A former pastor of a northwest Indiana mega-church who has admitted having a sexual relationship with an underage parishioner exchanged hundreds of text messages with the girl and told her Jesus Christ sanctioned their relationship, prosecutors say.
The messages are quoted in a memorandum from prosecutors as they argue for a 10-year prison sentence for Jack A. Schaap, who has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he took a minor across state lines with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
The memorandum, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, details how Schaap, 55, "groomed" the girl into having sex with him while he was pastor at the First Baptist Church of Hammond and was counseling her. The girl had turned 17 when the incidents were happening, according to prosecutors.
Schaap wrote the girl, "You opened your heart wide to me -- you made me more than a Pastor/Rescuer -- you made me your friend your confidant, your beloved. You gave me your trust, your heart, your love, + your affection," according to the memo.
Schaap continued that their relationship was sanctioned by God and he referred to their "fantasy talk" during a counseling session. "You have affectionately spoken of being 'my wife.' That is exactly what Christ desires for us. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!"
Prosecutors and Schaap's attorney agreed on a plea that would sentence Schaap to 10 years in prison and place him under court supervision for another 10 years on his release.
Schaap served as pastor of the 15,000-member Hammond church and as superintendent of its schools before being fired last summer. He had led the church since 2001.
The girl was sent to him for counseling because she had exhibited "self-destructive" behavior, according to prosecutors, who say Schaap took advantage of his role.
Between June 1 and July 30 Schaap took her to Illinois and to Michigan "with the intent that she engage in sexual activity," according to court documents.
In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said they had recovered photographs of Schaap and the girl taken in his Crete home and at a Michigan summer home. Prosecutors said the two had sex in his office while a youth conference was underway at the church in July 2012.
The two exchanged 637 text messages and 25 telephone calls between June 21 and July 21, prosecutors said.
Schaap was fired from the church after he admitted to adultery and "improper behavior" with the teenager, leading a board of deacons to fire him, church officials said.
Schaap admitted to the relationship but said he was suffering from "extreme stress, exhaustion, depression, burn-out and several other medical maladies."
He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 20 in U.S. District Court in Hammond.