Spiritual Sounding Board

Ravi Zacharias and RZIM 2020 Research and Resource Post: Timeline, Links to Articles/Analysis, Nonprofit Reference

On December 23, 2020, RZIM / Ravi Zacharias International Ministries noted on Twitter and Facebook that they released an intermediate report from the law firm of Miller & Martin PLLC on the investigation they commissioned into certain issues of reported sexual abuse by its founder, Ravi Zacharias. This report confirms he did engage in sexual abuse, and that more details are forthcoming. This official statement by RZIM is vindication for the women who reported Mr. Zacharias’ abuses: These were credible accusations–not mere allegations or false reports.

In light of this confirmation, I am compiling resources that provide crucial elements of the context to the overall situation for Ravi Zacharias as an individual and for RZIM as the institution he founded. I will post this material in stages when time allows. I hope to finish this by the end of 2020, and will note at the top of this post when I’ve completed it. Meanwhile, you can expect there will multiple updates and additions without notice. It will initially include the following secations. If I add more later, change the title, or remove a section, I will update this list.

I hope this will be of help for those who want to understand the broader backstory, research and analyze the issues involved, and discern and decide for themselves what actions should be taken.

~ Brad Sargent (aka brad/futuristguy), December 26, 2020

Notes

Click on the screenshots in this post to see an enlarged view of the image.

I have copied and pasted some of the material here from other posts/places, so links may be broken or out of date. If links do not work correctly, please let us know the specific one(s) via the comments — thank you!

Abbreviations

ECFA – Evangelical Council for Financial Accountabilit

EINEmployer Identification Number

IRC – Internal Revenue Code

IRS – Internal Revenue Service

NTEE – National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities

RZIM – Ravi Zacharias International Ministries

SSB – Spiritual Sounding Board

TWW – The Wartburg Watch

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Topical Timeline

I am using a limited number of writers for the majority of entries in this section. (See the next section, on “Key Sources for News Reports, Analysis, Critiques, and Commentary.”) This group includes research writers, “survivor bloggers,” and investigative reporters–all with significant track records in their particular forms of writing expertise. They all have contributed significantly over time to the documentation and analysis of situations involving Ravi Zacharias and RZIM. This offers continuity to developing the Topical Timeline that would not be so easy to achieve by reading other secondary sources that have only written occasionally about this case.

Also, many of these writers have numerous followers–and detractors. The comments on any given article likely include both. This offers an inside look at the mindsets of abuse survivors and how they process such public scandals, and likewise of defenders of Mr. Zacharias, his organization, and his legacy.

This timeline basically raps up as of December 31, 2020. I have included links to some of the most recent conversations on Twitter, which is where there tends to be the most active interchange among abuse survivors and advocates. For those new to this really amazing online community, it encompasses men and women with a wide range of relevant professional expertise, including law, accounting, organizational systems, investigation, intelligence analysis, non-profits, theology, trauma and recovery, pastoral care. In the last week of 2020, they have been doing a significant amount of crowdsourcing on critical questions that remain unanswered–especially about what appears to be duplicity regarding RZIM board and organizational systems, non-profit reclassification, and lack of financial data beyond just general accounting statements.

Index to Topical Timeline Sections

  1. Pressuring Shirley Steward to have an Abortion (1973; 2019)
  2. Spas: Touch of Eden (2004-2008) and Jivan Wellness (2009-2015)
  3. Fabricated and/or Exaggerated Credentials (2005 onward)
  4. Ravi Zacharias Sexting: The Thompsons’ Demand Letter (2017)
  5. Sexting: Threat of Suicide, Lawsuit, Settlement, and NDA (2017)
  6. RZIM Non-Profit Reclassification to “Church,” Finances, and Forms 990 (2018)
  7. Ravi Zacharias Rebuttals; RZIM Statements; Questions of NDA Violations (2017-2018)
  8. Christian & Missionary Alliance Denominational Discipline Investigation (Starting March 2018)
  9. Spa Scandal and Potentially Related Revelations (Starting September 2020)
  10. RZIM Commissioned Partial Investigation and Intermediate Report Confirms Sexual Abuse (2020)
  11. Challenges to Ravi Zacharias’ Legacy and RZIM’s Leadership (2020)
  12. Push-Back Continues, Consequences Intensify (December 2020)

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1. Pressuring Shirley Steward to have an Abortion (1973; 2019)

June 24, 2019. As a New Christian and Missionary Alliance Minister, Ravi Zacharias Pressured His Brother’s 16-yr old Girlfriend to Have Illegal Abortion, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #11). “Ramesh explained briefly the situation to Ravi. I remember Ravi was very angry. More at Ramesh than me it seemed. He was not speaking in kind terms. Only pointing out that this news would ‘kill our parents’ and ‘end your future as a doctor.'” In the first half of this post, Julie Anne Smith gives the historical context of the situation and how it came about for Shirley Steward to share her testimony. In the last half, Ms. Steward gives her personal story in detail. Her story was reblogged or the link shared on posts elsewhere, but this presentation appears to be the most comprehensive available at this time.

Questions, Critiques, and Commentary

Tim Meshginpoosh responded to that poignant question from Steve Baughman with a Twitter thread that begins at this link.

Agreed. I am flabbergasted that major Christian media has not even touched this, even though Julie Anne broke this story in 2019. I’ve harped on it quite a bit. But I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness.

Why should this be a big deal? Well, there are a few reasons.

(1) Most Christians–even those who support abortion rights–overwhelmingly concede that abortion is, in summation, a wanton snuffing of a human life. And it is.

(2) Big Evangelical leaders have talked a great talk about the sanctity of life, and have overwhelmingly condemned abortion in ways that would make Tertullian proud.

(3) The evidence in RZ’s case is, as the fictional Lincoln Hayes–of Mod Squad fame–would say: “solid.” Aside from the email trail, there’s a damning fact here: a woman doesn’t just tell the world she’s had an abortion. That’s not how it works; that’s not how ANY of this works

Aside from the fact that RZ had already mauled Lori Anne Thompson, Shirley Steward took a Hell of a risk by (a) telling the world of her experience, and (b) implicating RZ for his role iin this.

And yes, I put 100% culpability for this on Ravi Zacharias. You want to know why? Shirley was 16. Ravi used her parents and even her church to put that pressure on her to have that abortion. Hell, he even pulled the strings to arrange the abortion.

It would have been a tall order for a 16-year-old girl–in that situation–to buck her family (who was being pressured by RZ) and her church (through which RZ was applying the pressure). I used to be on the board of a maternity home. Trust me here: Shirley had no chance.

And sadly, this dynamic is not uncommon in Christian circles. At the maternity home, we had many clients who had prior abortions from such situations. They were from “Christian families”.

In pro-life circles, the ranks of the post-abortive include many such cases. The woman who recruited me for the crisis pregnancy center was one, as was the one who handled the bulk of my training. All of them came from “conservative Christian” families.

Worst of all, as this is something Ravi did in his early ministerial years, it sheds light on who he really was: a Machiavellian wolf for whom people were commodities who existed for his will and purposes.

He had no problem disposing of a child that got in the way of his family. He had no problem embellishing his story and claming academic status he never earned. And women? Well…his record of abuse speaks for itself.

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2. Spas: Touch of Eden (2004-2008) and Jivan Wellness (2009-2015)

The date ranges for the two spas are posted here for reference. If source documents or historical details become available, they may be added here. For articles and analysis, see the section below on “Spa Scandal and Potentially Related Revelations.”

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3. Fabricated and/or Exaggerated Credentials (2005 onward)

The question of legitimate credentials, and the constant refusals by Ravi Zacharias and RZIM to correct the record, was the issue that opened the way for all else to eventually come out. See the “Questions, Critiques, and Commentary” section below for source links on some of the earliest times when these issues were raised.

Sources for Researching Official Biographies for Ravi Zacharias

For research and purposes of comparison, here are the main links and a series of the official RZIM biographies for Ravi Zacharias. These are from the RZIM website and the Internet Archive / Wayback Machine.

The link on RZIM’s website to their current version of his bio: http://rzim.org/about/ravi-zacharias/

The related main link on the Wayback Machine/Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://rzim.org/about/ravi-zacharias/

Biography as of August 25, 2012. This is the first website capture for Mr. Zacharias’ bio as posted on the Wayback Machine. Note the multiple (and seemingly inconsistent) uses of “Dr.” and “Mr.” Zacharias throughout.

Click on the timeline at the top of the page to find other web captures of the biography. On the calendars that appear, click on the blue dots instead of the green (redirect) dots.

Biography as of March 13 to May 16, 2017.

Biography as of November 27, 2017. Note at the bottom of the post that most recent revision was May 17, 2017.

Biography as of December 10, 2017. This is the first capture after significant online postings in November and early December 2017 about Ravi Zacharias’ credentials and use of “Doctor.” Note at the bottom of the post that it says this bio was updated December 3, 2017.

