The new revelations concerning Ravi Zacharias have shocked much of the evangelical world, but they’re no surprise to Steve Baughman. Two years ago, Steve published an exposé on Ravi, revealing a pattern of sexual misconduct and deception by the famous apologist and those around him. Yet few paid any attention.
On this episode of The Roys Report, Julie interviews Steve, an avowed atheist and lawyer, and explores why the red flags concerning Ravi were ignored for so long. They also examine the evidence against Ravi and discuss what finally brought the issues to light.
This is an intriguing, yet sobering discussion, raising serious issues about Christian celebrities and the complex web of leaders and institutions that protect them.
JULIE ROYS, RAVI ZACHARIAS, STEVE BAUGHMAN
JULIE ROYS 00:04
The new revelations concerning Ravi Zacharias have been devastating. The man revered as the greatest apologist of the 20th century is being accused of being a serial sexual predator. And while much of the evangelical world is in shock right now, one man is not. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is Steve Baughman. Steve is a lawyer and the author of Cover-Up in the Kingdom. That’s an expose on Ravi Zacharias that was published nearly two years ago. So for two years, Steve Baughman has been sounding the alarm about Ravi Zacharias. That’s long before I published my series of articles on Ravi, or the recent pieces by World Magazine and Christianity Today. But very few headed Steve’s alarm. Perhaps that’s because Steve is an atheist and rightly or wrongly, many Christians have assumed that he was out to destroy the church. Yet I believe Steve has done the church a great service. Without Steve’s vast research and documentation, I believe none of what’s been reported about Ravi Zacharias would have come to light. It was Steve who reached out to me in May of 2019 and pleaded with me to examine the facts about Ravi Zacharias. It was Steve who mailed me a copy of his book. And on the inside cover he wrote, “Julie, thank you for your investigative work and for caring about integrity in ministry.” Friends, it was after reading Steve’s book that I realized that there were simply too many red flags to ignore. And it was after reading Steve’s book that I began investigating Ravi Zacharias and the sexting scandal, including Lori Anne Thompson. So I feel indebted to Steve Baughman. And as I’ve said before, I don’t think the church is ever served by covering up wrongdoing. And even when it’s painful, we have to face the truth about our leaders and our organizations. That is the only path to repentance, reform and restoration. So I’m very excited today to speak with Steve Baughman. But before I do, I want to thank the sponsors of The Roys Report, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson is an evangelical Christian University in the Chicago area that I’ve been privileged to partner with for the past couple of years. What I’ve learned is that Judson’s president Gene Crume is committed to truth and accountability. And under his direction. Judson’s become a vibrant Christian community where students get the attention and the caring that they need. Judson has a small student to teacher ratio, experienced faculty and incredible facilities. For more information, just go to JudsonU.edu. Also, if you’re in the market for a car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there, Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of character and I’m so proud to partner with them for this podcast. To check them out, just go to BuyACar123.com. Well again, joining me today is Steve Baughman, author of Cover-Up in the Kingdom. He’s also a lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds a master’s degree from UC Berkeley, and is a part time philosophy student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. So Steve, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you join me.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 03:21
Thank you for having me, Julie.
JULIE ROYS 03:22
And I should also mention that you’re known as the friendly banjo atheist. You’re a banjo instructor. Is that right?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 03:28
I am. Yes, I teach Banjo and guitar. That’s my YouTube handle.
JULIE ROYS 03:33
Yeah, and this is the first time I’ve had an atheist on my program. So this should be pretty interesting.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 03:40
Have you had a banjo player?
JULIE ROYS 03:42
You know, I don’t know if I’ve had a banjo player. I may have had an banjo player, but
STEVE BAUGHMAN 03:46
Well, two for one.
JULIE ROYS 03:48
But yes, this could be the first banjo player and the first atheist, but we won’t be playing any banjo today. We’re going to be talking about your research. I just want to start with a thing that I’ve heard said so much about you–and I think unfairly, but I want to let you answer it–is that people are saying that you, because you’re an atheist, you’re just out to tear down the church. Is that true? Is that why you began investigating Ravi Zacharias? Because you wanted to tear down the evangelical community?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 04:17
It’s a good question, because, and I understand people thinking that, but the exact opposite is true. You know, I’ve been interested in Christianity since I was a kid. I grew up around missionaries in Southeast Asia and I actually came across Ravi Zacharias in around early 2015 as part of my intellectual and spiritual searches. I was looking for the best Christian apologists I could find and I found him. And that’s how I started getting interested in it because he made such a powerful impression on me. And sadly, I began looking into a certain, a few red flags, and it’s been a five year journey of just uncovering dirty thing after dirty thing. But no, it really has nothing to do with hostility to Religion. It’s just if someone is deceiving millions of people like that, I think it’s something that’s worth calling them on.
JULIE ROYS 05:08
Are you saying that you were actually seeking spiritually? And that’s why you came across Ravi?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 05:14
Yeah, I’d say I’m seeking spiritually and intellectually. I’m very interested in knowing whether Christianity is true. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe Christianity is true. But I’m also very open to being wrong about that sort of stuff. And yeah, I’m always reading and I’m taking a class right now with a Christian Professor on the proofs for the existence of God. So yeah, Ravi’s, I found Ravi because I was really impressed. I remember the argument very well, he made an argument about fulfilled prophecy and Daniel, and it was powerful. And I said to myself, if that argument is true, I need to change my worldview. And I looked into it, and that began my realization that Ravi was not a straight shooter.
