Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias publicly refuted allegations Sunday of having an affair with a married woman and misrepresenting his academic credentials on his ministry’s website.
The allegations against Zacharias, 71, gained widespread attention when an atheist blogger, Steve Baughman, published a piece on Zacharias, alleging the apologist not only lied about his academic history and his degrees, but that he also used his position of spiritual authority to manipulate a married woman into engaging in sexually explicit correspondence.
Zacharias and his ministry, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), released statements Sunday, claiming that Zacharias never had an affair, that he filed and settled a lawsuit against the woman and her husband, and that Zacharias never claimed to have earned a doctorate, according to Christianity Today.
Zacharias filed a lawsuit in August against a Canadian couple who demanded $5 million from his ministry in exchange for their silence about messages exchanged between Zacharias and the Canadian wife. The lady allegedly sent sexually explicit photos and responses, according to the suit.
Mark P. Bryant, the couple’s attorney, accused Zacharias in a demand letter of manipulating the wife into opening up about her life and then exercising spiritual authority over her when she was in a vulnerable state.
“Armed with that information and your excellent grooming skills, you chose to exploit her vulnerability to satisfy your own sexual desires,” Bryant’s letter said, according to CT.
Zacharias claimed that he did not send any such messages, and that he repeatedly asked the woman to stop messaging him after she sent him inappropriate messages.
“Let me state categorically that I never met this woman alone, publicly or privately,” Zacharias said in his statement. “The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to another woman—I did not, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife. The answer, I can unequivocally say, is no, and I fully accept responsibility.”
The same couple tried and failed to sue another pastor in Ontario for $1 million for allegedly advising them to make bad investment decisions, Zacharias’ lawyers also noted in the lawsuit. That lawsuit was dropped in 2008.
The husband allegedly knew about the messages his wife sent to Zacharias and even encouraged it “in hopes of manipulating him into a compromising position,” the attorneys also claim.
Zacharias dropped the lawsuit Nov. 9 when the couple requested mediation and has since reached a private settlement with them, on which he could not comment due to a nondisclosure agreement.
As for the allegation that Zacharias lied about earning a doctorate, RZIM published a separate statement explaining that neither Zacharias nor his ministry ever claimed he had earned a doctorate degree and that while Zacharias often requested that others not refer to him as “Doctor,” using the title before one’s name “is an appropriate and acceptable practice with honorary doctorates,” of which Zacharias has several. The ministry statement said they would not continue to the practice of putting “Dr.” before Zacharias’ name in any materials since it was contentious and unclear to some.
The statement did not address allegations that Zacharias lied about having positions as a senior research fellow and a visiting scholar at Cambridge and Oxford, but did say the ministry does address all allegations since some of them are “completely unfounded and without merit.”
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