Here are other links that can be researched for how the biography for Ravi Zacharias changed over time.

Ravi Zacharias Amazon Author Page. When I first researched the Amazon profile (December 1, 2017), Ravi Zacharias’ author bio still referred to him as Dr. Zacharias. (See web capture of January 1, 2017.) It was the same text when I checked the Author Page on the evening of December 3rd, but a significantly edited and expanded version replaced it by the morning of December 4, 2017. (See that expanded version in the next available web capture, February 4, 2020.)

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) link: Ravi Zacharias bio for ECFA Board of Reference. From my research notes of December 4, 2017: “It appears this bio has not been updated for as much as 7 years, as it mentions Mr. Zacharias being in ministry for 36 years, and his most recent book being one first published in 2010.” Here is the Board of Reference page prior to December 4, 2017–from web capture of October 27, 2017. Here is that page on the next web capture, December 27, 2017. The extensive online focus on Mr. Zacharias’ credentials came in between those two dates.

New Reports, Documentation, and Analysis

August 24, 2015. Guest post on Jeffrey Day Lowder’s blog: Has Evangelist Ravi Zacharias Misrepresented His Academic Credentials?, by Steve Baughman.

October 2, 2015. The Wartburg Watch: Complementarians, Ray Ortlund and the Rediscovered Gospel™, Doug Wilson Describes a Victim, Disagreeing With Rachel Held Evans and MR. Ravi Zacharias, by Dee Parsons. The final section in the post is titled, “Has Evangelist Ravi Zacharias Misrepresented His Academic Credentials?”

November 13, 2017. The Christian Industrial Complex Shields Its Own, by Steve Baughman. See the extensive section of over 50 endnotes for details on Mr. Baughman’s evidence sources.

November 24, 2017. Another False Credentials Claim: Ravi Zacharias (UPDATED), by Warren Throckmorton.

November 26, 2017. Important New Video about Apologist Ravi Zacharias: Alleged False Credentials, Lawsuit, Online Relationship with Married Woman, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #1).

November 27, 2017. Fact Checking Claims about Ravi Zacharias’ Credentials: Is Dr. Zacharias in the House? by Warren Throckmorton.

November 28, 2017. Was Ravi Zacharias a Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University? by Warren Throckmorton.

November 29, 2017. The Wartburg Watch: Mr. Ravi Zacharias Adds Pizzazz to His Bio and the Christian Industrial Complex Imposes the Cone of Silence, by Dee Parsons.

November 30, 2017. Ravi Zacharias: Email Threat and Ongoing Lack of Response About Reportedly Inflated Credentials, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #2).

December 2, 2017. Is Someone Manipulating YouTube Search for Steve Baughman’s Video: “The Case Against Ravi Zacharias?” By Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #4). Here is a link for Steve Baughman’s FriendlyBanjoAtheist YouTube channel.

December 3, 2017. Fact and Fiction in Ravi Zacharias’ Responses to Allegations of Misconduct, by Warren Throckmorton.

December 5, 2017. Ravi Zacharias International Ministries: We Don’t Call Ravi Doctor Except When We Do (UPDATED), by Warren Throckmorton.

December 7, 2017. Christianity Today, Podcast Episode 85, with guest Professor John G. Stackhouse.  Ravi Zacharias and the Case of Christian Credential Inflation. “Many evangelists and apologists have a history of overstating their qualifications.”

December 7, 2017. Ravi Zacharias, True Apologist? The Actions Aren’t Matching the Words, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #5).

December 8, 2017. Christianity Today Podcast: John Stackhouse on Ravi Zacharias and Credential Inflation, by Warren Throckmorton.. Includes the link to the podcast itself, plus transcripts of an exchange between host Morgan Lee and Professor John Stackhouse.

December 11, 2017. EssentialChurch: The Ravi Zacharias Scandal and Honorary Degrees: Looking Forward, by EssentialPastor.

December 11, 2017. Should Recipients of an Honorary Doctorate Use the Prefix Dr?, by Warren Throckmorton.

December 14, 2017. Guest Post: My Dinner With Ravi: An Atheist meets the “Great Apologist of our Time.”By Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #7).

January 2, 2018. This and That: Ravi Zacharias, Husbands as Holy Spirit, Another Fake Jefferson Quote, Dissociative Identity Disorder, by Warren Throckmorton.

January 4, 2018. In Church of England Report, Oxford University Expressed Concern about Wycliffe Hall’s Connection to Ravi Zacharias, by Warren Throckmorton.

August 22, 2018. Exclusive: Ravi Zacharias Apologizes for False Claims about His Credentials at Oxford and Cambridge, by Warren Throckmorton.

September 9, 2019. Another Ravi Zacharias Falsehood Unearthed: Ravi’s famous first doctorate story was doctored, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #12).

Questions, Critiques, and Commentary

Analysis by Steve Baughman. See his book, Cover-Up in the Kingdom: Phone Sex, Lies, And God’s Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias (2018). This is available in print (ISBN 9781543952551) and ebook editions. His book offers documentation and analysis of most of scandals involving Ravi Zacharias and RZIM from the credentials issues through his sexting, threat of suicide, lawsuit against the Thompsons, and non-disclosure agreement.

Analysis by Brad Sargent from Resource Archive and FAQs on the Ravi Zacharias and RZIM Situation (December 8, 2017).

What specific allegations have been posted of Mr. Zacharias and/or RZIM publicizing exaggerated or misleading academic credentials for him?

For details and extended analysis on allegations of misleading credentials, see links from Warren Throckmorton’s Blog, and Steve Baughman’s Media.

What are considered appropriate uses of the title of Dr. for those with honorary doctorates?

According to Warren Throckmorton, “In Missouri it is against the law to claim a degree you don’t have but I don’t think it is anywhere else. In other states, it can be if you defraud people of their money by using a false degree but I don’t know if it could stick on Ravi Z with this set of facts.” (Link.)

And are protocols different between such usage in academic versus non-academic environments?

On this Christianity Today Podcast (Episode 85), guest Professor John G. Stackhouse explains from his work in academic circles why it is a significant problem to misrepresent academic expertise and/or experiences through exaggeration, fabrication, or ambiguous references.  Ravi Zacharias and the Case of Christian Credential Inflation. “Many evangelists and apologists have a history of overstating their qualifications.” “Ravi Zacharias is the biggest name in apologetics currently,” said Stackhouse. “As he goes, so goes apologetics so it’s really important that he be scrupulous in everything he does.” December 7, 2017.

Given that RZIM was reportedly informed in at least 2015 of questions about misused/misleading credentials in biographies and other references to “Dr.” Zacharias, why were so many online sources not corrected until early December 2017? When were their policies about this title usage put in place?

This post and comment thread from Warren Throckmorton’s blog address this particular problem in detail. (Link.)

Several people have reportedly informed RZIM staff members over the years of their concerns about misleading uses of academic information and experiences. These include: Professor John Stackhouse, about 20 years ago (source podcast). According to Steve Baughman in this comment on a Warren Throckmorton post, “Tom Lunol, a Christian computer programmer now in Colorado, also contacted RZIM around 2005 to express his concern about the bogus Cambridge claim. He got nowhere so he quit” (emphasis added). And Steve Baughman himself reports exposing Mr. Zacharias on this issue in the summer of 2015.

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4. Ravi Zacharias Sexting: The Thompsons’ Demand Letter (2017)

April 27, 2017. Demand Letter to Ravi Zacharias, on behalf of Lori Anne and Brad Thompson: Demand Letter — dated April 27, 2017.

August 6, 2017. A Brewing Ravi Zacharias Sex Scandal, by Steve Baughman. Several paragraphs near the top of this article address the Demand Letter, and put it into the larger context of sexting scandal, threat of suicide, and lawsuit. It also offers a helpful overview and analysis of the initial actions in the lawsuit.

Questions, Critiques, and Commentary

Analysis by Brad Sargent from Resource Archive and FAQs on the Ravi Zacharias and RZIM Situation (December 8, 2017).

Did the prior lawsuit the married couple initiated involve extortion, or has that been mischaracterized?

The fact that the couple whose lawyer filed the Demand Letter had been involved in a previous lawsuit against a church has been taken by some social media commenters as “proof” of their being litigious, and thus that the Demand Letter to Mr. Zacharias is frivolous and just an attempt to extort money from him. Such comments rarely refer to any details from that prior case.

So far, this question has been addressed more thoroughly on the following post at The Wartburg Watch, especially in comments by blog co-owner Dee Parsons, along with commenters “sandy c” and Charis. Read this series of links to comments in that thread, and historical sources linked to, and see what you think about whether this was “extortion” or not. And if so, what should be done about that? And if not, is the mention of it by Mr. Zacharias potentially an attempt to “poison the well” or “controversialize” the couple?