JULIE ROYS 06:00
Well, I mean, that makes me sad. As a Christian, as a believer who believes that we need to be ambassadors for Christ, it rips me up. And honestly, that’s part of why I do what I do, because I care about the witness of the church. And I care about people like you who are actually looking for answers and then come across corruption, and at the highest levels. And I can understand the disillusionment and I can understand why that would make people discount Christianity. And, you know, that’s a whole other discussion. And one I’d love to have. In fact, though I’ve never had an atheist on this show, I have been on an atheist show, discussing why I believe in Jesus. And I think it’s important that we have reasons.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 06:40
I should also make really clear that I do not think that Ravi’s turning out to be a really unsavory character should ruffle anybody’s faith one way or another. And atheists shouldn’t use this as a club against Christianity and Christians shouldn’t have their faith ruffled because there are, you know, for every Ravi Zacharias, there’s a really good solid Christian scholar with integrity. The issues are the issues regardless of what the messengers are doing with those issues or corrupting them. So I really think it’s important for people to depersonalized this. We’re talking about facts of deception, by a prominent evangelical as well as people in high places in the evangelical Christian business world and ministry world, enabling him and covering up for him. Those are facts that we should all be concerned about, regardless of our theological orientation.
JULIE ROYS 07:31
Well, I appreciate what you just said about it really shouldn’t ruffle our faith because our faith is in Jesus Christ. It’s not in Ravi Zacharias. And so even though we’re looking at these things, and he happened to be a symbol for Christianity and a prominent leader, our faith does not rise or fall on Ravi Zacharias. But let me turn to another common objection, because I hear, I’m getting this a lot, “Ravi Zacharias passed away. He’s not here to defend himself.” And people are saying, “What good is reporting this information now?” How do you respond to that?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 08:08
Well, Ravi’s dead, but the people he injured, and the people he misled are not dead. And many of them are still suffering. So if we’re talking particularly about sex abuse, I just can’t imagine what it would be like to be Lori Anne Thompson, or some of those women who worked with Ravi in the spas and were sexually abused by him, hearing Mike Pence get up on TV and say, “What a good man and a godly man he is.” And then having people say, “He’s now dead. So keep your complaints to yourself.” I mean, it’s really sort of dismissive of people he’s victimized. Also, I think that the fact that he spent decades misrepresenting himself by his qualifications. People still have his books. People are still buying his books. HarperCollins Christian publishing is still selling his books. This is an ongoing issue that really needs to come out. The man lied about his credentials, and he sold books based on that. And those books are still selling. So let’s be upfront about those lies he told. And finally, a lot of the people probably the most important thing may be that the people who enabled him in those deceptions are still in prominent places in Christian ministry, you know, and they’re not coming forward to talk about it. So we need to.
JULIE ROYS 09:24
Yeah, I fully agree with that. And, you know, the books one. That is so hard, because I know, a lot of his content was so good yet at the same time, when I reported on James MacDonald, and it became very clear what the character of this man was, and that it wasn’t consistent with his message. People pulled his books, all the major publishers did. And so I think that’s one of the issues that we have to look at. We have to look at the namesake of his ministry, which is, you know, almost a $40 million ministry. Do they keep his namesake? We also have to look at like you said, the people that covered him up. And I’d say, not just the Christian and Missionary Alliance, which now says it’s concerned by new allegations and you know, has questions and is looking into those. But we also have Ravi Zacharias International Ministry, RZIM, that ministry with a board that is still not named. In fact, I just heard from the evangelical Council for financial accountability, the ECFA, because I reached out to them. I said, “I have been asking for the [names of the] board members of RZIM repeatedly. And one of the things about Board Governance with ECFA is transparency. Is that okay?” And they said, “Yeah, that’s okay.” They allow that. And there were three at the time that some of these allegations came up, there were three board members, who were Zacharias family members. Ravi,
STEVE BAUGHMAN 10:43
JULIE ROYS 10:43
Yeah. So I mean, again, that’s a violation of one of the foundations of board governance. Now, they said, as long as the majority aren’t in violation or interested persons like this, and I’m like, “Really?” I mean, this was the chairman, the Vice Chairman, Chairman was Ravi, Vice Chairman was Margie. And then one of the directors was Sarah. I mean, this kind of alleged misconduct shows what can happen when boards really don’t hold people accountable, and really don’t do independent investigations, like they say they’re doing but you know, given the past history, how much do we believe that? his wife Margie, and his daughter, Sarah Davis.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 10:46
Sarah. Yeah, really good point.
JULIE ROYS 11:24
Let’s take a look at some of these allegations, the recent stories that that I did, mine were based on the sexting allegations and bringing new evidence to light and we will talk about the sexting controversy back in 2017. CT and World Magazine, they’ve dealt with the sexual misconduct involving the spas. We will get to that. But I want to start with the credentials controversy, because this speaks not just to the truthfulness of Ravi Zacharias, but also of RZIM, and there’s no question that in multiple bios on Ravi’s books, and at his website, it was claimed that Ravi had a doctorate. But it was only honorary. It wasn’t earned. You began looking into that, I believe in 2015. Correct?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 12:14
JULIE ROYS 12:15
So what did you find? And kind of walk us through the discovery process for you.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 12:20
Well, the first thing for me was after I found that he had what I took to be misled an audience about prophecy in the book of Daniel, and you know, and whether he did or didn’t, I don’t want to get into the book of Daniel, because it’s extraordinarily complex. But I found it misleading. And that got me going. I started wondering, “Well, why does a guy with Oxford and Cambridge credentials make an argument like that?” So I started looking into whether he really had a doctorate. And it took hours and hours of research to find out that he didn’t. His website used specifically vague language, they said he has been “honored with the conferral of doctorate degrees.” And so that doesn’t tell you that they’re honorary. That’s the exact same language that a prominent University used to refers to its PhDs, they’ve been, “honored with the conferral of a doctorate.” And that’s the language that Ravi Zacharias’ ministry was using to describe his doctorates. And it was so vague, and they could have made it clear by just simply saying he has honorary doctorates. They did not want to use the word honorary. And that was a real red flag about their fundamental lack of integrity. When I called them on it, it took a long time, but eventually they put out a statement about how well Ravi in the past has called himself doctor. But but most of the time, it’s because people in India just call him that and he resists it. And he, they even made a statement about how,
