If you thought religious figures in the U.S. were the absolute worst, just wait.
A megachurch pastor in South Korea was just sentenced to 15 years in prison for raping eight of his female followers and claiming the assaults were part of “an order from God.”
Jaerock Lee, the leader of the Manmin Central Church (with over 10,000 branches), appears to be a textbook narcissist who was booted from conventional Christian groups and deemed a cult leader. It’s not surprising that he took advantage of his position and abused several women. His church claims to have 133,000 followers worldwide.
He was ejected from the Christian Council of Korea in 1999 for his “heretical” beliefs and branded a “cult leader” by the Korean Ministry Association after claiming he was without sin and exempt from dying.
“The victims, who attended the church since childhood, believed that obeying Lee as a godlike figure is the path to heaven,” the court said in its verdict. “Apparently the victims were psychologically positioned to be powerless to disobey Lee, and Lee took advantage of their status to commit the crime.”
The court said Lee denied “objective facts” during the investigation and showed no remorse in the courtroom. Lee, 75, was about 50 years older than his victims, it said.
“The victims believed him to be a divine being who wields divine power,” the court said. “They would have accepted Lee’s behavior as a divine act, rather than a sexual one, and gave up questioning him, thinking that it would constitute a sin.”
At a time when scandals involving clergymen are a dime a dozen, this one is somehow even more despicable than usual. Lee took advantage of these victims for decades by using God to trick them into handing over what he wanted. Some pastors just want money. He wanted their bodies.
In 1999, approximately 300 of his supporters stormed a Korean television station after it broadcast a documentary critical of Lee and his claims that he could cure illness. His sect had obtained a court order preventing Munhwa Broadcasting from screening a story about Lee’s sex life.
Lee was also invited to preach all over the world, with his church claiming he performed miraculous acts of healing.
“At each overseas crusade, countless have received God’s healing of such incurable and terminal diseases as AIDS, cancer, and the like on the spot when Rev. Dr. Lee prayed not by placing his hand on each of the sick but merely for all from the pulpit,” Manmin Central Church said on its website.
It’s comforting to know that the 75-year-old man received what will likely be a life sentence (or maybe not, since he claims he can’t even die). But the trauma that he’s inflicted on members of his church — physical in some cases, emotional in others — will last far longer than that.
(Screenshot via YouTube)