Several teenagers at the Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in Pennsylvania got a rude awakening when church members kidnapped them at gunpoint. The pastor claims it was an exercise meant to teach them about the persecution Christian missionaries often face.
One 14-year-old girl has filed a complaint against the church, citing both physical and emotional harm. In an interview with local ABC news, she described being "terrified" as a pillowcase was put over her head and she was loaded into a van at gunpoint.
"They said, 'just do what we say and you won't be hurt,'" she said.
As she began to cry, she told ABC, "I thought 'why not tell us that it was a joke?'" The teens were eventually released, but not before being driven to the pastor's house, where they saw him covered in fake blood.
The pastor, John Lanza, told ABC that the teens were not let in on the truth "to secure the shock value of it and to make it much more real because those who are threatened don't have a warning. It was a youth event to illustrate what others have encountered on a regular basis."
Now the Dauphin County District Attorney is investigating the actions of the church and the impact on the teens. One member who helped with the kidnapping was an off-duty cop who used his real, unloaded gun.
"It's extremely disturbing," said District Attorney Fran Chardo.
There could be serious consequences.
"People didn't know and agree to this- it's actually quite serious," Chardo told ABC. "False imprisonment of a child is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison."
"It just seems inappropriate for that age group," Tom Copeland told the Daily Mail. He studies international affairs and terrorism at Geneva College. "You would think there would be permission from the parents."
For his part, Lanza said that he is willing to make some changes.
"I would find a way that we could continue to keep the shock value, but I would find a way to inform the parents," he told reporters.