JULIE ROYS 13:51
Let me read that statement. So that we, I don’t want to misrepresent him, which I don’t think you’re doing, but let me just read it, and then I’ll let you respond to it.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 13:59
JULIE ROYS 13:59
This was in 2017. The statement that RZIM put out, and I quote, “While Ravi personally does not brandish his credentials, and routinely asked not to be referred to as ‘Dr. Zacharias’ even by employees, our organization bears his name, and as such, we would like to take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstanding. Neither Ravi Zacharias, nor Ravi Zacharias International Ministries has ever knowingly misstated or misrepresented Ravi’s credentials. When it has been brought to our attention that something was stated incorrectly with regard to Ravi’s background, we have made every effort to correct it. Sometimes other entities such as publishers, or institutions, where Ravi was speaking, have incorrectly presented aspects of his credentials. We were not aware of these errors when they were made. However, in some instances, RZIM should have caught them and sought to have them corrected. We regret any and all errors as well as any doubt or distraction that may have caused.” Further, RZIM said, “Some confusion may have arisen from a difference in cultural norms as we are a global organization with staff members based in 16 countries. In Ravi’s homeland of India, for example, honorific titles are customary and are used frequently out of respect for elders, including by the RZIM India team when addressing Ravi. Still, it is Ravi’s custom to request for the inviting parties not to use Dr. With his name in conjunction with any speaking events. Despite this, on occasion, it has been our experience that when we arrive to find promotional banners and materials welcoming ‘Dr. Ravi Zacharias . . .'” Okay, so let me just ask you, do you find that consistent that the employees or organization seems to correct things quickly when it was brought to their attention?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 15:46
You know, there are so many things in this statement that are just patently false. But let me say, first of all, this was a brilliant PR move that Ravi made was to call attention to the doctorate issue. Early on, he ignored the Cambridge issue and the Oxford issues, which were way more serious than the doctor issues, but he addressed the doctor issues and those are the ones now that people are talking about the most. And that’s relatively minor. I agree, calling yourself a doctor because you only have honorary degrees, it’s gauche, it’s presumptuous, but it’s done. And it’s not the crime of the century. Right? But the statement that RZIM made, and they say that Ravi doesn’t even want employees calling him doctor. That’s nonsense. I called his office to speak to him. And I think this would have been in late 2015, maybe 2016. And I was put through to his personal secretary who answered by saying, “Dr. Zacharias’ office.” Okay, so you’ve got his personal secretary calling him, “Dr. Zacharias.” And they’re pretending that Ravi’s encouraging employees not to do that. And the idea that they were, they occasionally overlooked a few things, you know, Ravi called himself professor at Oxford. Did they not know that he wasn’t a professor at Oxford? It was at his website. Anyone who was paying any attention should have been able to see a pattern and practice of deceptions on Ravi’s part. And it’s just really discouraging to see them say, “Oops. Occasionally we didn’t catch things, and then we quickly corrected them.” Nonsense. This was a pattern and practice.
JULIE ROYS 17:26
And when you first reached out to them about this, it was my understanding, it was almost a year before they made any public pronouncement about it. Is that correct?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 17:37
Here’s what happened. When I first contacted them in the middle part of like, around April or May of 2015, they had someone take lots of time addressing my questions. And a really lovely guy named Simon Westham, who’s was with RZIM in Europe somewhere to answer all my questions, try really hard to be responsive, not really telling me anything but at least responding to emails. Sometime in the summer of 2015. I confirmed through my own efforts through Cambridge that Ravi had never been a visiting scholar at Cambridge. I presented that evidence to RZIM, and from that day on, they terminated all communication with me. They wouldn’t, dozens of emails after that to them. Unanswered. So they were not open to being corrected. They cut me off as soon as I got the evidence that he lied about being a visiting scholar at Cambridge.
JULIE ROYS 18:33
Well, and I want to mention that all of the information we’re talking about the credentials again, that’s all in Steve’s book, which again, was published in 2018, “Cover-Up In the Kingdom.” And I do have, thanks to Steve, five copies of that book that I’m giving away. So if you want to enter to win one of those copies, just go to JulieRoys.com/giveaway. And the book opened my eyes. And I think if you’re really looking for the truth, you have the recent articles that have come out, but then you have all of this wealth of information that Steve has spent years compiling. And for very little remuneration, I’m guessing. So it’s been a labor of love in many ways. Well written book and and the evidence is pretty compelling. But you’ve made reference to this claim that Ravi studied at Cambridge, was a professor at Oxford University. In fact, I have a clip from a video where Ravi refers to this. I just want to play that so people can hear it and realize you’re not making this up. Take a listen.
RAVI ZACHARIAS 19:40
I love books. You must read. In fact, when I was doing my studies at Cambridge, we use, any one of you has been to Cambridge, now I’m a professor at Oxford, I hope nobody quotes me, but Cambridge is prettier than Oxford.
JULIE ROYS 19:54
So Steve, again, it’s pretty clear there, Ravi said he He was a professor at Oxford. He was, didn’t he study at a school that was associated with Oxford though?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 20:08
No. Actually, he studied with a school that was affiliated with Cambridge. But again, this word ‘affiliated’ can mean anything. I go to the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. It has nothing to do with UC Berkeley. But there’s some cross registration and library privileges and that sort of stuff. I cannot call myself a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, because I take classes at the Dominican School in in the town of Berkeley. But no, Ravi was never–I confirmed with the university–Ravi has never held any formal teaching position at the University of Oxford or at any of the schools within the University of Oxford. So also, he didn’t just make the, “I’m a professor of Oxford claim” in that clip, you just you just played, but he made it, there was for years, you can see it if you go back to the internet archives. You can see it there. Front and center at his website, referring to himself as, “a visiting professor at Wycliffe Hall, the University of Oxford.” Never happened.
