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Megachurch Pastor Sentenced To 12 Years For Sex With Teen Parishioner

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 20, 2013 7:40PM

Former First Baptist Church of Hammond Pastor Jack Schaap
Prosecutors sought 10 years in prison for disgraced First Baptist Church of Hammond pastor Jack Schaap, who pleaded guilty to transporting an underage member of his church across state lines in order to have sex with her.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Rudy Lozano slapped Schaap with a 12-year sentence Wednesday. Lozano said, even though Schaap cooperated with prosecutors, his crimes were serious enough that a sentence closer to the minimum 168 months recommended in federal sentencing guidelines was warranted.

"We are dealing with the treasures that are most important to us - our children," Lozano said.

Schaap didn't have much choice but to cooperate with prosecutors. Between text messages, cameraphone photos, letters he wrote the victim stating that Jesus would have approved of their relationship and his own church turning him over to authorities once the affair came to light, it would have been a miracle for this case to go to trial and end without a guilty verdict.

Schaap told Lozano when he entered his guilty plea he was "unaware of the law" when he began the relationship with the girl. The legal age of consent in Indiana is 16 but rises to 18 “if the actor is an adult who is the guardian, adoptive parent, adoptive grandparent, custodian, or stepparent of the minor; or a child care worker for the minor; or a military recruiter who is attempting to enlist over the minor.” Schaap, as superintendent of Hammond Baptist Schools, was in such a position with the victim, a student in the school system. Besides, the Mann Act would trump that.

While Schaap will spend the next dozen years repenting and spreading his unique approach to Christianity to fellow inmates, will the people in charge of First Baptist make a sincere effort to change the institutionalized culture of misogyny and physical and sexual abuse that has become as much a part of the church's fabric as the buses that flood Chicago's working class neighborhoods to pick up children to cross the Skyway for worship?