NFL player, wife sue Ravi Zacharias Ministries for deceptive practices

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Derek Carrier, a tight end for the Las Vegas Raiders, and his wife, Dora, are suing Alpharetta-based Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and the wife of its founder for deceptive practices and misuse of funds after the couple donated thousands of dollars to the ministry to help defend Christianity.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia on Thursday, alleges instead, Zacharias, who had an international following, used funds donated to the ministry to cover up and engage in sexual misconduct.

The other defendants are RZIM Productions and Margaret Zacharias as the administrator of the estate. Ravi Zacharias, the 74-year-old head of a global ministry founded in 1984 and a bestselling author, died in May 2020.

Guests at his memorial service in Atlanta included then-Vice President Mike Pence and Tim Tebow.

A woman who answered the phone at RZIM said the ministry was unable to “comment at this time.”

On Jan. 21, 2020, the couple donated $30,000 to support the Christian apologetic ministry, its outreach, training, and other programming, according to the complaint.

The “defendants held themselves out to be Christian apologetics charged with defending Christianity. Defendants further held themselves out to be pious followers of the Holy Gospel, maintaining a religious level of morality and following the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Zacharias, according to the complaint, painted himself as a “devoted Christian who was living a Christian lifestyle in keeping with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and who was worthy of leading others in their Christian faith.”

Instead, Zacharias and the ministry “deceived faithful Christians, soliciting their financial support for its purported mission of Christian evangelism, apologetic defense of Christianity, and humanitarian efforts. Defendants bilked tens — if not hundreds — of millions of dollars from well-meaning donors who believed RZIM and Zacharias to be faith-filled Christian leaders. In fact, Zacharias was a prolific sexual predator who used his ministry and RZIM funds to perpetrate sexual and spiritual abuse against women,” according to the lawsuit.

An outside investigation by an Atlanta law firm commissioned by the international board of RZIM released a final report earlier this year that found credible evidence that Zacharias was involved in several incidents of unwanted touching, sexting, spiritual abuse and rape tied to two day spas he co-owned, and RZIM officials acknowledged the incidents could go beyond those spas.

The investigation included a review of his electronic devices and found evidence of text- and email-based relationships with women, as well as more than 200 “selfie”-style photographs of women.

The scope of the investigation did not specifically extend to the ministry’s finances, although it revealed that four women received money from the discretionary fund from a humanitarian effort connected to the ministry.

Investigators said they did not find evidence that anyone within RZIM or on the board knew of the misconduct.

Atlanta attorney Mike McGlamry, one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said there could be “thousands” more donors who come forth. “When people (such as the Carriers) have that much of a commitment to their faith, they expect and want that from others. Then to find out this is all a sham, it has a greater impact.”

The complaint seeks class-action certification, unspecified monetary damages, attorney fees and a jury trial.

McGlamry said while he doesn’t know for a fact, “I would expect the donations run the gamut from very small to very large.”

Its most recent 990 form, for 2014, showed RZIM had total revenue of $25.74 million.

Ravi Zacharias’ total compensation that year was more than $365,000.