JULIE ROYS 21:11
He was a Senior Research Fellow, was he not?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 21:14
Yes, he was a senior research fellow, which is a purely honorary title
JULIE ROYS 21:18
at Wycliffe Hall, which is, it is associated with Oxford.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 21:22
Wycliffe Hall is part of the University of Oxford. Yes. So Ravi had an honorary title, which as you know, honorary titles can be because you donate lots of money or because you’re a great preacher. It has nothing to do with scholastic or academic accomplishments. But it certainly did not make him a faculty member or a professor at the University of Oxford. And unfortunately, he made that claim for years. And it was false.
JULIE ROYS 21:47
I’m hearing this a lot now. “Why didn’t these allegations come out when he was alive?” And I’m like, “Nobody was paying attention when he was alive.” A lot were coming out. You wrote your book. And it just it, nobody picked it up. If you want to know why nobody picked it up. Just look at the Facebook comments when Christianity Today published [recently about Ravi.] Look at the Facebook comments when Christian Post published on my series or when World Magazine did. The comments are so vitriolic, and people are like, “I won’t believe this no matter what.” And it’s like burying your head in the sand does not help the problem. It makes it worse. And it makes it so that people that continue to do this sort of thing will proliferate in the church unless the church learns how to hold them accountable. So again, you were bringing these things to people’s attention. And really, very, very few were listening.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 22:37
Yeah, it’s like, what’s their point? Yeah, “If Robbie were alive now he would boldly step up to the plate and address all these allegations!” Nonsense. He never did that when he was alive. He suppressed this stuff. And he got a lot of help from Christians in high places. So don’t tell me that if only you were alive, we’d be having a really good defense of all this stuff. No. By playing fast and loose with his credentials, Ravi’s really given the green light to other people to do that. And we see this so much in evangelical Christianity. In evangelical Christianity, there just seems to be this lackadaisical attitude towards how you represent yourself in terms of your academic qualifications. And Ravi made it okay to do this.
JULIE ROYS 23:21
Well, and that just infuriates me as an evangelical Christian because I feel that our commitment to the truth should be higher than the rest of the world. I mean, scripture is pretty clear on it. “The Lord hates lying lips.” This is a lie. Anything that is shading the truth or leaving a false impression is a lie. That’s what I grew up being taught that the Bible taught and it’s right there in black and white. Let’s move on to the other big scandal involving Ravi. And the other big scandal was a sexting scandal, which involved a Canadian woman Lori Anne Thompson. I wrote about this extensively at my website. You can read the three part series I did.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 24:01
Your reporting was excellent, by the way, I really liked what you wrote. It was very thorough.
JULIE ROYS 24:05
Well, thank you. And, again, I’m indebted to you to putting me on to this story. And it, I started digging, and I just saw that a lot of things in Ravi’s lawsuit against the Thompsons, that those things didn’t hold water and they didn’t check out. Whereas the Thompson’s, everything they gave me supporting their narrative did check out. But if you’re not familiar with the story, Ravi admits that in 2016, he received nude photos from Lori Anne Thompson. He said he repeatedly asked Lori Anne to stop sending him these photos through his blackberry messenger, and that she did so only because she and her husband were trying to set up Ravi so they could extort money from him. So according to his narrative, he’s the victim. And they’re the predators. According to Lori Anne’s narrative, which has just come out much more fully, because I was able to get, she’s under an NDA that she signed with Robbie in 2017. But I was able to get something that she wrote about her narrative before she had signed that NDA. Her narrative is that Ravi groomed her when he met her, knew about her abuse background, preyed on that, became a father figure to her and then used that leverage to begin requesting nude photos, and then phone sex. And it was her, according to her, who cut it off. But she says Robbie was the sexual predator. She was the victim. So Steve, let me throw this to you. Because you were onto the story before I was, when did you have problems? And what told you that there were problems with Ravi’s narrative?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 25:38
So I tried to look at it like a lawyer or like a judge. You know, the best way to adjudicate factual disputes is by just taking the facts that we can assume are undisputed. So it’s a he said, she said thing. And so let’s say we don’t really know who’s lying. Let’s just look at what we can all agree on. One thing we can agree on is Ravi, he alleged that this was an extortion plot that Lori Anne and her husband had plotted because they needed the money. Well, Ravi admits in his lawsuit that he was the one who asked Lori Anne to communicate with him via a quote, “more secure means of communication.” Unquote. This is exactly what he said. None of that nude stuff would have been possible if he’d been communicating with Lori Anne the way he’d been before, which is on emails, often an email account that had Brad’s name on it. It was Ravi, who upped the secrecy level to Blackberry, which allowed all this sex stuff to happen. And he admits this. Now that was a necessary part for their intimacy to increase. And he’s the one who asked for it. So that was one of the first things that came to light. And then his whole thing smelt so desperate to me, I mean, here’s this couple, no criminal convictions, just a nice couple going about their business, and they decide they need money. So they come up with this elaborate plot that could have landed them in prison, to frame some guy who lives in Georgia, but passes through town once in a while. And so they have this this plot where they, they’re going to get him to cross some lines with Lori Anne. And then they’re going to use it to get millions of dollars out of it–just seems so far fetched. And I actually looked into their finances, I hired a private investigator and they don’t need money from Ravi Zacharias. They’re fairly well off couple. And this whole idea that as Ravi says in his complaint, “they were just in financially bad straits” is nonsense. Ravi made that up, because he needed a motive for his lawsuit. So it just all smelled really bad right at the outset. And that’s without even knowing much about the real facts of what went on between them. The other thing is, in his complaint, Ravi denies lots of things. But he never denies that he threatened suicide to keep her quiet. I mean, the whole suicide threat, October 29, of 2016, she emailed him and said, “I’m going to confess to Brad.” Ravi’s response was, “If you do that, I’m going to bid this world goodbye, I promise.” So he’s threatening suicide, and that suicide reference appears in exhibit one of his complaint. And he never denies making that. And I just think that’s a pretty explosive thing. If you’re innocent, you don’t threaten suicide, to keep someone from confessing to her husband. You know?
