More accusations against the late Ravi Zacharias have come to light, getting coverage in Christian media. Kudos to Christianity Today for breaking the story, and earlier allegations.
But that is not where the accusations started.
“Please note, the three witnesses I interviewed do not want money and have no legal claim to money.” – Steven Baughman
The latest round of allegations suggest the late evangelist was guilty of sexual misconduct in massage businesses which he owned, locared close to the Ravi Zacharias International ministries offices in Atlanta. Allegations include exposing himself to women working in the businesses, and masturbating in front of them.
But Christian media did not start the stream of allegations about Zacharias. Instead, Steven Baughman – who blogs on Youtube as the “Friendly Banjo Atheist” – has driven a lot of the revelations. Here is his summary of what he has put up.
“Please note, the three witnesses I interviewed: 1. Do not want money and have no legal claim to money; 2. Do not want publicity and are actually very shy of it, especially the two women; 3. In addition to sharing their testimony with me, they each spoke directly with a ‘Christian leader’ with whom I was working, and who does not want their name disclosed; 4. Each witness confirmed that Ravi engaged [in] sexually improper conduct; 5. It is beyond dispute that Ravi invested in the health spa/massage business; 6. His partner told me that they brought women in from India and Thailand to the spa. Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, also told me that they brought women in from India.”
“Those are the facts. This is the tip of the iceberg.”
Baughman tells Eternity: “I discovered the spa story in May by someone randomly contacting me. I confirmed it in July with Ravi Zacharias’ [business] partner, and also located another female victim. I put all three of them in touch with a Christian leader. He interviewed them and confirmed the allegations. And he put them in touch with Christianity Today.”
“The real story here isn’t Ravi Zacharias [at present]; it’s how he got away with this sort of s..t for so many years. His credential fraud was well known amongst evangelicals 25 years ago. Nobody said anything.
“If that person had not contacted me in May, we would know nothing about any of this and Ravi would be on his way to sainthood.”
Baughman held back a related video, to give Christianity Today time to cover the story. But the video is now here.
Zacharias’ ministry has responded to the Christianity Today story with a statement to the Religion News Service (RNS). “We, the family and ministry teammates of the late Ravi Zacharias, can say the allegations now being made against Ravi do not in any way comport with the man we knew for decades — we believe them to be false,” the statement said.
“These allegations pertain to businesses that were closed nearly a decade ago. These allegations were never made during Ravi’s lifetime, but were first presented to a third party more than three months after his death.”
Some Christian commentators have noticed Baughman’s connection and have asked “should we believe a Christian or an atheist?”
If Baughman is the spearhead of this investigation, it has to be said he has a good record of tracking down problems for Zacharias.
Baughman reposted an Eternity story earlier this year, adding the comment: “Five years ago this month I began investigating Zacharias. What I found was very, very ugly. ” (Eternity was one of the few Christian news sites which posted about developments in a sexting scandal that were coming to light as Ravi Zacharias passed away – it was a difficult journalistic decision.)
From memory, it was the misuse of honorary doctorates that got Baughman’s attention. But he now regards that as “a little like talking about Charles Manson‘s traffic violations”. He lays out the case against Zacharias in more detail than Eternity did, here.
What Baughman alleged earlier – has been largely admitted. Ravi Zacharias was guilty of exaggerating his connections to Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
Baughman may overplay the sexting allegation, in which a woman sent Zacharias inappropriate photos – and where he did not shut down the correspondence, and tried to cover it up.
The allegation that Zacharias threatened to commit suicide to prevent it being exposed has not been established one way or the other. But these latest accusations could give weight to the allegation that Zacharias failed to shut down the sexting.
The latest allegations are very serious, and RZIM’s commitment to an “independent external investigation” – their description to RNS – should be welcomed, and calmly awaited.