Mr. Ravi Zacharias and the Emails/Sex Scandal UPDATED – We suggest you begin in the middle of the comment thread with this particular comment, and follow the chain of comments from there that look at the 2008 court case.

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5. Sexting: Threat of Suicide, Lawsuit, Settlement, and NDA (2017)

July 31 through November 13, 2017. “Zacharias v. Thompson et al” case. Source Documents: Georgia Northern District Court Case 1:17-cv-02885. NOTE: This court page includes official case notes and links to related documents and filings. The case went from July 31 (filing) through November 13 of 2017. It ends with the final notes from after the case was voluntarily terminated by Ravi Zacharias on November 9.

August 6, 2017. A Brewing Ravi Zacharias Sex Scandal, by Steve Baughman. Several paragraphs near the top of this article address the Demand Letter, and put it into the larger context of sexting scandal, threat of suicide, and lawsuit. It also offers a helpful overview and analysis of the initial actions in the lawsuit.

November 9, 2017. “Zacharias v. Thompson et al,” NOTICE of Voluntary Dismissal filed by Ravi Zacharias.

November 13, 2017. “Zacharias v. Thompson et al” case terminated. Source Documents: Georgia Northern District Court Case 1:17-cv-02885.

November 26, 2017. Important New Video about Apologist Ravi Zacharias: Alleged False Credentials, Lawsuit, Online Relationship with Married Woman, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #1).

November 27, 2017. MinistryWatch: Ravi Zacharias Faces Criticism for Exaggerated Credentials and Settling a Lawsuit with an Apparent Extortionist. Note: Other articles debunk the fabrication that the Thompsons were/are extorting money from Ravi Zacharias. I have included this MinistryWatch report because it gets cited in the literature on this case. Critique from Steve Baughman on this report.

November 30, 2017. Ravi Zacharias: Email Threat and Ongoing Lack of Response About Reportedly Inflated Credentials, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #2).

December 1, 2017. Mr. Ravi Zacharias and the Emails/Sex Scandal UPDATED, by Dee Parsons.

December 2, 2017. Two Posts Containing Ravi Zacharias’ Personal Emails Were Removed: Why? (Updated), by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #3).

December 3, 2017. Official Response from Ravi Zacharias to Lawsuit and Other Issues: Ravi Zacharias: Statement on My Federal Lawsuit — December 3, 2017.

December 3, 2017. Official Statement from RZIM to the Credentials Issue: RZIM: Statement on Ravi Zacharias’ Biography — December 3, 2017.

January 27, 2018. Why Aren’t Church Leaders and RZIM Board Members Asking Ravi Zacharias about the Suicide Emails and about His Online Sexual Relationship?, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #8). This post includes Julie Anne’s comments to Christianity Today on the statements of Ravi Zacharias and RZIM.

April 7, 2020. A Written Response To False Allegations, by Lori Anne Thompson. Excerpt:

In 2017, we were pre-emptively publicly sued and simultaneously humiliated in a federal US lawsuit when we attempted to hold this cleric to account for his actions. Egregiously, we were accused as apparent extortionists who sue pastoral people for financial gain— nothing could be further from the truth. This narrative has been multiplied many times over by faith-based publications without the most rudimentary of fact checking.

September 14, 2020. The Roys Report: Betrayed Trust, Part One: New Testimony, Emails & Other Documents Portray Ravi Zacharias as Predator in Sexting Scandal, by Julie Roys.

September 15, 2020. The Roys Report: Betrayed Trust, Part Two: Woman Accused in Sexting Scandal Claims Ravi Zacharias Groomed & Exploited Her, by Julie Roys.

September 18, 2020. The Roys Report: Betrayed Trust, Part Three: Ravi Zacharias Claimed Accusers in Sexting Scandal Were Extortionists, But Evidence Indicates Otherwise, by Julie Roys.

October 13, 2020. The Roys Report: TRR Exclusive: An Open Letter to RZIM from Brad & Lori Anne Thompson, by Brad and Lori Anne Thompson.

Questions, Critiques, and Commentary

Analysis by Steve Baughman. See his book, Cover-Up in the Kingdom: Phone Sex, Lies, And God’s Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias (2018). This is available in print (ISBN 9781543952551) and ebook editions. His book offers documentation and analysis of most of scandals involving Ravi Zacharias and RZIM from the credentials issues through his sexting, threat of suicide, lawsuit against the Thompsons, and non-disclosure agreement.

Analysis by Ruth D. Hutchins in a Twitter thread that begins here.

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6. RZIM Non-Profit Reclassification to “Church,” Finances, and Forms 990 (2018)

In the U.S., tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)3 corporations are required to be constituted for the benefit of the public–not private–interests. So, legitimate questions for shareholders and stakeholders often arise about organizational systems, finances, and conflicts of interest in non-profit corporations. These include such issues as:

Are there family members and friends of the founder or board in decision-making roles in the corporation, and is this creating conflicts of interest that preclude effective management and oversight?

How much are board members and top employees paid, what other non-financial benefits do they receive, and is this inurement (i.e., excessive benefits to board members, administrators, employees, volunteers–and their family members or friends)?

What percentage of the budget goes to fund-raising and administration, and is that excessive?

What percentage of the organization’s income comes from public donations versus gets generated by sales?

What are the largest subcontracted projects and do the recipients of these contracts carry any conflicts of interests due to connection with people in the corporation?

How were funds spent? Were donations that the corporation solicited for specific projects spent on those projects as advertised, or not?

Many key details that answer these questions come directly from public access information on the non-profit’s annual Form 990. In the past few years, a number of Christian mega-ministries have sought to be reclassified by the IRS as a “church” or an association of churches, since churches are not required to file Form 990. However, the absence of Forms 990 from a non-profit that is not in reality acting as a church calls into question whether/why the organization is dodging legitimate scrutiny by purposely shielding important data from public access by stakeholders, donors, and others. RZIM sought IRS category reclassification from “mission society” to a “church.” This action should be considered an automatic red flag that calls into question its core values for ethical actions.

July 26, 2018 / March 14, 2018. According to a tweet on December 30, 2019, by survivor advocate, pastor, and seminary professor Wade Mullen, “RZIM requested to be reclassified as a church in a letter dated July 26, 2018. The IRS notified RZIM on March 14, 2019 that their request had been approved, writing ‘you are not required to file Form 990’.”

January 17, 2020. The Washington Post: Major evangelical nonprofits are trying a new strategy with the IRS that allows them to hide their salaries, by Sarah Pulliam Bailey.

January 21, 2020. The Roys Report: Are Focus on the Family, BGEA, & RZIM Churches? And Should They Be Exempt From Reporting Salaries of Executives?, by Julie Roys.

October 12, 2020. The Roys Report: Opinion: New Ravi Zacharias Allegations Highlight Secrecy, Cover-Up & Questionable Practices at RZIM, by Julie Roys. This opinion piece by Julie Roys is one of the best overviews to date that addresses the multiple scandals of Ravi Zacharias and ongoing questions about RZIM that have created mistrust in his legacy and his organization.

Questions, Critiques, and Commentary

Crowdsourced Analysis and Resources. In the context of the failed lawsuit and final settlement, the timing of the reclassification request brings up some questions and reasoned speculation. The following is a combination of facts from the “RZIM Non-Profit Profile” section farther down in this post, plus various points brought up in Twitter conversations the last week of December 2020.

The original approval for RZIM as a non-profit tax-exempt corporation (as a “mission society”) was issued in November 1984.

That IRS classification requires the non-profit to submit a Form 990 each year. The last time RZIM filed a Form 990 was for the fiscal year ending September 2015. You can access that PDF at ProPublica’s page for RZIM.

According to this IRS approval letter, the RZIM request for IRS classification (as a “church”) was submitted July 26, 2018, with the approval date of March 14, 2019.

According to this tweet by investigative reporter Julie Roys, “[…] Nonprofits lose their status if they fail to file 990s for three consecutive years. So 2015 was last 990 RZIM filed. They were able to reclassify in 2018 & avoid any consequences.” This would mean that either RZIM had to file Form 990 by September 2018, or risk losing tax-exempt status.

The lawsuit against the Thompsons was terminated and a settlement reached in November 2017. The settlement reportedly included a payment of $250,000 to the Thompsons, apparently by Ravi Zacharias himself. But if RZIM made the payment, or if RZIM gave him the money–and if RZIM were still required to submit a Form 990 as a mission society–they would have to include that amount to Ravi Zacharias in Form 990, Part VII as “other compensation” above his regular salary.

(See also this thread for interactions around these and other issues about dealings that have raised questions about RZIM and financial transparency.)

Details matter. And, as mentioned in the introduction to this timeline section, reclassification of an organization to “church” when it really isn’t one is a red flag. It should cause people to ask why that action was taken, and discern whether it was deceptive–lacked transparency and avoided accountability.

