Mexico’s Largest Pentecostal Church Denies Sex Crimes Charges Against Its Leader After His Arrest

Naasón Joaquín García, right, the leader of fundamentalist Mexico-based church La Luz del Mundo, appears in Los Angeles County Superior Court on June 5, 2019, before Judge Francis Bennett on charges of human trafficking and child rape. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Mexico’s largest evangelical church, La Luz del Mundo, is defending its leader, despite his arrest on sex crime charges.

The church has denied all charges against Naasón Joaquín García, known by church members as the “The Apostle of Jesus Christ,” in a statement. Church leaders say they are confident Garcia’s innocence will be proven.

“The Apostle of Jesus Christ has always adhered to the law and demonstrated full respect to government institutions and the dignity of all persons,” the church said in a statement.

Garcia and three other women affiliated with the church are facing 26 felony charges for crimes allegedly committed between 2015 and 2018.

The defendants are accused of trafficking underage girls and forcing them to perform sex acts on each other and on Garcia. On Wednesday, a judge set Garcia’s bail at an unprecedented $50 million.

California prosecutors allege that one defendant took photos of three naked girls to give to “the servant of God” — Garcia — and told them that going against the desires of “the Apostle” was going against God. Garcia also allegedly gave the girls a speech about a king having mistresses and claiming that an apostle of God cannot be judged for his actions.

“Crimes like those alleged in this complaint have no place in our society. Period,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We must not turn a blind eye to sexual violence and trafficking in our state.”

Some congregants told media the charges were part of a smear campaign against the church, which has faced discrimination in Mexico from the country’s Catholic majority.

“We’re united in prayer,” church minister Jack Freeman told the L.A. Times. “An attack like this, which is meant to stumble us or bring us apart, it actually brings us closer together. … We’re not giving up. The church is still going to go forward. We believe this is still the church of the Lord.”

Headquartered in the Catholic stronghold of Guadalajara, Mexico, La Luz del Mundo is the country’s largest evangelical church. The organization, whose name translates to The Light of the World, says it has more than 15,000 churches in 58 countries around the world.

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Source: Religion News Service