The Ravi Zacharias Sex Scandal
By: Deji Yesufu
Ravi Zacharias died of Cancer on 19th May, 2020. He was 74 years old. Until his death, Zacharias was the president of the Ravi Zacharias International Ministry (RZIM). It is a $40 million ministry that has a number of brilliant Christian apologists in its employment who transverse the world, preaching the gospel and helping people of differing religious perspectives understand the gospel and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Ravi Zacharias is still regarded as one of the greatest Christian apologists that ever lived. His ability to brilliantly express the gospel in almost philosophical but relevant terms has endeared him to millions of people around the world. In his teens, Ravi had initially regarded himself as an atheist. But following a failed suicide attempt and while reading the Bible in the hospital, Ravi came to an understanding of the gospel and never looked back. He continued to preach the gospel of Christ all around the world; ministering in no less than 70 countries and authoring 30 books in a space of 48 years. Around January 2020, doctors discovered a malignant tumor in Zacharias while undergoing back surgery. He began to receive treatment but it was discovered that the cancer was a rapidly spreading type. He would eventually be released from hospital to die peacefully at home a few months later.
In the summer of 2017, Ravi Zacharias filed a federal suit claiming that one Brad and Lori Ann Thompson were seeking to extort him of millions of dollars, after a friendly correspondence via email that he (Ravi) had begun with Lori Ann (the wife) had evolved to Mrs. Thompson sending him “unwanted, offensive, sexually explicit languages and pictures”. Ravi stated that he had implored the woman to stop sending these lewd messages his way and had to finally cut off communications from her. Only for him to receive a letter from the couple’s lawyer demanding that Zacharias pay them a sum of $5 million so as to effect a non-disclosure agreement between them and him. Zacharias said he immediately informed the board of RZIM and they counseled him to seek legal redress on the matter.
The RZIM is a Christian ministry that is run largely on believers’ donations. These donations come in various ways. One way is through luncheons, where individuals are invited to hear Ravi Zacharias speak and are encouraged to give towards certain ministry endeavors. Brad and Lorie Ann Thompson, a Canadian couple based in the USA, met Ravi Zacharias in one of such luncheons in 2014. The RZIM had invited the couple and Brad had sponsored a table in the meeting and had gone ahead to support the RZIM financially too. Brad Thompson is a Christian business man who uses much of his funds to support Christian ministries around the world. After the luncheon that night, Zacharias gave the couple his personal email address and requested that they keep in touch. At first, correspondence between them was mostly between the three but Brad is very poor with responding to emails, so eventually communications was reduced to between Zacharias and Lori Ann alone.
When the matter blew into public knowledge, Ravi Zacharias published a statement in December 2017, stating his mistakes in the whole matter: “I have learned a difficult and painful lesson through this ordeal. I have failed to exercise caution and protect myself from even the appearance of impropriety, and for that I am profoundly sorry. I have acknowledged this to my Lord, my wife, my children, and our ministry board, and my colleagues.” After Zacharias filed the lawsuit, the two parties decided to settle out of court and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in November 2017. The couple, however, has since been protesting Ravi Zacharias’ December 2017 statement as a violation of the NDA that was signed by the two parties. They say that though they intend to keep their own side of the agreement, Zacharias had reneged on his agreement and had opened them up to ridicule by the public; as his statement had painted Lori Ann as the aggressor. They insist that the true picture of things was hidden by Zacharias in the statement.
After Ravi Zacharias died in May 2020, the couple reached out to RZIM and requested a release from the NDA they had signed in 2017. RZIM did not respond to their request. Unable to speak on the matter, other parties involved with the family have since taken up the matter. First there was Lori Ann’s sister, Tamara Battiste, who had suffered sexual molestation herself in life but who was in the know of the whole story. In mid-2016, Lori Ann had shared her “love story” with Ravi Zacharias with Tamara. Tamara immediately felt that this did not sound like a love relationship but a situation where an older man (Zacharias was no less than 30 years older than Lori Ann) was taking advantage of a vulnerable woman – the age of his own children. Tamara helped her sister to see the destructive nature of the relationship and encouraged Lori Ann to seek counseling with some Christian counsellors – Jerry and Denise Basel.
Lori Ann went to see the Basels in October 2016. By this time, she was already becoming disillusioned; not very sure what the nature of her relationship with Ravi Zacharias was. While at the Basels, Lori explained to them everything that had happened between her and Zacharias. According to a written statement by Lori Ann, which was made available to a blogger, Julie Roys, by Tamara Battiste – Lory’s sister, Zacharias had requested that Lori and himself begin to have private communications between themselves alone via email – cutting off Brad entirely. As the correspondence between the two proceeded, Zacharias requested that Lori Anne obtain a blackberry messenger app on her phone, with which he would be able to communicate with her with little or no records of their communications. All of these began in the first quarter of 2016. One day, Zacharias expressed his love for Lori Ann and said that his marriage to his wife was some kind of contractual relationship. He was however finding a lot of joy in his new found relationship with Lori. At this point, he began to request that she sends pictures of herself to him. Gradually, he began to prod her to send seminude pictures to him; until one day he told her to send full nude pictures. This Lori Ann gradually did, having been swept away by the promise of love from Zacharias and having been tempered by his awesome speaking abilities and vast experience. The two would usually engage in “phone sex” but they never met physically, nor were there any sexual relations between them. When Zacharias was 70 years old in 2016, Lori Ann sent special nude pictures of herself to him as a gift. Zacharias responded in kind by sending her gifts of necklaces and scarfs from his trip to India. They were in the middle of this virtual sex relationship when Lori’s sister encouraged her to seek counseling.
