Children’s ministry caught haggling for sex with underage girls
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation announced on Friday that 32 people have been arrested in connection with a Knoxville human trafficking ring. Among them were Jason Kennedy, a children’s minister at the Grace Baptist Church in Karns, Tennessee, and Zubin Parakh, a volunteer creative pastor at the Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge, WBIR reported.
Kennedy, 46, and Parakh, 32, were caught in a three-day operation in which undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com, a common site for escorts. Kennedy and Parakh were both charged with trafficking after specifically seeking out sex with an underage girl, according to KGW.
Kennedy is facing a Class A trafficking charge and, if found guilty, could spend between 15 and 60 years behind bars and have to pay a $50,000 fine. He is currently in a county jail with bond set at $50,500.
According to WLTV, Kennedy responded via text to an ad placed by an undercover agent. He then received a text back in which he was made aware that two underage girls would be present. He haggled with the agents and finally agreed on a price of $100 for half an hour of sex with both of the girls.
Since his arrest, Kennedy has been removed from his position at Grace Baptist, which issued the following statement:
“The children’s pastor of Grace Baptist Church has been terminated as a result of an arrest in a police sting related to prostitution and human trafficking.
“The actions of the children’s pastor for which he has been arrested were part of his life outside the church, and we have received no questions or concerns related to his conduct within the church or its ministries.
“The children’s pastor was hired two-and-a-half years ago. The church’s background check turned up no issues that indicate any previous problem. In fact, the children’s pastor in his application affirmed that he had no issues in his background of a criminal or other nature.
We are praying for his family and will continue to provide the services of our ministry to them.”
In addition, five women were arrested on prostitution charges in the sting, but the authorities have offered to help three of them leave the business.
“We consider these young ladies as victims,” Mark Gwyn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told KGW.