Church Staged Teen Kidnap to Teach Persecution

Authorities investigating after bruised girl, 14, files complaint
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2012 1:05 AM CDT
Church Staged Teen Kidnap to Teach Persecution
Seventeen teens were grabbed in this Pennsylvania church a "mock kidnapping" to teach them what it's like to be persecuted as a Christian missionary.   (YouTube)

(Newser) – County prosecutors are investigating mock "abductions" orchestrated by a Pennsylvania church that left one 14-year-old girl bruised, battered, and terrified, according to authorities. The horrifying ordeal was intended to teach the unsuspecting teens at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown about persecution of Christian missionaries, reports the Daily Mail. Some 17 teenagers were snatched from the church, hooded, interrogated, then taken in a van to a pastor's house, where he was apparently being attacked, and was covered with what looked like blood. During the staged kidnapping, men "'pulled my chair out from underneath me, and then they told me to get on the ground," said the terrified girl, who filed a complaint with police. "I had my hands behind my back. They said, 'Just do as I say, and you won't be hurt.''’

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Those posing as kidnappers—including an off-duty cop with an unloaded pistol—finally told the teens they were in no danger. "They heard me crying," the girl told WHTM-TV. "Why not, right then and there, tell us it was a joke, when you see me crying?" Head pastor John Lanza said he was "so saddened" that the girl was upset, but said he wanted to show the children what they might face as missionaries. "It was a youth event, to illustrate what others have encountered on a regular basis," he said. Neither teens nor their parents were told about the plan beforehand. "It's extremely disturbing," said a deputy district attorney. "False imprisonment of a child, someone under the age of 18, is a second-degree felony punishable up to 10 years on prison." (Read more crime stories.)

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