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7. Ravi Zacharias Rebuttals; RZIM Statements; Questions of NDA Violations (2017-2018)

November 27, 2017. The Christian Post: Ravi Zacharias’ Ministry Responds to ‘Egregious Claims’ and ‘Slander’ About His Character, Accomplishments, by Brandon Showalter.

December 1, 2017. Phoenix Preacher: What To Do With Ravi, by Michael Newnham.

December 3, 2017. Official Response from Ravi Zacharias to Lawsuit and Other Issues: Ravi Zacharias: Statement on My Federal Lawsuit — December 3, 2017.

December 3, 2017. Official Statement from RZIM to the Credentials Issue: RZIM: Statement on Ravi Zacharias’ Biography — December 3, 2017.

December 3, 2017. Christianity Today: Ravi Zacharias Responds to Sexting Allegations, Credentials Critique, by Kate Shellnutt and Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra. This article contained full statements from both Ravi Zacharias and RZIM in response to the allegations. The following two update paragraphs were added October 14, 2020.

Editor’s note and update (October 14, 2020): In the years since this case surfaced, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) and the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) have each launched investigations into further claims of sexual misconduct by the apologist, following a September 2020 report by Christianity Today. Zacharias died in May 2020

In October 2020, the Canadian couple Zacharias sued in 2017, Brad and Lori Anne Thompson, made their first public statement in response to RZIM, explaining their story and saying they regret entering the non-disclosure agreement that has kept them silent while Zacharias and the ministry continued to speak out about the case.

December 3, 2017. EssentialChurch: Lying and Its Consequences: The Tale of Ravi Zacharias, by EssentialPastor.

December 4, 2017. Friendly Atheist: Ravi Zacharias Lied About His Credentials, and It’s All Your Fault, by Hemant Mehtah.

December 4, 2017. The Christian Post: Ravi Zacharias Denies Accusations of Illicit Online Sexual Relationship, Credential Misrepresentation, by Brandon Showalter.

December 4, 2017. The Wartburg Watch: Ravi Zacharias: Why I Don’t Think His Response at Christianity Today Cleared Things Up, by Dee Parsons.

December 5, 2017. The Christian Post, Voices: Defender of the Faith Defends His Integrity, by Jim Denison.

December 5, 2017. PJ Media: Ravi Zacharias Opens Up About Sexting Allegations, Extortion Lawsuit, by Tyler O’Neil.

January 27, 2018. Why Aren’t Church Leaders and RZIM Board Members Asking Ravi Zacharias about the Suicide Emails and about His Online Sexual Relationship?, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #8).

February 2, 2018. Is Ravi Zacharias Violating his Federal Lawsuit Non-Disclosure Agreement? Does Anybody Care?, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #9).

September 8, 2018. Does it matter to you that Ravi Zacharias has been a chronic liar for decades?, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #10).

Questions, Critiques, and Commentary

Analysis by Steve Baughman. RaviWatch. For a one-paragraph summary of findings to refute each claim by Mr. Zacharias, see the Fishy Claims page (which is the same URL as the RaviWatch homepage). The “More info” links on each claim take you to the related section on the Detailed Documentation page.

Analysis by Brad Sargent from Resource Archive and FAQs on the Ravi Zacharias and RZIM Situation (December 8, 2017).

Mr. Zacharias emphasized in his statement to Christianity Today that he had no “fiduciary duty” to the woman in question. Why might that be important to this case?

If a person is in a profession where they have a “fiduciary duty” to others, there may be legal implications if he or she engages in “misconduct.” For instance, many states have laws concerning forms of sexual misconduct between those in a role of authority/power and those in their charge — for instance, teachers and their students, prison officers and prisoners, counselors and clients, clergy members and parishioners. In some cases, “consent” of the subordinate person in the relationship cannot legally be used as a defense by the superior person.

To study the state-by-state laws on professions and consent issues, see the State Law Database from RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network). Also, see the details and analysis from Christianity Today writers in their article of December 3, 2017:

Zacharias’s lawsuit stated that “there was no confidential and/or fiduciary relationship” between him and the woman, as would exist between a pastor or counselor and a counselee. Lawyers emphasized that Zacharias is not a pastor or counselor, and that RZIM is not a church and does not provide formal counseling or therapy.

Georgia state law does not specifically address sexual misconduct by clergy, though it does declare it a crime for a practitioner of psychotherapy to use a “counseling relationship to facilitate sexual contact,” even with the consent of the victim.

Issues surrounding fiduciary duty have received increased scrutiny in “survivor blogs” the past five years or so, primarily as more cases come to light of sexual misconduct by pastors, youth ministers, Christian school workers, counselors, etc. So, for a Christian celebrity like Mr. Zacharias to specifically state he had no “fiduciary duty” relationship with the woman in question deserves a deeper look. Though he was not professionally a counselor to her, he appears to have served in a pastoral and/or spiritual director role of care and mentoring. And his profession as a Christian apologist, speaker, and author does give the weight of authority to his interactions. And, according to this comment from “mirele” on a Spiritual Sounding Board post, Mr. Zacharias is a clergy member. What implications does this have for this situation, and why did Mr. Zacharias feel the need to address whether or not he had/has any fiduciary duty here?

The following comment from mirele was posted on Spiritual Sounding Board December 4, 2017 @ 8:26 AM:

[A]ccording to the Schedule J, page 3 on Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Form 990 for 2014, it says, and I quote: “As an ordained minister of the Gospel, the CEO receives a board-approved housing allowance in accordance with Internal Revenue Code section 107.” So he IS in the ministry, otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to take this tax exemption.

Nonprofit Explorer has the Form 990s here: https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/133200719

Additional issues that need to be investigated and addressed: How is it that Mr. Zacharias could present a lengthy commentary statement about the context and other details of the lawsuit settlement, and that not violate the non-disclosure agreement, yet he appeals to the non-disclosure agreement as a reason to not answer a range of other relevant questions?

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8. Christian & Missionary Alliance Denominational Discipline Investigation (Starting March 2018)

March 5, 2018. Denominational Discipline, Press Release: Public Statement on Accusations Against Ravi Zacharias: In their opinion, the evidence does not provide a basis for formal discipline under the C&MA policy. Press release posted by the denominational leadership of Christian & Missionary Alliance.

March 6, 2018. Christian and Missionary Alliance Church Declines to Pursue Discipline Against Ravi Zacharias, by Warren Throckmorton.

March 12, 2018. Relevant: Ravi Zacharias Will Not Be Punished by Denomination for Allegations Over Sexting and False Credentials.

March 12, 2018. Twitter thread begun March 12, 2018, on non-disclosure agreements and the disciplinary investigation into Ravi Zacharias by the Christian & Missionary Alliance, and their complaint procedures to seek review of their decision to impose no disciplinary actions.

March 20, 2018. Response Letter to Lack of Denominational Discipline: Phoenix Preacher: Letter Demands That The C&MA Revisit Ravi Zacharias Scandal, written by Tom Lunal, and posted on Phoenix Preacher blog. “This letter was sent out to 200 plus Christian and Missionary Alliance pastors after the C&MA decided not to discipline Ravi Zacharias.”

October 2, 2020. MinistryWatch: Denomination That Ordained Ravi Zacharias Has “Raised Concerns” Following New Allegations, by Warren Cole Smith.

October 5, 2020. Christianity Today: Christian and Missionary Alliance Opens Second Investigation of Ravi Zacharias, by Daniel Silliman. “New claims raise concerns that previous allegations were not thoroughly investigated by his denomination.”

October 5, 2020. Ravi Zacharias Radio Show Dropped by Bible Broadcasting Network; CMA Re-Investigates Allegations, by Warren Throckmorton.

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9. Spa Scandal and Potentially Related Revelations (Starting September 2020)

September 8, 2020. Ravi Zacharias: Reports of Sexual Predation and Sexual Abuse at Health Spas, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #16).

September 9, 2020. The Wartburg Watch: Ravi Zacharias – Working the Kinks Out While Earning Extra Cash for Spreading the Gospel!, by Todd Wilhelm.

September 29, 2020. Christianity Today: Ravi Zacharias’s Ministry Investigates Claims of Sexual Misconduct at Spas, by Daniel Silliman. “Three women have come forward with additional allegations against the late Christian apologist.”

September 29, 2020. The Roys Report: Christianity Today Reports on Claims of Sexual Misconduct by Ravi Zacharias at Day Spas, by Julie Roys.

October 1, 2020. The Roys Report: New Source Confirms Ravi Zacharias Asked for “More Than a Massage”; Denomination Investigating, by Julie Roys.

October 1, 2020. WORLD Magazine: New sexual misconduct claims surface about Ravi Zacharias: Famed apologist’s ministry and denomination pledge to investigate, by Emily Belz.

