The leaders of a Pennsylvania church are facing legal trouble after an event in March where teenage parishioners were "kidnapped" as part of a lesson about the possible experiences of missionary work. Perhaps ironically, the pastor of the church says the exercise was meant to simulate "the persecuted church" that he said goes on in other countries.
"It was a youth event, to illustrate what others have encountered in a regular basis," the pastor said. The mock kidnapping was led by a 28-year-old youth pastor who is facing criminal charges including false imprisonment and simple assault. The church has also been charged, according to a news article.
According to the Dauphin County District Attorney, the accused pastor and a group of other men approached the teens, covered their heads and loaded them into a van. They interrogated the teens and showed them a gun before releasing them, the district attorney claimed. The mother of one of the teens called police, who began investigating. Prosecutors presented evidence against the church to a grand jury, which recommended that charges be brought.
The pastor said that the church was "saddened" that anyone was frightened by the mock kidnapping. The church had done similar events at least twice before without any complaints, he said, and some teens from the church support the event.
Given the innocent intentions behind the "kidnapping" and the relatively minor injuries involved, it will be interesting to see if authorities will offer a plea deal to the church and man in charge of the event.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Pa. church, pastor charged in fake kidnapping," Kevin Begos, July 27, 2012