Another sex scandal involving a major church has hit the news. This time it involves the leader of a Mexico-based church who was arrested in California and subsequently charged with the alleged rape of a minor, child pornography production, and human trafficking.
Naasón Joaquín García, 50, leader of the immense religious group La Luz Del Mundo (The Light of The World) religious group, which has more than one million followers around the globe, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport Tuesday, Al-Jazeera reports.
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The church claims the accusations are unfounded and defended Joaquin Garcia in a statement released Wednesday on its’ website.
“The apostle of Christ, brother Naasón Joaquín García, has always behaved in accordance of the law and with full respect for the institutions and the dignity of the people.”
But according to a statement from Xavier Becerra, California’s Attorney General, Joaquin Garcia was arrested for numerous crimes that occurred between 2015 and 2018, Friendly Atheist’s David Gee reports. He was the church’s leader during this time, having taken over after his father died.
“Crimes like those alleged in this complaint have no place in our society,” Becerra said in the statement. “We must not turn a blind eye to sexual violence and trafficking in our state. At the California Department of Justice, we will do everything we can to prevent and combat these heinous crimes so that our communities are safe. If you see something, report it and we will vigorously pursue justice.”
In a 19-page court complaint, filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the California Department of Justice alleges Joaquin Garcia, also known as “the Apostle,” told children they were defying God if they disobeyed. In total, the complaint alleges Joaquin Garcia and his co-defendants committed 26 felonies over a period of four years in Southern California.
It also indicates that three minors and one adult woman were abused and that the woman and one of the children were raped. Others were forced into sex acts and “flirty” dances for Joaquin Garcia. They were forced to wear “as little clothing as possible,” according to the complaint.
Also named in the complaint are Alondra Ocampo, Azalea Rangel Melendez, and Susana Medina Oaxaca. Each woman is associated with La Luz Del Mundo, prosecutors say.
Officials say a warrant has been issued for Melendez. Ocampo and Oaxaca have been arrested and are being held on multi-million dollar bonds.
But apparently, Joaquin Garcia didn’t just guilt-trip the kids about disobeying God. The complaint also alleges he told the girls that “an apostle of God can never be judged for his actions.”
An online clergy abuse complaint form alerted officials to the situation and this resulted in an investigation beginning in 2018. This is something Gee says he’d like to see more of.
“This is something that every state needs because it specifically encourages people to reach out about serious sexual abusers who hide out with the protection of a church without having to fear potential whistleblower backlash.”
Joaquin Garcia’s bail has been set at $25 million.
The video below is in Spanish but has English captions.
Featured image courtesy of the video above