The Basels helped Lori to realize that she had been taken advantage of by Ravi Zacharias and that their relationship was sinful. They encouraged her to tell her husband everything that happened between her and Ravi Zacharias. But before doing that, they told her to send Zacharias an email to bring an end to the whole relationship. Records of emails state the following:
While with her counsellors on 29th October, 2016, Lori Ann sent this email to Ravi Zacharias:
Lorie: “…(I) no longer (wish to) continue (with) what I know to be sin against God and each of our spouses… I would be informing my husband of our illicit affair later this evening… I have no control over how Brad will respond to or handle the information but I can no longer hold this secret and its soul searing shame… if one of my daughters was approached by a man thirty years her senior in a position of power and thrust, and this type of thing had occurred, I would be furious with him. I suspect so would you if it were one of your precious girls… Your sir, are that man. You took advantage of a devastated daughter, and left her devoured again. I am so appalled I allowed myself to enter into this level of deception. You took and I gave a part of my soul and later my body that was not yours. The investment in relationship from taking my email to taking off my clothes makes me weep with the despair; feeling desolate, devastated and disgusted… I request you do not reply this email as I simply cannot hear from you or see you ever again…”
Zacharias (3 hours later): “Are you going to tell him it’s me?”
No response from Lori Ann.
Zacharias: “You promised you wouldn’t Lori Anne. If. You betray me here I will have no option but to bid this world goodbye I promise.”
Zacharias: “Can we meet at lest(sic) once before you do this? Please please.”
Zacharias: “Little did I know that was the most dark and accursed day of my life. You will not hear from me again.”
No response from Lori Ann.
But her counsellors now respond.
Basels: We are lori Anne’s counsellors and she is currently receiving intensive counseling with us to find healing and restoration for her marriage. It is not her intent to share what has happened to anyone except her husband – which is necessary for any hope of marital restoration. And we are bound by confidentiality. We need some assurance from you that you will not harm yourself. Otherwise, we will find it necessary to contact 911 in your location. We await your prompt response. Thank you.
Three minutes later, Zacharias responds: I am fine Thank you. I am just concerned about her. Thank you please tell her I am praying for her. She is very much in my prayers.
Lori confessed to her husband that night.
(I have tried to retain most of the spelling mistakes in the original written emails between the two parties here.)
Brad Thompson was devastated. But he was also committed to saving his marriage and helping his wife through those difficult times. He immediately entered into counseling with the Basels. During counseling Brad was willing to forgive Ravi Zacharias and let the matter die down. In fact he had sent Zacharias a message stating that he and his wife had moved on despite the pain that the situation had caused them. Zacharias responded by thanking him and promising to be a better person. But in the first quarter of 2017, the Thompsons felt that if a 70 year old man could do this to a woman about the age of his own daughter, it is likely he had been doing this to other women also. They felt duty bound to instigate a process that would discourage Zacharias from doing this to other women. At first they thought of going to report Zacharias to the board of RZIM but they learnt that the board consisted essentially of Zacharias, his wife and daughter. They did not think that such a board, that had mostly family members, would be able to take a non-bias decision on Zacharias. Then they thought of contacting reputable magazines but they realized that if they did that, the story could blow out of proportion and further exacerbate the suicidal state the two of them were in. Their lawyer would eventually suggest bringing Zacharias to a non-disclosure agreement after Zacharias had paid a sum of $5 million. They felt the money attached to it will make Zacharias take the matter seriously. And he did. Ravi Zacharias would immediately institute a legal process that led ultimately to a signed NDA in November 2017 but which the couple allege Zacharias broke in December of the same year with his statement on the allegation that he released to the press that painted the couple as the aggressors.
Even with the death of Zacharias this year, the Thompsons are still legally bound not to talk about the whole matter to the press. The information that we have on this allegation are from written documents by Brad and Lorie Ann from November 2016, written about a year before the couple entered into an NDA with Ravi Zacharias in 2017. The couple had sought to be released from the oath of silence but the RZIM has not responded to them. Letters of enquiries, written to RZIM by the blogger that made this story public, were not responded to. It is likely that the RZIM, which is headed by one of Zacharias daughters, will still respond to these latest allegations. But as at the time this article was written, they have not given a public statement on the matter.
In my next blog post, I would be stating my personal opinion on this matter.