October 9, 2020. The Wartburg Watch: It Appears That Ravi Zacharias Was a Serial Liar and Predator. I Find It Hard to Believe That No One Suspected Anything, by Dee Parsons. Dee Parsons has one of the longest-running track records as a “survivor blogger”–now nearing 15 years of posting about various forms of abuse and the individuals and institutions that perpetrate it. Her insightful analysis in this post gives background information and then addresses these five hypotheses about responsibility and accountability.

October 12, 2020. The Wartburg Watch: “An Amazing Orchestration That Only God (and $2.2 Million) Could Have Done,” by Todd Wilhelm.

December 26, 2020. Tweet from Lori Anne Thompson, in response to the December 24, 2020, Newsweek magazine tweet announcing their article, Ravi Zacharias, Christianity’s top apologist, sexually abused spa workers, by Aila Slisco.

December 27, 2020. Twitter thread from Benjamin Ady, on the starting and ending dates for the two spa businesses, where these may fit in the larger timeline context of Ravi Zacharias grooming and sexually abusing Lori Anne Thompson [LAT], and his other “more serious” misconduct activities.

December 28, 2020. The Wartburg Watch: Pastor Johnny Hunt Drags the SBC Into the Ravi Zacharias Scandal, by Todd Wilhelm.

December 31, 2020. This Twitter thread from Ruth D. Hutchins raises some questions about the connections with the Sankey case.

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10. RZIM Commissioned Partial Investigation and Intermediate Report Confirms Sexual Abuse (2020)

November 30, 2020. The Roys Report: Investigation Into Ravi Zacharias’ Alleged Misconduct Excludes Sexting Scandal, by Julie Roys.

December 23, 2020. RZIM / Ravi Zacharias International Ministries noted on Twitter and Facebook that they released an intermediate report from the law firm of Miller & Martin PLLC on the investigation they commissioned into certain issues of reported sexual abuse by its founder, Ravi Zacharias. This report confirms he did engage in sexual abuse, and that more details are forthcoming.

December 23, 2020. Christianity Today: RZIM Confirms Ravi Zacharias’s Sexual Misconduct, by Daniel Silliman. “Full report from outside investigation to be released in January.”

December 23, 2020. The Roys Report: Interim Report Finds Ravi Zacharias “Engaged in Sexual Misconduct Over Many Years,” by Julie Roys.

December 24, 2020. Newsweek: Ravi Zacharias, Christianity’s top apologist, sexually abused spa workers, by Alia Slisco.

Questions, Critiques, and Commentary

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11. Challenges to Ravi Zacharias’ Legacy and RZIM’s Leadership (2020)

There were numerous final appeals for repentance, reparations, and releasing the Thompsons from the non-disclosure agreement when it was public that Ravi Zacharias’ health condition was deteriorating, and then terminal. But these calls were to no avail.

March 31, 2020. The Ravi Zacharias Legacy: Fans, Falsehoods, and Yet Another Troubling Question — by Steve Baughman. (Spiritual Sounding Board article #13.) Investigating a suspect who exercises his right to remain silent can be a challenge. The suspect provides no information, so one can spend loads of time pursuing hunches that lead nowhere, or worse, to egg on the face. But with Ravi Zacharias it’s been easy. Almost every one of my hunches has led to evidence of significant deception by the man Chuck Colson called “the great apologist of our time.”

May 12, 2020. Before Evangelicals Canonize Ravi Zacharias, will they learn from Jean Vanier and L’Arche?, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #14). The evidence against Ravi Zacharias is, after all, serious and compelling. If evangelicals ignore it they will show the world that they do not take their Holy Bible seriously (1 Timothy 5:20).

May 19, 2020. RZIM Website Post: Ravi Zacharias, Now with Jesus, by Sarah Davis.

May 19, 2020. Tweet from Jimmy Hinton.

May 19, 2020. Ravi Zacharias Dies; More Lies Uncovered, by Julie Anne Smith (Spiritual Sounding Board article #15).

May 19, 2020. Ravi Zacharias, 1946-2020, by Warren Throckmorton.

September 19, 2020. The Roys Report: Opinion: Evangelical Response to Ravi Zacharias Scandal Reveals Our Desire for a King, by Russell Meek.

October 5, 2020. Ravi Zacharias Radio Show Dropped by Bible Broadcasting Network; CMA Re-Investigates Allegations, by Warren Throckmorton.

October 7, 2020. The Roys Report: Atheist Explains His Investigation of Ravi Zacharias podcast [57:40]. Note the “Show Transcript” link underneath the audio player, and you’ll find the transcript text at the bottom of the webpage. Website description for the podcast:

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.

October 9, 2020. The Wartburg Watch: It Appears That Ravi Zacharias Was a Serial Liar and Predator. I Find It Hard to Believe That No One Suspected Anything, by Dee Parsons. Dee Parsons has one of the longest-running track records as a “survivor blogger”–now nearing 15 years of posting about various forms of abuse and the individuals and institutions that perpetrate it. Her insightful analysis in this post gives background information and then addresses these five hypotheses about responsibility and accountability.

October 12, 2020. The Roys Report: Opinion: New Ravi Zacharias Allegations Highlight Secrecy, Cover-Up & Questionable Practices at RZIM, by Julie Roys. This opinion piece by Julie Roys is one of the best overviews to date that addresses the multiple scandals of Ravi Zacharias and ongoing questions about RZIM that have created mistrust in his legacy and his organization.

October 13, 2020. The Roys Report: TRR Exclusive: An Open Letter to RZIM from Brad & Lori Anne Thompson, by Brad and Lori Anne Thompson.

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12.Push-Back Continues, Consequences Intensify (December 2020)

This section focuses on responses from RZIM associates–both American and international–to the spa scandals and intermediate report confirmation of sexual abuse by Ravi Zacharias. It also includes the continuing consequences for RZIM from organizations that had been their media and ministry partners.

December 12, 2020. The Roys Report: RZIM Apologist Sends Stunning Letter: Says Ministry Has Lost Trust & Needs to Make “Meaningful Reparations,” by Julie Roys. Response thread on Twitter from Sam Allberry.

December 14, 2020. The Roys Report: Australian Author & Speaker John Dickson Severs Ties with RZIM; Says Ministry is in “Grave Peril,” by Julie Roys.

December 21, 2020. The Roys Report: RZIM Leader & Speakers Denounce Handling of Scandals; Two Call for New Board, by Julie Roys.

December 22, 2020. Reasons for God: My apology to Brad and Lori Anne Thompson, by Carson Weitnauer (Innovation and Ministry Partner Specialist, Zacharias Institute at RZIM in Alpharetta, Georgia).

December 23, 2020. Reasons for God: An Assessment of the December 23, 2020 RZIM Board Statement, by Carson Weitnauer (Innovation and Ministry Partner Specialist, Zacharias Institute at RZIM in Alpharetta, Georgia).

December 24, 2020. He was No David: Processing Ravi’s Wickedness, by Benjamin Marsh. Details four points that refute a frequently heard sin-leveling argument about how we’re all sinners, and that God forgave and restored King David. Excerpt:

A common refrain in evangelicalism lately goes, “well, God used David, and David was a man after God’s own heart despite his sin with Bathsheba.”

The refrain is used to excuse the behaviors of political and religious leaders we like.

It is a lie from the pit of hell used to excuse our silence, mollify our consciences, and allow for us to have what we want (our leaders) without holding them accountable.

A few things about David, to consider when thinking about using this lie:

1. David’s Sins Were Disgusting

2. David Repented When Confronted

3. David destroyed lives

4. David’s sins reverberated for generations until a nation was destroyed

December 24, 2020. The Ravi Zacharias Case Takes a Turn, by Ruth Hutchins. December 27, 2020. What Should RZIM Do Next?, by Ruth Hutchins. This pair of articles is a must-read for two reasons. First, Ruth Hutchins gives us a “grand tour” overview of the big picture on how this current pivot point for push-back unfolded. Second, in both articles she raises the issue of how nuance is necessary. For a range of people associated with Ravi Zacharias and RZIM, it is complex to change their views on the situation. Also, conducting an objective post-mortem on the organizational systems and how it ended up with something really bad happening is crucial to making sure it doesn’t happen again.

These are issues that I’m concerned about. Do we say “too little, too late,” and set an immediate and absolute high-bar response as the only acceptable? Or are we conciliatory as possible, pushing for best responses while encouraging whatever degree of of change right now as being better than staying stuck? Which approach helps with current interventions/changes needed, and with working toward future prevention so these are few such extreme abuses? In the big picture of identifying and dealing with abusive individuals and institutions, I’m most concerned that we keep moving toward safety and sustainability. And we need to have on board with those goals as many people as possible. But there are nuances to the barriers people have to getting on board.

The way I see it, there are tiers of culpability and complicity, plus mental acceptance and emotional attachment, to deal with. For instance,

Leaders who mishandled things absolutely have to make things right–or be removed (automatically, if they were directly responsible for corroding the organization and refuse to overcome any “ethical inertia” they’ve had).

