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Hammond Pastor Serving Time for Sex Crimes Again Seeks Release

Jack Schaap was a married father of two who pastored the 15,000-member First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, when he started having sex with a 16-year-old girl he was counseling.

He was convicted in 2013 of taking the girl across state lines to have sex with her in Illinois and Michigan, and is currently in the Federal Correctional Institute in Ashland, Kentucky, scheduled for release in February 2023.

Last year, Schaap, 63, asked to be released so he could take care of his parents, who are both elderly and ailing. It was a matter of “life and death,” he claimed in his request for compassionate release. The U.S. Attorney was unmoved, denying Schaap’s request in part because the ex-pastor is a “danger.”

Last month, Schaap tried again to secure early release, but so far to no avail. His compassionate release request was not his first attempt to get out early. In 2014, in a disturbing example of victimizing the victim, his attorney asked a federal judge to overturn the 12-year sentence because of “the aggressiveness of (the girl) that inhibited impulse control.” His attorney, Charles Murray, also argued that the girl, a student at First Baptist’s school since kindergarten, “had prior extensive sexual experience” in addition to drug use.

Murray added: “No doubt exists that (Schaap) should have resisted (her) advances, but (Schaap) submits his actions did not serve to destroy (her) in the manner that often occurs when underage individuals are victimized.”

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Church officials defend the court’s denial of Schaap’s requests for release and condemn his treatment of the girl. “She came here for help and that should have been our goal. It should have been (Schaap’s) goal,” said Ed Lapina, First Baptist’s administrative pastor. “That didn’t end up happening, and so he is taking responsibility for that now with his prison term.”

It was leaders at First Baptist who fired Schaap and contacted law enforcement in 2012 after they discovered incriminating photos and text messages of the pair.

The actions of Schaap, son-in-law of Jack Hyles, pastor of the historic fundamentalist church until he died in 2001, further fills in the picture of Hammond’s unholy trinity of male leaders who groomed and preyed on female victims but largely escaped punishment—in part because of the intense loyalty they demanded from church members, and because they threatened to publicly expose women who complained and portray them as “sluts.”

I once heard Jack Hyles speak at a revival service at a fundamentalist church in Colorado, where I heard him inform the women in the audience that there is a simple reason husbands are sexually unfaithful: “It’s because you are frigid,” he told the crowd.

His daughter, Linda Hyles Murphrey, recalls her mother and father arguing over his many affairs with church members. As MinistryWatch reported in December, Jack Hyles’ son, David Hyles, allegedly followed in his father’s footsteps, and is now facing charges from women who claim he repeatedly raped them. After David Hyles’ behavior in Hammond was uncovered, he was sent to a Texas church his dad had formerly pastored, and got into more trouble there.

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.