JULIE ROYS 28:35
And that was when you sent me your book, the portion of the suicide emails that you had, you had the thread and it was just Robbie’s response. So we don’t see what was sent to him. But there was his response. And it’s, it’s a series of four emails, where he says, “Are you going to tell them it’s me?” 48 seconds later, he says, “You promised you wouldn’t Lori Anne. If you betray me here, I’ll have no option but to bid this world goodbye, I promise.” Then, about 15 minutes later, “Can we meet at least once before you do this? Please, please.” Then 18 minutes later, “Little did I know that that was the most dark and accursed day of my life. You will not hear from me again.” I read those. I went to the appendix and I read that. And to me, I was like, “That does not sound like an innocent man. That’s not how an innocent man responds.” But then recently, and this is what I published, some of the new information I published was Lori Anne’s email to him that preceded that series. And this is where she says that she can no longer continue, that I “know this is a sin against God and each of our spouses.” And then she says she’s going to tell Brad but then she adds and this was key to me, “If one of my daughters was approached by a man 30 years her senior in a position of power and trust and this type of thing had occurred. I would be furious with him. I suspect so would you If it was one of your precious girls. You, sir, are that man, you took advantage of a devastated daughter and left her devoured once again. I am so appalled that I allowed myself to enter this level of deception. You took and gave a part of my soul and later my body that was not yours. The investment in relationship from taking off my clothes, makes me weep with the despair feeling desolate, devastated, and disgusted.”
STEVE BAUGHMAN 30:25
JULIE ROYS 30:26
So when I read that, that when he responds, he doesn’t say, “Oh, my word. How are you accusing me of things? You sent me these emails. I didn’t solicit them or these pictures. And I didn’t solicit them.” You don’t see that response, you see, instead of man who appears to be caught. And then the preceding email that I got was from Lori Anne’s counselors saying that if Ravi didn’t contact them right away and say that he wasn’t going to kill himself that they would have call 911. And I confirmed all of those emails with those two counselors, the Basel’s, who live in Georgia. And so that, to me, seems like a pretty damning bit of evidence. But there’s one more thing and you talked about: the BlackBerry messenger. One of the things that we know about BlackBerry messenger, is that to get messages–this is what was so beautiful about BlackBerry messenger is that the only people that got into your BlackBerry messenger were people that you would give your code to. And so if Ravi had blocked Lori Anne Thompson, like he says in his lawsuit, and then she continued to try to send him nude pictures.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 31:32
JULIE ROYS 31:33
I don’t see how that’s possible. Unless he’d It couldn’t have happened, right. It’s It is impossible. So even his own lawsuit condemns him. And again, these are things that people could have figured out a long time ago.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 31:44
Yeah, that’s exactly right. He made a big deal about how he kept trying to tell her not to send these nude photos. But wouldn’t you think that a celebrity whose reputation–his empire stands on his reputation–wouldn’t he at least write one email saying, “Please don’t send me these anymore, ever” and then print it out for his files? You know, Ravi had absolutely no evidence that he’d asked her to stop repeatedly. Nothing. And that was really suspicious to me also.
JULIE ROYS 32:20
And he didn’t tell his board by his own admission, until he got the demand letter, correct?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 32:26
Right. So the suicide–this exchange that you just talked about, where he responded with a suicide threat was October 29, of 2016–he didn’t say a thing about it to his board until he got a demand letter five, six months later, in April of 2017. And his board, apparently, in their latest statement said, “He really should have told us earlier” about that.
JULIE ROYS 32:48
Yeah, I did.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 32:50
It’s disappointing to see that the woman who has been just skewered as a vicious extortionist out to get this holy man, she was the one who was having terrible pangs of conscience about what she was doing behind the back of her husband. And Ravi demonstrated absolutely no remorse whatsoever.
JULIE ROYS 33:12
Well, and let’s talk about those that were around this whole situation. Those who are in charge of keeping him accountable. Again, we mentioned the board, the board didn’t find out until 2017. I just got the full thread of emails with what Lori Anne said first, and then what the counselor said afterwards. I just got those. But as a board, they should have demanded to get all of those. I would hope they did. But I don’t know if they did.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 33:39
JULIE ROYS 33:39
What did their investigation include? And then I also published phone records. Clearly, Ravi repeatedly called her on his cell phone, there were incoming calls from him, not insignificant ones. Why is he he calling a married woman, not his wife on the cell phone? And again, the board should have known that.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 34:00
JULIE ROYS 34:01
The board maybe did know that. I mean, that’s a big question right now, what did the board now and when and why didn’t they do more? But also, you have the Christian and Missionary Alliance who says they investigated this. And then I just talked to Lori Anne this week, I said, “Did you ever hear from the Christian and Missionary Alliance? Did they ever call you as part of this investigation?” And she said, “No, they didn’t.” But when she heard there was an investigation, she reached out to them. And they basically said, “Listen. It’s a he said, she said. There’s nothing we can do.” And they weren’t really interested in hearing her story.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 34:33
Yes, the C&MA published a statement that was remarkable for how carefully it was worded to say absolutely nothing. You like you’d really have to try to say nothing in the way they did. You don’t, we don’t know from the statement whether they found that Ravi had done something bad but it wasn’t bad enough to be disciplinary, or whether he had done something bad but he’d repented from it, so that wasn’t disciplinary, or whether it–you just could not tell what the heck they had found. And then the C&MA said, “and these things are confidential, so we can’t talk about it.” But I checked their own rules. They aren’t confidential. They have the discretion to disclose the results of their investigations into their ministers if they feel it’s in the public interest for that to be disclosed. So the Christian & Missionary Alliance has been really disappointing and just out and out dishonest. They made a big deal about how they interviewed all the witnesses and they didn’t even bother contacting the Thompsons ’till Lori Anne called them. And then apparently it wasn’t a very thorough questioning. So it really is odd. How many people could have found stuff out and didn’t. Or maybe Julie, maybe it isn’t odd. Maybe we’re just talking about, you know, we expect the evangelical organizations to be better than tobacco companies and maybe they aren’t.