Many others who were defenders and commenders have a high “emotional inertia” threshold of past support to overcome in order to get to where they stay for the time being as “loyal opposition” or leave entirely.

Those who were everyday followers likely have mental and emotional issues to address, but less than the insider associates who were more actively involved in the ministry and platform.

How can we best help those in these various categories of involvement move from being agents of damage to agents of healing? What are the core concerns for insiders who become whistle-blowers and/or loyal opposition? These are questions I’ve been pondering for a very long time, and hope to refine my thoughts on them and post in 2021.

December 24, 2020. Tweet from Michael Carroll on removal of all materials by Ravi Zacharias.

December 25, 2020. Tweet by scottie day. Apparently this RZIM webpage was scrubbed.

December 25, 2020. A number of tweets (such as in this thread) note that RZIM Academy courses for 2021 were being cancelled, and refunds issued. According to the RZIM webpage on the RZIM Academy, “The RZIM Academy is an online training curriculum designed to help individuals become better equipped in Christian thinking and reasoning.” The related webpage on Courses notes: “We regret to announce that registration for all 2021 RZIM Academy courses is closed until further notice.”

December 26, 2020. Twitter thread from Ash Cunningham. Woven in are comment and critique tweets from some who have been associated with RZIM. Excerpt: “I imagine I will more about this in a few days, and I have held back to swallow anger at some of the statements which have come out from or about RZIM lately. Sincee people are talking about it now let me say two things, which I hope will be useful correctives (tl;dr: 1. RZIM have known for years and are still being deceptive 2. The instinct to ‘save a ministry’ is a dangerous one).”

December 26, 2020. The Roys Report: RZIM Branch in UK Calls on U.S. Board to “Reform Radically,” by Julie Roys.

December 27, 2020. Twitter thread from Amy Moore analyzing institutional and financial concerns about RZIM. Ms. Moore is known on “survivor Twitter” for her breadth of knowledge on Christian leaders and ministries that have demonstrated themselves to be toxic, and especially for her critical insights into specific areas of non-profit structures and finances. This thread was part of the ongoing conversation near the end of December 2020 where abuse survivors and advocates were attempting to sort out when RZIM sought IRS reclassification from “mission society” to “church.”

December 27, 2020. What Should RZIM Do Next?, by Ruth Hutchins.

December 27, 2020. Twitter thread from Steve Baughman, with numerous comments and critiques woven in on issues related to RZIM publications, broadcasts, and potential liability.

December 28, 2020. Daniel Gilman, a speaker and writer with RZIM Canada, posted a tweet in which he asked (and answered): “Why would @RZIMhq commission an investigation into @RaviZacharias‘ sexual abuse if he’s already passed away?”

Some of the responses and retweets added other reasons. For instance, Ruth D. Hutchins in this thread. (Ms. Hutchins in not associated with RZIM, but has been active in the conversations as an abuse survivor advocate.)

December 30, 2020. Steve Baughman posted a link to this December 29, 2020, video from Dan Paterson: “Processing the Ravi Zacharias sexual abuse – with Dan Paterson.” [Length: 31:46.] Baughman notes, “For those who don’t know Dan, he was the head of RZIM Australia for several years. He is not happy with the way the situation has been handled.” For key quotes from this video, see this Twitter thread from Ruth D. Hutchins, and for some of her analysis/commentary, see this thread.

December 30, 2020. Carson Weitnauer (Reasons for God website) wrote an Op-Ed piece for The Christian Post on, “The ‘greatest apologist’ Ravi Zacharias and his catastrophic betrayal.” According to his bio at the bottom of the post, he “is Innovation and Ministry Partner Specialist, Zacharias Institute at RZIM in Alpharetta, Ga.”

December 30, 2020. MinistryWatch: Moody Radio, AFR, and Others Drop Ravi Zacharias From Programming, by Christina Darnell. [AFR stands for American Family Radio.]

December 30, 2020. The Wartburg Watch: Ravi Zacharias, With the Help of RZIM, Perpetrated The Greatest Fraud in Current Day Evangelical Apologetics, by Dee Parsons. Below are several responses to the tweet that linked to the TWW post.

December 31, 2020. A 21-tweet Twitter thread from Carson Weitnauer, thanking the various individuals, and groups whose work helped him change his mind about Ravi Zacharias. It begins thus; “As we come to the end of 2020, I want to thank some heroic individuals. Your dogged pursuit of the truth, against all odds, shone a light into dark places. Your courage brought healing to the abused and accountability to the powerful.

December 31, 2020. A series of tweets from Dee Parsons of The Wartburg Watch names key Christian celebrities who endorsed Ravi Zacharias even after the substantial flow of questions and documentation about his credentials began in about 2015. She serves notice here, gives her explanation in this tweet, and then names names in these tweets and gives source links that back up her claims: Joe Carter. Albert Mohler. Eric Metaxas. Vice President Mike Pence. David Platt. Josh McDowell. Tim Tebow.

December 31, 2020. A Twitter thread from Dee Parsons began with this: “Question: Looking for answers to this question. Did you support Zacharias after 2015 when the many lies on his bio came out?” All kinds of people–ministry workers, abuse survivors, advocates–post their answers. Insightful on larger questions of grooming, whether Christians who care about apologetics care about evidences of abuse, and more.

January 1, 2021. This Twitter thread started by Warren Throckmorton mid-stream in a thread from Julie Roys, comments on RZIM needing to put a moratorium on publications and broadcasts of Ravi Zacharias until the investigation is completed. It also includes tweets about whether RZIM should be completely dismantled, why, and some of what that would entail.

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Key Sources for News Reports, Analysis, Critiques, and Commentary

Social Media Links for Researchers/Writers Who Post Frequently on RZIM

These investigators, bloggers, reporters, and survivors have documented or commented at length on RZ/RZIM issues on social media–most since 2017. (I may add Facebook links, as well as additional names and links.) Their voices have been invaluable and their posts online are a main source in my developing the basic timeline section in this article.

Steve Baughman. Website: RaviWatch. Twitter: @RaviScam.

Ruth D. Hutchins. Blog: Ruth Hutchins. Twitter: @RuthDHutchins.

Dee Parsons. Blog: The Wartburg Watch. Twitter: @wartwatch.

Julie Roys. Website: The Roys Report. Twitter: @reachjulieroys.

Brad Sargent. Blogs: Futuristguy. Systemic Abuse Researcher Notes. On the editorial team at Spiritual Sounding Board. Twitter: @futuristguy.

Julie Anne Smith. Blog: Spiritual Sounding Board. Twitter: @DefendTheSheep.

Lori Anne Thompson. Website: Lori Anne Thompson. Twitter: @LoriAnneThomps2.

Warren Throckmorton. Blog: Warren Throckmorton. Twitter: @wthrockmorton.

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RZIM Non-Profit Profile

All details in this section are public access information, as required by the IRS for non-profits. At this time, most details come from RZIM’s fiscal year 2014 or 2015 Form 990, its most recent filings available online.

Nonprofit Profile Summary

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM website) is registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, which makes it able to receive tax-deductible donations.

The original approval for RZIM as a non-profit tax-exempt corporation (as a “mission society”) was issued in November 1984.

According to this IRS approval letter, the RZIM request for IRS classification (as a “church”) was submitted July 26, 2018, with the approval date of March 14, 2019.

RZIM’s Employee Identification Number (EIN) is  13-3200719. This is the unique identifier number assigned to RZIM by the IRS.

The IRS ruling year for RZIM was 1984, meaning that was the year it was granted non-profit status and donations would then be tax-deductible.

The NTEE Code for RZIM is (Christianity X20). For a description of the coding system and what this particular code includes, see the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities, Activity Codes List, and the Religion-Related Codes. The following is the summary of Christianity X20 from the Activity Codes List.

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Organizational Source Documents / Details for RZIM

Charity Navigator page for RZIM.

Guidestar page for RZIM.

ProPublica page for RZIM. The ProPublica “Nonprofit Explorer” page for RZIM includes summary financial information and links to Forms 990, which detail financial and organizational aspects of the corporation. The compensation of officers/staff chart in Form 990, Part VII, lists directors and key employees. All of this is public-access information as required by the IRS for most categories of non-profits.

EIN: 13-3200719. EIN (Employer Identification Number) is a unique identification number issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

Classification (NTEE): Christian (Religion-Related, Spiritual Development).

Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) member profile page for RZIM and Wellspring International. Wellspring International is “A Benevolence Wing of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

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Zacharias Family Members on RZIM Board of Directors and Staff

The question often comes up of how many Zacharias family members serve on the RZIM board of directors, or are employees of the non-profit, and how much are they paid. Key details come from public information on the 501(c)3’s Form 990. This is why the absence of Forms 990 from non-profits calls into question whether/why they are purposely shielding that important data from public access by stakeholders, donors, and others.

