The former pastor of a northwest Indiana megachurch is scheduled for sentencing today for persuading a 16-year-old girl to engage in a sexual affair with him by telling her that Jesus desired it.
Jack Schaap, 55, who became leader of the 15,000-member First Baptist Church of Hammond, Ind., in 2001, pleaded guilty to transporting a minor across state lines with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Yesterday, federal prosecutors filed letters Schaap sent the girl in U.S. District Court as part of the government’s sentencing memorandum, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
“In our ‘fantasy talk,’ you have affectionately spoken of being ‘my wife,’ ” Schaap wrote in one letter. “That is exactly what Christ desires for us. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!”
In a letter from the girl to Schaap, she wrote, “You told me that I was sent to you from God, I was his gift to you.”
The memorandum includes evidence that Schaap encouraged the girl to talk to him past romantic relationships and treat him as a friend. They called and texted each other frequently, including 662 times during the month before the affair was discovered.
According to government filings, Schaap convinced church employees into helping him transport the girl across state lines by telling them he needed time alone with her due to her “extremely vulnerable state.”
During their affair, Schaap took the girl to his personal property in Crete, Ill., as well as his cabin in Cadillac, Mich.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Koster wrote in the sentencing memorandum that Schaap started grooming the girl in April 2012 after an administrator at her church-run school emailed Schaap saying that she was “frightened, confused and emotionally traumatized” and in need of guidance.
The incident apparently isn’t the first scandal involving clergy connected to First Baptist Church of Hammond. In an article that appeared in Chicago Magazine last December, Bryan Smith wrote, “Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church – many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson or its annual Pastors’ Schools – who fanned out around the country … racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape.”
Smith’s article went on to quote members of First Baptist’s congregation expressing shock and dismay at the sometimes graphically sexual sermons that Schaap delivered.