JULIE ROYS 35:58
It’s so sad because it’s exactly like the world. And it is trying to preserve their organization or the leader and not get in legal trouble. And it’s just going to continue as long as evangelicals are so unbelievably easily duped. And I hate to say that because this is my tribe, but the way that we stick our head in the sand is just, it’s to the level of just ridiculousness.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 35:58
Right? First of all, if I hadn’t decided I’m pissed off at the lies and done the digging we probably wouldn’t be talking about this. But if just one person had not emailed me in May of this year, we never would know anything about this spa abuse. So we just really don’t know what’s going on in the private lives of so many of these powerful men. I mean, Ravi came a tiny inch from getting away with all this. One of the things that’s shaken me up about all this is how close we came never to knowing anything about this stuff about Ravi.
JULIE ROYS 36:31
Yeah. He did and you’re absolutely right. And I would say from my experience, I would say that people in the pews are often, have a higher moral character than some of the people that are leading them. I have found like when I was investigating on Harvest, the people at Harvest, a lot of them, just that your average churchgoer, were, I mean people of integrity. And yet they were led by people who weren’t and who were, you know, propped up as if they were. You know, there’s so many questions that are going to come out of something like this, I think it’s really rocked us, as a church to say that, my goodness, what does it mean of us that “the greatest Christian apologists of the 20th century” may have been a fraud?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 37:50
JULIE ROYS 37:51
What does that mean about the evangelical community? And I have been sounding this. And sometimes I feel like I’m, you know, it’s falling on deaf ears. But this is a serious problem. It is unbelievably widespread. It isn’t just Ravi. It’s all of these organizations that are operating in this manner. They are ripe for abuse. And they’re ripe for con artists. And so we’d better start doing something to bring accountability. I know I’m on my soapbox here, but I just,
STEVE BAUGHMAN 38:20
it’s an important, it’s an important soapbox. And you know more about this particular issue than I do. But it just seems to me fairly straightforward. If you crave power and if you want to be able to have your way with other people, well, you try to climb to the top of an organization, right? So it should be no surprise that the people at the top have those characteristics more than the people in the pews, in any organization, secular or religious. The people who are motivated by that stuff will try very hard to get to the top. You know? So it’s depressing.
JULIE ROYS 38:54
It is. Although I am encouraged by how much has been coming to light the past couple of years. And I said it at the Restore Chicago conference we had last year. And I truly believe it. I do think this is part of a move of God to clean up His church. And the bowl of wrath is full. And God is taking his church back. And I do think there’s going to be more of this. And I think until we repent of what we have done, and until those who are doing wrong, come forward and begin to repent of it or are removed by their boards, God is just going to keep exposing it. And to me that’s biblical. First Timothy 5:20, “An elder who is sinning should be publicly exposed so that others may take warning and stand in fear.” So I hope those who are doing wrong stand in fear because that’s why we do this.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 39:45
JULIE ROYS 39:45
STEVE BAUGHMAN 39:46
Absolutely. I can’t agree with you on the God part because I’d have to give up my atheist card. but no, there does seem to be a much more awareness about this than there was two years ago. So I’m very grateful for that.
JULIE ROYS 39:57
So Steve, I want to talk about now what’s been reported just last week [in] Christianity Today, in World Magazine, reporting that these massage therapists at two spas that Ravi co-owned. And that in and of itself, the fact that Ravi Zacharias owned two massage parlor kind of health spas. A little bit shocking. But this came out in the media. Claimed that Robbie had sexually assaulted and harassed several of these massage therapists. Christianity Today did not report the names of the massage therapists. However, they said they did verify that they had worked at the spas and that the spas were co-owned by Ravi Zacharias. You, though, and I remember because you forwarded the email to me from one of these women who had been abused, or at least alleged that she had been abused by Ravi Zacharias at the spa back in May of this year.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 40:57
JULIE ROYS 40:57
You got this email, and I know the name because I know–I saw the name on the email, and I won’t,
STEVE BAUGHMAN 41:03
We won’t say it. But
JULIE ROYS 41:04
We won’t say it. But I will say I have seen the name. And I’ve seen that name attached to the spas, and in some of the founding documents, so I can affirm that too that these are real people. So you got this email. You talked to all of these victims, is that right?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 41:22
Yes. So the email that I sent you that came in in May. And this was an example. If that woman had not sent that email, we would have absolutely no idea about this whole spa thing. I mean, maybe someone eventually would have come forward. But it’s unlikely given how reluctant people are to talk. So this is just one of those serendipitous things that’s kind of shakes me up a little bit to think, “if she hadn’t sent that email, we wouldn’t know anything about this.”
JULIE ROYS 41:48
And if you hadn’t written the book, Steve, she wouldn’t have sent you that email. That’s why she sent it.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 41:53
That’s true also, yes. So it’s all these things that could very easily not have happened. They just happened to happen. And now we know a lot more about Ravi than we would otherwise have. But so she sent me that email in May. And I remember sharing it with you. And I decided, “Look if no one’s gonna believe Ravi Zacharias was in the massage business and abused people,” and I decided, “I’m not gonna go anywhere with this story.” I’m not gonna I mean, I already have zero credibility amongst Christians. So why? Why am I going to put another story out there, that they’re just going to pounce all over me for? Suddenly, speaking in the serendipity department, on July 14, I got a call at my law firm. Some guy named Anurag Sharma wants to talk to me about Dr. Ravi. So I called him back. And it was Anurag Sharma, this Indian gentleman, telling me that he was, he traveled with Ravi for 30 years and was best friends. And this gentleman wanted to speak to me about spiritual matters. He didn’t want to talk about Ravi. It was hard to get him to talk about Ravi. He wanted to ask me about my grieving process. And he wanted me to ask about sin in our lives and how we deal with it and all this kind of stuff. And at the end of this some 20 some minute conversation I just said, “Before you hang up, Mr. Sharma, do you know anything about Ravi Zacharias being in the massage business?” It’s just a shot in the dark. He says, “I was in the massage business with Ravi.”