See the most recent Form 990 available from ProPublica. The compensation of officers/staff chart in found in Form 990, Part VII, which lists directors and key employees. Listed below from the Form 990, 2014 (submitted in 2015) are the family members, and their position(s) in the organization. See the chart on pages 14-15 for reportable compensation (W-2/1099-Misc), and estimated other compensation.

Ravi Zacharias, Chairman and CEO.

Margaret Zacharias, Vice Chair of Ministry.

Sara [Zacharias] Davis (daughter), Director/Executive Director. (Link.)

Naomi Zacharias, Vice President of Wellspring International (the benevolence division of RZIM).

It was reported in 2012 that Nathan Zacharias (son) “currently works as senior writer and video producer in the Media Department at RZIM, creating written and visual content for marketing, fundraising, and broadcast. In addition to his work behind the scenes, Nathan is becoming an increasingly visible face of his father’s ministry, spearheading initiatives such as the “Ask” interactive youth apologetics curriculum. […] [H]is wife, Sarah Parker Zacharias, … serves as a marketing and development associate at Wellspring. (Link from 2012 article on Christian Post.) (Link on TWW.)

The following screenshots of Zacharias family member positions and compensation are from Form 990, tax year 2014 (pages 14-15), posted on ProPublica.

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RZIM Board of Directors, Officers, Key Employees (2014)

The following list of RZIM Board of Directors, Officers, and Key Employees comes from Form 990, tax year 2014 (page 14), posted on ProPublica. To my knowledge, no more recent list is available for who holds these positions.

BOARD OFFICERS

DIRECTORS

KEY EMPLOYEES

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Basics of American Non-Profit Corporations and Christian Non-Profits

The core of this material was originally posted in the SSB Resource Archive and FAQs on the Ravi Zacharias and RZIM Situation (December 8, 2017). I have edited the original material slightly, combined other details from the IRS Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) Public Charities, and added a new introduction. The Compliance Guide is the best big-picture overview source I have found that covers the basics of responsibilities and regulations for American 501(c)3 tax-exempt corporations.

Introduction: Legal and Theological Authorities Over Christian Non-Profits

As Christians, we are mandated as citizens to submit to civil government authorities. (This does not preclude resistance against evil in political, social, or cultural realms–but that is a topic for elsewhere.)

In the United States, Christian churches, ministries, and agencies are not required to register as non-profit corporations. However, tax benefits such as tax-exemption for donations is available to registered non-profits.

If a group or organizational entity determines to become a tax-exempt non-profit corporation, their corporation is treated as a “person” in the eyes of the law. In America, non-profit corporations are constituted on the premise of benefiting the public good–not private interests.

Those in governance roles of that corporation make themselves and the organization subject to regulatory agency requirements, such as the government of the state in which they incorporation and the Internal Revenue Service. This is in addition to being subject to the laws/civil codes of all relevant government entities–federal, state, and local (including zoning).

In addition to regulatory requirements and civil laws, there are biblical/theological standards for morality and maturity in personal character, and ethics in institutional actions, that Christians leading and serving in the nonprofit corporation must meet. Some of the key ones are these:

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Three Regulatory Restrictions on Non-Profit Corporations

According to the International Revenue Service, an EO (Exempt Organization) must function “in the public interest” and not run it for the benefit of any private individuals or other organizations. The Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) Public Charities is probably the best official IRS overview resource addressing the basics of constituting a non-profit, ongoing requirements, record-keeping, governance procedures and practices, and required disclosures and documentation. It’s concise and clearly written, and if you’re involved with an EO, or investigating one, you should read it to make sure you/they don’t put its tax-exempt status in jeopardy.

What we typically think of in America as a “church” or “ministry” is typically constituted as a non-profit religious organization that is exempt from federal income tax. To stay tax-exempt, we have to abide by the rules and regulations for the corporation! And although there are many requirements in terms of forms to file and records to keep, the IRS print materials and websites consistently emphasize three main restrictions for maintaining tax-exempt status. To quote from the Compliance Guide:

Private Benefit and Inurement. A public charity is prohibited from allowing more than an insubstantial accrual of private benefit to individuals or organizations. This restriction is to ensure that a tax-exempt organization serves a public interest, not a private one. …

No part of an organization’s net earnings may inure to the benefit of an insider. An insider is a person who has a personal or private interest in the activities of the organization such as an officer, director, or a key employee. …

If a public charity provides an economic benefit to any person who is in a position to exercise substantial influence over its affairs (that exceeds the value of any goods or services provided in consideration), the organization has engaged in an excess benefit transaction. [Page 4, emphasis added.]

Political Campaign Intervention. Public charities are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) a candidate for public office. [Page 5.]

Legislative Activities. A public charity is not permitted to engage in substantial legislative activity (commonly referred to as lobbying). [Page 8.]

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Three Major Governance Concerns of Regulatory Agencies

In addition to restricted activities, the Compliance Guide notes three important recommendations for effective efforts for the public good. EXCERPT from page 20. (Note: IRC stands for Internal Revenue Code.)

Governance and Management Policies. Although the IRC does not require charities to have governance and management policies, the IRS does encourage boards of charities to consider whether the implementation of policies relating to executive compensation, conflicts of interest, investments, fundraising, documentation of governance decisions, document retention and whistleblower claims may be necessary and appropriate.Further, if a public charity has chapters or affiliates, it is encouraged to have procedures or policies in place to ensure consistency in operations.

Financial Statements and Information Reporting. Board members are encouraged to regularly review the organization’s financial statements and information returns, and consider whether an independent auditor is appropriate.

Transparency. Public charities are encouraged to adopt and monitor procedures to ensure that information about their mission, activities, finance and governance is made publicly available.

Here are some key specific concerns that frequently arise about where a non-profit corporation is possibly violations of these standards.

Governance – Too many family members and/or friends on the board of directors, such that there is inherent conflict of interest that mitigates their overseeing effectively the implementation of the institution’s mission and the actions of corporate administrators, employees, and volunteers. In other words, nepotism and cronyism.

FinancesInurement is a significant problem when there is excessive compensation or other undue benefits given to board members, administrators, employees or their family members or friends. Another issue involves the corporation soliciting donations for specific projects or purposes–but then failing to spend designated funds raised as advertised.

Transparency – Religious non-profits are not required to submit Form 990, which is a public information form with details on mission, governance, financial income and expenditures (including board member and key employee income, and major subcontracts). Some Christian non-profits have chosen to change their registration to a church. While apparently legal, this move raises questions about corporate transparency, because it hides key information from current and potential donors about who is in charge of the corporation, and whether funds are being managed with accountability.

There are no precise formulas for these issues, but critiques of abusive institutional systems and individual leaders typically involve some elements that have clearly enough stepped over the line into toxicity–if not illegality.

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Spiritual Sounding Board Posts: 2017-2020

The team at Spiritual Sounding Board (SSB) has posted nearly 20 articles since November 2017. These include news, analysis, commentary, and resource bibliographies. I have listed the main posts chronologically below, numbered them, and linked to their original locations. The summaries should help give the overall flow of what has transpired in the last four years. For the full list of posts, see the SSB category for Ravi Zacharias.

#1. November 26, 2017. Important New Video about Apologist Ravi Zacharias: Alleged False Credentials, Lawsuit, Online Relationship with Married Woman. “The Case Against Ravi Zacharias”, lawsuit, falsified credentials, RZIM *** Attorney, banjo player, atheist, and blogger, Steve Baughman has been following Ravi Zacharias’ story for a while, appealing to Christian leaders to take a look at his (Steve’s) findings, to no avail. It appears that Ravi Zacharias has misled people about his credentials.

Not only that, a lawsuit filed by Ravi Zacharias, against a woman with whom he had an online relationship. was settled out of court. This relationship went on for some time (and included nude pictures), and should leave us all with questions.

Why did he fail to tell his board about this relationship? Why has he not come clean on his credentials? Why did he settle the lawsuit rather than go through the court process?

#2. November 30, 2017. Ravi Zacharias: Email Threat and Ongoing Lack of Response About Reportedly Inflated Credentials. Ravi Zacharias, RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries), Credentials “Nothing is as important as the truth.” ~Ravi Zacharias in The Real Face of Atheism, at p. 105. The case of Ravi Zacharias and his inflated credentials continues and this post updates (and documents) the latest events.

#3. December 2, 2017. Two Posts Containing Ravi Zacharias’ Personal Emails Were Removed: Why? (Updated). Ravi Zacharias, RZIM, Clergy Sexual Misconduct. [Editor’s note: The following is nearly the entire post. I have copied it here because of how important the information in it is to the unfolding on the situation with the Ravi Zacharias sexting scandal. *** NOTE: This post is updated. The earlier version is at the bottom of this post.

