A southeastern Pennsylvania church subjected members of a youth group to a mock kidnapping and interrogations without telling them it was staged, and the outraged mother of one 14-year-old girl has filed a complaint with police.
The pastor of the Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown said the church is "so saddened" that the girl was traumatized at the Wednesday evening youth meeting.
But the pastor, John Lanza, said Friday there have been emails of support from other students at the church, about 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, because the intent was to prepare them for what they might encounter as missionaries. He didn't disclose the names of those involved but said the mock kidnappers included an off-duty police officer and a retired Army captain.
"It was a youth event, to illustrate what others have encountered on a regular basis," he said, adding that the focus of the lesson was "the persecuted church" in other countries.
Lanza said there were about 17 students at the meeting and the mock kidnappers covered the students' heads, put them in a van and interrogated them. Neither the students nor their parents were told about the raid beforehand, he said, though it was discussed with the parents of one youth who might have health issues.
TV station WHTM interviewed the girl who complained.
"They pulled my chair out from underneath me, and then they told me to get on the ground," she told the station. "I had my hands behind my back. They said, `Just do as I say, and you won't be hurt.'"
The girl said the teens were taken to the pastor's house, where it appeared he was being assaulted. Eventually, she said, the adults in charge revealed it was a staged event.
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- Associated Press, SE Pa. church holds mock kidnapping on youth group, winonadailynews.com
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