August 6, 2017
Ravi Zacharias has misled the public for decades about his academic credentials, but I never expected a sex scandal. The gentleman is too concerned about his image to take such risks. Or so I thought.
Then two days ago I was alerted to a lawsuit Ravi filed this week in federal court to quiet what he claims is an extortion attempt against him by a woman with whom he has had an online friendship.
I tracked down the court records. Here is what we know from the documents filed by Ravi's own lawyer. In April of 2017, Mr. Zacharias received a demand letter from a lawyer representing Lori Anne Thompson, a woman with whom he had maintained an online friendship for several years. The letter accused Ravi of using Ms. Thompson for his sexual gratification, in violation of his duties as a minister. The letter's author, Mark P. Bryant, of the Bryant Legal Center in Paducah, KY, demanded $5 million in what can only be characterized as hush money.
The letter is not legally persuasive. But it makes an explosive claim. Mr. Bryant claims to have an email from Mr. Zacharias in which he threatened to commit suicide ("bid this world goodbye") if Ms. Thompson told her husband about their relationship. (Mr. Zacharias does not deny this in his court filing but he remains free to do so as litigation proceeds. I am attempting to procure a copy of the email.)
On July 31, 2017, Mr. Zacharias responded by filing a federal lawsuit against Ms. Thompson and her husband, Bradley Thompson, accusing them of carrying out an extortion scheme against him. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Looking only at the evidence presented by Mr. Zacharias we learn that he had indeed carried on an online relationship with Ms. Thompson, one that involved her sending him nude photos of herself. (There was no physical sexual contact between them.) After Bradley Thompson learned of this relationship, he emailed Mr. Zacharias and asked "why would you ask her to send you photos of herself?"
Five days later, on January 21, 2017, Mr. Zacharias replied to Mr. Thompson. He denied soliciting such photos from Ms. Thompson but said that he did not want to risk "seeming to avoid the full force of the responsibility." Mr. Zacharias admitted that "the blame is real and inescapable" and revealed that he had avoided meeting Ms. Thompson in person "so as not to continue what was wrong."
In his complaint Mr. Zacharias also reveals that when he learned that Ms. Thompson was coming to visit him from her home in Canada he deliberately left town to avoid meeting her.
Curiously, while the complaint claims that at various times Mr. Zacharias attempted to block further messages from Ms. Thompson, it also says that he "remained amicable out of fear for his family's safety and of potential damage to his professional reputation if he upset the Thompsons."
So it appears undisputed that, at very least, Mr. Zacharias continued for some time to receive sexual photos from Ms. Thompson even when he could have attempted to terminate contact with her, reported her behavior to his Board of Directors and gone about his business with no fear of reputational damage. It is also undisputed that something significant enough was going on between Ravi and Lori Anne that he deliberately left town when he knew she would be arriving.
That's where the evidence stands now. But things are very likely to get much worse for Mr. Zacharias. A source informed me, on condition of anonymity, that "there will be a counterclaim filed soon that will incorporate emails and photos of gifts and cards Ravi sent to his 'defendant.'"
Whatever else emerges, Mr. Zacharias' own court filing constitutes an admission of online sexual impropriety with a married woman not his wife. Given his stature as an itinerant moralizer, that itself is explosive stuff.
I will continue to follow and investigate this matter closely. Stay tuned.
For those interested in knowing more, here are the court records filed by Mr. Zacharias.