse and harassment, and reassess the administration construction, which is overseen by Zacharias’ eldest daughter, ministry CEO Sarah Davis.
“We’re devastated by what the investigation has proven and are full of sorrow for the ladies who have been damage by this horrible abuse,” the board mentioned.
Zacharias, who died of most cancers on the age of 74, was a extensively widespread creator and speaker, with many celebrities and outstanding Christian leaders amongst his admirers. Then-Vice President Mike Pence spoke at his memorial service in Could, lauding him as an important evangelist “armed with mind, girded with reality and love.”
Zacharias based his worldwide ministry, often called RZIM, in 1984, with a mission to interact in “Christian apologetics” — defending Christianity with highly effective mental arguments. Primarily based in suburban Atlanta, RZIM has operations in about 20 international locations and a roster of scores of touring audio system.
In latest months, the group has been plunged into disaster, precipitated by a Sept. 29 article within the evangelical publication Christianity As we speak. The article asserted that over a interval of about 5 years, Zacharias sexually harassed three ladies who labored as therapeutic massage therapists at two day spas he co-owned in an Atlanta suburb.
RZIM’s management initially challenged the claims, asserting that the allegations “don’t in any manner comport with the person we knew for many years — we imagine them to be false.”
Nevertheless, it employed Martin & Miller in October, which in flip engaged the companies of a non-public investigation agency comprising former federal regulation enforcement officers. The regulation agency mentioned greater than 50 individuals, together with greater than a dozen therapeutic massage therapists, have been interviewed, and investigators have been capable of entry information from 4 cell units utilized by Zacharias.
In line with Martin & Miller, the information included amorous communications with quite a few ladies, and greater than 200 images of girls.
Among the many images have been six of Lori Anne Thompson – a Canadian lady who has contended that Zacharias “groomed” her into participating in sexually specific on-line conversations and finally sending indecent images.
In 2017, Thompson and her husband despatched Zacharias a letter demanding $5 million in trade for a launch of claims in opposition to him and the ministry. In response, Zacharias sued the Thompsons for extortion, however he quickly dropped that lawsuit and the events finally reached a non-public settlement.
Martin & Miller mentioned Thompson’s allegations of being exploited have been strengthened by the findings on Zacharias’ communications with different ladies, in addition to his evasive and indignant responses when requested about his telephone information on the time of the extortion lawsuit.
“We interviewed witnesses inside RZIM who weren’t glad with Mr. Zacharias’ explanations, and a few reported their perception that they have been marginalized for elevating questions,” the report mentioned.
The RZIM board, which beforehand derided Thompson’s allegations, apologized to her on Thursday.
“We imagine Lori Anne Thompson has advised the reality in regards to the nature of her relationship with Ravi Zacharias,” the board mentioned. “It’s with profound grief that we acknowledge that as a result of we didn’t imagine the Thompsons and each privately and publicly perpetuated a false narrative, they have been slandered for years and their struggling was enormously extended and intensified.”
“This leaves us heartbroken and ashamed,” the assertion added.
Thompson, in a message to The Related Press, mentioned she and her husband “are deeply indebted to each sufferer and whistleblower who spoke for not solely themselves, but in addition for us.”
The regulation agency report and board assertion are “an preliminary step in what we anticipate will probably be lengthy and arduous journey in the direction of institutional accountability,” she added.
The board outlined a number of steps “to ensure nothing like this occurs once more.”
__ Hiring outstanding sufferer advocate Rachael Denhollander to “educate and advise” the board and function a confidential liaison with survivors of abuse and harassment.
__ Hiring a consulting agency, Guidepost Options, to judge RZIM’s construction, tradition, insurance policies and funds.
The scandal had already had a unfavorable influence on the ministry even earlier than the regulation agency launched its report. A number of radio stations dropped RZIM packages, booksellers pulled Zacharias’ books from their choices, and a community of student-led mission groups working on British college campuses requested RZIM-affiliated audio system to withdraw from upcoming occasions.
Final month, RZIM’s affiliate in Canada introduced it was halting fundraising for 3 months, and a few of its workers resigned.
Dan Paterson, previously a speaker for RZIM in Australia, used Twitter to specific his dismay.
“I really feel disenchanted in myself and others who might have pushed tougher in opposition to the tides of submissive loyalty to demand higher solutions earlier,” he tweeted. “There isn’t any a part of the evangelical creed that honors cowardice or sacrifices conscience.”
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