JULIE ROYS 43:21
STEVE BAUGHMAN 43:21
And that confirmed to me right there that this woman’s email from May, that there was proof now of this. And Mr. Sharma gave me the evidence, which is the video of the grand opening of the Jivan Wellness Spa. And there you see Ravi named as one of the founding members and Ravi speaking along with luminaries like Johnnie Hunt. So Mr. Sharma’s the one who really confirmed that, “Yes, this is true.” And then I was able to speak to another woman who had worked in the massage business there with Ravi and he had repeatedly exposed himself to her. And it’s one of those sad situations speaking to this woman. I really understand why people don’t want to come forward. She was so reluctant to speak to me. You know, people say, “These folks come out, they wait ’till Ravi died to come forward.” That woman wasn’t waiting for anything. That woman it was all I could do to get her to talk to me. She didn’t want to talk to me. And even though she knows people at RZIM. She has friends that are at RZIM. She doesn’t want to talk to them about what Ravi did to her. So this is the kind of stuff that we’re dealing with and trying to get the story out. But I figured, okay, I have now enough information. I got a copy of Ravi’s business card and saw other documents. I think I shared some of that with you. And I thought, and we gave this evidence to Christianity Today and I told them, “Do a story.” But if you take too long, I’m going to post a video on it. And well, Christianity Today to their credit, was interested in doing a really thorough investigation. So I just called the reporter and I said, “I can’t wait any longer. I’m going to go live with my video tomorrow or the next day.” And he says, “Fine.” So I posted that video, and it caused a lot of interest. But Christianity Today then came through with that really good report just a few days ago. So that’s the basic story on the spa. And you’ve done really good stuff on the other aspect of Ravi’s grooming practices. But now the story’s really caught on. And WORLD magazine’s report with that new information. We now know that there are really a bunch of women out there, or are at least several who’ve now talked to people, talked to the press. And Ravi had a pattern, was a sexual predator.
JULIE ROYS 45:39
Well, and this is where I think all of the media outlets and what you’ve done, there’s a synergy behind it. And Christianity Today, they reported, again, unnamed sources, but then WORLD was able to get a former manager at these spas to go on the record. So then you had a name, and you have this Anurag Sharma who I called because I tried to get this story, but it was after the the women had already talked to Christianity Today. And I get it. You don’t want to, you know, rehash this again. And it can be re-traumatizing for these women
STEVE BAUGHMAN 46:15
JULIE ROYS 46:15
to every time they tell their story. And if it doesn’t do anything when they tell their story. That’s devastating. So
STEVE BAUGHMAN 46:21
JULIE ROYS 46:22
I can totally understand where they were coming from. But I did call Mr. Sharma. And when I first called him, I asked him, “Can you tell me about the spas?” And it sounds like there’s some women who, you know, have allegations against Ravi Zacharias and say that he sexually assaulted them or harassed them there. And he said, “Well, I didn’t know about that at the time when I was at the spa.” And then I referenced the text that you referenced. And I said, “Well, then why is there a text where you say, ‘you killed the spa, because of the allegations against Ravi’ It sounds like you did know about him?” And then he said, “I need to talk to Steve,” to you. It’s like, “I need to talk to Steve. And and I’ll get back to you the next day.” And I called him the next day. And he said, “Give me give me a few more days.” And I’m like, “Well, how many days does it take to tell the truth? Just tell me what happened.” And then he said, “Well, I’m good friends with Ravi Zacharias family,” and you know, “He’s done a lot of good and the ministry has done a lot of good.” And those things are true. But again, I don’t see in scripture where it says if someone’s done a lot of good, then we don’t expose the lot of bad. And that that doesn’t still disqualify them in the ministry if they’re not going to own it and take the appropriate steps.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 47:40
First Timothy 5:20. “Expose them unless there’s a countervailing positive works in their lives. And then just look the other way.”
JULIE ROYS 47:49
And that is, you know, or, “Have nothing to do with those fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them unless they do a lot of really good things.” You know, yeah. It’s like a cultural Christianity that we’ve added on and we’re afraid to take these steps and it’s a perversion of grace, and what scripture really teaches because the gospel is you confess your sins, and then you’re forgiven for them, but you don’t bury them ever.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 48:14
Well, and isn’t that interesting that Ravi’s partner at the Jivan Wellness Spa actually admits in writing that he killed the spa because of Ravi’s conduct with women. That’s exactly what he told me when I interviewed him, one of the times I interviewed him, and that’s exactly what he says in that text that you and I have both seen now. So we’ve got a Ravi Zacharias partner on record, now being cagey, but on the record saying this, and then of course, there was that WORLD News Group report where they found a former manager in one of the spas and she’s gone on record, reporting that one of the therapists came to her and said, “I don’t want to treat Ravi anymore. He wants more than a massage.”
JULIE ROYS 48:56
They fired that woman.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 48:57
JULIE ROYS 48:58
The woman who reported that she didn’t want to give Ravi massages anymore, because he’s asking for more.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 49:04
Man, as a lawyer, I wish I had that case. I could’ve retired long ago. That I mean, that’s pretty explosive.
JULIE ROYS 49:11
Are some of these still actionable? Because I’ve been asked that question.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 49:14
I don’t think so. This would have been 10, 12 years ago. So the statute on any civil stuff would have run a long time ago. The only possible thing that could still be alive would be if there was human trafficking. And I, Johnny had called me when I was just about to make my video I was all set up with a camera and the phone rang and it’s Johnny Hunter who was former president of the SBC Southern Baptist Convention. I think he may have been President when he spoke at the massage spa, grand opening. And I tried to reach him and he called me and he told me that they were bringing in women from India to work in the spas and then Sharma told me, “No, not just India, Thailand also.” Like oh my goodness, now you know It could be legitimate. They could be that these were ayurvedic medicine specialists. But I mean, how many of those are in Thailand? And you know, India, maybe. It just all seems like come on, folks. There’s a lot going on here that looks really, really bad. And we’re not getting any help from Ravi’s ministry and finding out about it.