When I began blogging, I did so to tell my own spiritual abuse experiences. There were no rules. I followed my heart. I still do the same today. I probably do things that make trained journalists cringe. Oh well. But, I must stay true to myself, true to victims, and true to my God. And sometimes that gets complicated.

This week, I published two articles which included private e-mails which were sent to me by the victim in Ravi Zacharias’ alleged sexual misconduct case. (As was noted in the now-deleted post, these emails were sent to me long before any demand letter was sent, lawsuit filed, or settlement was reached.) I posted them because it was my understanding that the victim wanted the world to know what happened, how it happened, and as a warning to others because we were both convinced that this was predatory behavior and could likely have happened to others, and could happen again. I also published them because there was a lawsuit against this victim in which Ravi Zacharias’ narrative was shared in public court documents, but no one was able to see the other side before the case was settled out of court (and sources have told me there was a payout).

Because the case is a Federal lawsuit and available to the public, people will only be allowed to read Ravi Zacharias’ side. The victim’s side remains silent – which is exactly what all perpetrators want: silence.

I want to be clear. What I read and heard from the victim via phone and email testimony (including personal e-mails between the victim and Ravi Zacharias) showed a clear pattern of sexual grooming. I believe Ravi Zacharias took advantage of this woman as she shared her personal struggles with him. I believe that he took advantage of her vulnerabilities. I believe he shared with her personal information about himself which made her feel very special in his life. But this was all a ploy so he could then get sexual favors from her (nude photos). This is how the grooming process works.

This morning, I woke up to find an email in my inbox from the victim. The note asked me to remove the private emails. Out of respect for the victim, I have done so.

I do not know if the victim was pressured to ask this by anyone from RZIM or by Ravi Zacharias himself, or if this was of her own initiative. Regardless, I need to honor the victim’s request first and foremost.

Does it change my opinion of the victim? Absolutely not. Does it change my opinion of Ravi Zacharias as a possible predator? Absolutely not. Does it change the validity of her testimony and e-mails? Absolutely not.

Thousands of people saw the e-mails. I believe that Ravi Zacharias and this case should be fully investigated. It is not acceptable to pay people off and silence them when there is sexual misconduct – and it is my opinion that this is what happened in this situation.

Once again, I will mention that Ravi Zacharias is a person of public interest and import. I have shared my personal opinions and beliefs based on my years of studying patterns of abuse and sexual misconduct. What I have shared, I believe to be true, and I have shared it with the intent to help and protect others from harm. I have no malicious intent whatsoever .

#4. December 2, 2017. Is Someone Manipulating YouTube Search for Steve Baughman’s Video: “The Case Against Ravi Zacharias?” The Case Against Ravi Zacharias?, Steve Baughman, Clergy Sexual Misconduct, Misleading Credentials *** Steve Baughman, the attorney who has been attempting to get Ravi Zacharias to come clean on his academic credentials, just contacted me and told me that for the SECOND time, something/someone has been monkeying around with his YouTube account. Here is a link for Steve Baughman’s FriendlyBanjoAtheist YouTube channel.

#5. December 7, 2017. Ravi Zacharias, True Apologist? The Actions Aren’t Matching the Words. Ravi Zacharias, Academic Credentials, RZIM *** I am not done dealing with the issue of Ravi Zacharias and the way his honorary doctorate degrees were used freely, and in my opinion, recklessly, in order to present an image of academic excellence. In the public statement released at the RZIM website, there are a few statements that are concerning. The words say one thing, but the evidence shows the contrary.

#6. December 8, 2017. Resource Archive and FAQs on the Ravi Zacharias and RZIM Situation, INTRODUCTION The team at Spiritual Sounding Board has written on numerous situations of reported spiritual, emotional, and sexual abuse/misconduct by church and ministry leaders. These are typically complex situations that involve investigating theological beliefs, ministry practices, organizational systems, cultural context, and other elements for relevant details and patterns.

We present this Resource Archive to help readers who want to do their own studies into the emerging situation of Ravi Zacharias and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), to develop their own informed conclusions. We seek to provide a range of select links that offer observations, analysis, and interpretations of events and evidences. Along the way, we present our opinions and understandings of relevant issues through the questions we ask and the ways we organize the material in response to questions that readers/commenters here and elsewhere on social media are asking.

#7. December 14, 2017. Guest Post: My Dinner With Ravi: An Atheist meets the “Great Apologist of our Time.” Ravi Zacharias, RZIM, Steve Baughman, Apologist, lawsuit, sex scandal *** This article was originally posted at the blog, Ordinary Times on culture and politics and was reprinted by permission. It is written by attorney Steve Baughman who has spent the last 2-1/2 years trying to get Ravi Zacharias to come clean with his exaggerated academic credentials and claims.

#8. January 27, 2018. Why Aren’t Church Leaders and RZIM Board Members Asking Ravi Zacharias about the Suicide Emails and about His Online Sexual Relationship? Ravi Zacharias, RZIM, Sex Scandal, Lawsuit *** Ravi Zacharias seems to have fallen off the radar. However, he did not fall off my radar. I never signed a nondisclosure agreement. I can share more if I feel so inclined. But I don’t think I will stop speaking out about Ravi Zacharias until he comes clean.…

#9. February 2, 2018. Is Ravi Zacharias Violating his Federal Lawsuit Non-Disclosure Agreement? Does Anybody Care? Ravi Zacharias, Online Sex Scandal, NDA, Lawsuit, Suicide emails *** GUEST POST by Steve Baughman. The terms of the agreement are confidential. But from what Ms. Thompson says, they are highly restrictive. She told an inquiring Christian blogger shortly after the settlement, “My husband and I are, and always will be bound by confidentiality legally. All I can say now or ever say is that he dropped the lawsuit and the matter is settled.” […] Take careful note. The Thompsons can now say nothing. And they appear to be taking their promise seriously. What about Ravi? Well, … not so much.

#10. September 8, 2018. Does it matter to you that Ravi Zacharias has been a chronic liar for decades? Ravi Zacharias, Lies, Deception, RZIM, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. *** I care about the truth. Does it bother me that the video below was produced by an atheist? You bet. I have spoken with Steve Baughman, the producer, at length a number of times. I understand his angst against Ravi. Steve is a life-long student of philosophy. So when he ran across Ravi’s name portrayed an academic scholar, using the title of Dr. in his books, website, etc., he expected Ravi to truly be an academic scholar. Think about it. Steve Baughman is a San Francisco attorney. He has put in the time and toil to achieve the necessary education and passed exams to become an attorney. Of course Steve Baughman would expect that someone whose sole ministry involves speaking and writing on philosophy and apologetics, would be above board. Guys . . . in his own ministry . . . which seeks donation$ . . . Ravi is telling you he knows the truth . . . . yet . . . . he’s been lying to us all for freakin’ decades!

#11. June 24, 2019. As a New Christian and Missionary Alliance Minister, Ravi Zacharias Pressured His Brother’s 16-yr old Girlfriend to Have Illegal Abortion. “Ramesh explained briefly the situation to Ravi. I remember Ravi was very angry. More at Ramesh than me it seemed. He was not speaking in kind terms. Only pointing out that this news would ‘kill our parents’ and ‘end your future as a doctor.'”

#12. September 9, 2019. Another Ravi Zacharias Falsehood Unearthed: Ravi’s famous first doctorate story was doctored. Ravi Zacharias has proven beyond any doubt that he is, in the words of Canadian theologian Randal Rauser, a “fabulist” who never lets the truth get in the way of a good self-promo opportunity.

#13. March 31, 2020. The Ravi Zacharias Legacy: Fans, Falsehoods, and Yet Another Troubling Question — by Steve Baughman. Investigating a suspect who exercises his right to remain silent can be a challenge. The suspect provides no information, so one can spend loads of time pursuing hunches that lead nowhere, or worse, to egg on the face. But with Ravi Zacharias it’s been easy. Almost every one of my hunches has led to evidence of significant deception by the man Chuck Colson called “the great apologist of our time.”

#14. May 12, 2020. Before Evangelicals Canonize Ravi Zacharias, will they learn from Jean Vanier and L’Arche? The evidence against Ravi Zacharias is, after all, serious and compelling. If evangelicals ignore it they will show the world that they do not take their Holy Bible seriously (1 Timothy 5:20).

#15. May 19, 2020. Ravi Zacharias Dies; More Lies Uncovered. The two former Ravi-colleagues both clearly remember that Ravi did not preach at the graduation. That was a role reserved for the college president. So they checked the program from that day and then shared it with me.

#16. September 8, 2020. Ravi Zacharias: Reports of Sexual Predation and Sexual Abuse at Health Spas. And now, Steve Baughman has uncovered more of the same . . . Ravi has a history of seeking sexual gratification for himself, using his position of power and trust to obtain those “favors.” This is clergy sexual misconduct and spiritual abuse!

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