Church Fined $10,000 for Fake Kidnapping
An East Shore church will pay a $10,000 fine, and its youth pastor will do community service for staging a fake “terrorist raid” during a youth group program.via.
Dauphin County authorities charged Glad Tidings Assembly of God of Lower Swatara Township and youth pastor Andrew Jordan with simple assault and false imprisonment after a grand jury probe.
The mother of a 14-year-old girl who was “kidnapped” and frightened during the March raid triggered the criminal case by calling police.
First Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo said this morning that the charges were resolved with a plea deal. He said the church and Jordan entered no contest pleas before Judge Andrew H. Dowling.
Victims were consulted before the agreement was finalized, Chardo said.
“It was an appropriate punishment for what they did. And I’m confident they aren’t going to do it again,” he said.
“They’re not bad people,” Chardo added. “What they did wasn’t malicious. It was just foolhardy.”
During the mock raid, four men — one armed with an unloaded gun — rushed into a youth group meeting, put pillowcases over the heads of the kids and forced them into a van. One teen was injured.
The youth group members didn’t know the raid was fake. Church officials said it was staged to show the children the perils missionaries face overseas.
As an institution, the church couldn’t face a jail term, Chardo said, but the $10,000 fine is the maximum allowed by law.
He said Jordan will be allowed into the accelerated rehabilitative disposition program to avoid a criminal record. He will pay a $500 penalty, serve up to a year of probation and do 50 hours of community service, Chardo said.
Church pastor John Lanza and the congregation’s lawyer, William DeStefano, weren’t immediately available for comment on the outcome of the case.