JULIE ROYS 50:23
You say, at the beginning of your book, you have a quote, that’s by Ravi Zacharias, but he’s actually quoting an unnamed Hindu. At the beginning of the book, the quote is, “If the Christian faith is truly supernatural, why is it not more evident in the lives of so many Christians I know?”
STEVE BAUGHMAN 50:41
JULIE ROYS 50:42
To me that it rips my heart out. Because I do care. And I do believe, and I have lived my life with the blessing of parents who walked it in front of me and who believed it to the day they died. Grandparents–my grandpa on my mother’s side, he was physically abused, neglected as a child and his father was a drunk. And he actually named himself when he was seven years old, because his parents never named him.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 51:13
Oh gosh, that’s heartbreaking.
JULIE ROYS 51:15
This man ended up becoming a believer. And he ended up becoming a medical doctor graduated at the top of his class, and was the first medical missionary to Sierra Leone, West Africa. So I have seen the power of God, in my family members. And in the small church that I grew up in. Those people were so godly, and my mother used to joke because my grandpa and my grandma are buried at this small cemetery in Houghton, New York. And she used to joke that there’s so many saints in there that when Christ comes back, and there’s a rapture, just by sheer inertia, you know, people will get taken. But I mean, I’ve, I’ve had that kind of godly heritage. And so I, I see that, you know, and I’m, that has been such a blessing to me, but for people like, like you who see really just so much bad, you know, how has this process impacted you as a person and as somebody who, you know, legitimately, I believe, because I, you seem like an honest player to me. And I believe that you’re honestly trying to figure out the truth. But how is this whole process–you know, I hope there’s been some restoration of your faith in Christians that you see some stand up. How has it affected you?
STEVE BAUGHMAN 52:33
Well, intellectually, it hasn’t affected me at all. I mean, the facts are what they are the philosophical, the problem of evil, the problem of freewill versus determinism, you know, Big Bang cosmology, none of that is affected by bad things that Ravi and his enablers in evangelical Christianity have done. So I really compartmentalize that. I am much more cynical about evangelical leaders now than I ever have been. I will say that I mean, I just don’t trust them. If you’re a powerful person in any evangelical Christian position, I’m not gonna say I don’t trust you, per se. But I’m going to have my guard up. Because I think there is so much corruption and so much of this intense commitment to turning the other way, and not letting the bad stuff out. Whether it’s sexual abuse, or financial or whatever–credential fraud. There’s a determination that just shocks me amongst evangelical Christian leaders to keep the secrets. And so that’s made me very cynical about evangelical Christianity. But again, that’s not against the theology. I grew up, as I said, with missionaries, and I adored them, I still respect them hugely. And I work with professors who are Christians, and I have nothing but the highest regard for their character and their intellect. But yeah, evangelical Christian scene is smelling pretty bad to me as a whole right now. I will say that, you know, and that’s because of what I’ve learned from the Ravi Zacharias stuff.
JULIE ROYS 54:07
Steve, I can understand that. And as an evangelical Christian, I just almost feel like I, I don’t know that I believe we can apologize for other people. But I mean, as an evangelical, I do just apologize, not just for those things, but some of the really, I think, awful things that were said about you in this process that were undeserved. And
STEVE BAUGHMAN 54:28
Oh, yeah, there were a lot of those, . . . I’m glad my mother’s not reading the social media feed.
JULIE ROYS 54:36
Well, that that grieves me. It really does. So, you know, I guess on behalf of somebody who is an evangelical, I want to thank you, and say, “I’m sorry, it took so much to expose what you did, but I’m grateful.” And I do think that you’ve done a righteous thing. So thank you.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 54:53
Well thank you. Thank you for that, Julie. And you know, it’s been great meeting people like you and some really quality folks in the Christian world along this journey, as you know, it’s really been encouraging to run across folks like you. I would just like to say one thing. I don’t want to get into philosophical discussions about the religious issues. But Ravi really never struck me as much of an intellect. He struck me as a powerful speaker. But you know, on the Moody radio show, I heard Lee Strobel a few months ago talking about his experience of listening to Ravi and Lee Strobel, who’s a very smart guy says, “I would jump to my feet when I hear Ravi speak. But then I’d realized afterwards, I don’t think I could tell anybody what he just said. But it was brilliant.” I think Ravi got away with a lot of that beautiful, distinguished accent, hand waving stagecraft, that made his arguments seem more persuasive than they were. I don’t think there are very many professional Christian philosophers, you know, the folks who’ve dedicated their lives to studying the philosophical issues, who would say that Ravi really made good arguments in defense of the faith. So I just leave that as sort of a footnote for people to research because I do hear this a lot that he had a scandalous side, but boy, was he ever good in defense of the faith. I don’t think he really was. I think he dumbed down the issues in ways that were you could really feel like yeah, that freewill versus determinism thing has a pat answer. And Ravi just explained it. And I didn’t understand what he said. But I now know that the issue is not a problem for Christianity, and then you go on your merry way. Well, those issues are extraordinarily complex, and Ravi just didn’t have the training to really appreciate that. So I would encourage people to look at what professional Christian philosophers say about the issues, not what Ravi says about them, because he really did sort of the Reader’s Digest quickie approach to stuff.
JULIE ROYS 56:57
Steve, thank you again. Appreciate it, and appreciate what you’ve done.
STEVE BAUGHMAN 57:01
Yes, thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking to you. And thank you for your work.
JULIE ROYS 57:04
Well, thanks for saying that. And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to find me online again, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, make sure you subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then if you’d share that podcast on social media so more people could hear about it, we’d really appreciate it. Again, thanks so much for joining me today. Hope you have a great day and God bless