Almost four months after the fake raid and complaint by the mother of a 14-year-old girl identified only as K.T., police on Friday (July 27) charged Youth Pastor Andrew Jordan and, in an unusual move, the church itself.
Jordan and the Glad Tidings church are charged with one count of false imprisonment and one count of simple assault.
While at least one legal expert said charging the church is novel, authorities said they felt they had to act to protect other children.
“You can’t, in the name of religious liberty, engage in criminal activity, and that is what occurred here,” said Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico. “Just because you’re a church doesn’t mean you can hurt a kid. It was not a well-thought-out exercise; the church is lucky the incident wasn’t worse.”
The attorney representing the church and its youth pastor said the whole matter is overblown. Jordan was not in custody, and the church is free to continue normal operations.
Marsico said the false imprisonment charge carries with it a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Due to Jordan’s lack of criminal history, Marsico said the pastor might face probation if convicted. The church, if convicted, would face a fine, which is generally the penalty for corporations, he said.
The charges stem from an incident in March, when Jordan wanted to teach the teenagers in a youth group about the dangers missionaries face in the world’s trouble spots. Head pastor John Lanza approved the plan, according to court documents.
A presentment by a Dauphin County investigating grand jury describes what happened that evening:
“The lights in the basement were turned off ... male members of the congregation with their faces obscured entered the room with flashlights. The men flipped over the chairs and ordered the children to get on the ground.
“The masked men bound the children loosely behind the back using zip ties and placed bags over their heads. They then moved the children to a van parked outside the church and loaded the children into the open cargo area ... and 1/8drove them to3/8 the basement of the parsonage ... where a guard was holding an unloaded and disabled semi-automatic rifle. ...
“The men simulated the interrogation and torture of pastor Jordan. ... There was simulated blood on pastor Jordan’s face.”
The children were then driven to a bonfire on the church grounds and told it was a simulation, the presentment reads.
While some of the children realized the abduction was fake, the presentment says that K.T. did not. The girl was not a member of the church, but had attended four of the youth events, according to the court documents.