Leader of 1 million-member church La Luz del Mundo charged with sex crimes; church stands by him

Naasón Joaquín García.
Naasón Joaquín García. | La Luz Del Mundo

Naasón Joaquín García, leader of the La Luz del Mundo church, which boasts more than a million members globally, has been arrested and charged with more than a dozen sex crimes in Los Angeles. His congregation, however, is standing by him and dismissed the allegations as false.

“The Apostle of Jesus Christ has always adhered to the law and demonstrated full respect to governmental institutions and the dignity of all persons. The Church categorically rejects each and every allegation made against him,” the church said in a statement Tuesday.

“We trust in the principles of justice that govern our legal system in the United States and specifically in the State of California. Our legal system establishes a Presumption of Innocence that is guaranteed to all persons; which establishes that all persons are innocent until proven guilty.” 

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García, 50, who is considered by his church to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, was arrested Monday at the Los Angeles International Airport, the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office told The New York Times.  In a release Tuesday which also highlighted the criminal complaint against the church leader, other individuals associated with La Luz Del Mundo were also named as co-defendants. They are: Alondra Ocampo, Azalea Rangel Melendez, and Susana Medina Oaxaca. Ocampo and Oaxaca have already been arrested while an arrest warrant has been issued for Melendez, who is currently at large.

García and his co-defendants were charged with human trafficking, production of child pornography, forcible rape of a minor, and other felonies committed between 2015 and 2018.  A group of girls were told that if they went against García’s desires, “they were going against God,” according to the criminal complaint. Children were told to perform “flirty” dances for García while wearing “as little clothing as possible.” García also once gave a group of children “a speech about a king having mistresses and stated that an apostle of God can never be judged for his actions.”

“Crimes like those alleged in this complaint have no place in our society. Period,” Becerra said. “We must not turn a blind eye to sexual violence and trafficking in our state. At the California Department of Justice, we will do everything we can to prevent and combat these heinous crimes so that our communities are safe. If you see something, report it and we will vigorously pursue justice.”

La Luz Del Mundo argued that the “unsubstantiated” charges against their leader impaired the dignity of their church and what they stand for.

“Because of the Christian principles that the Church proclaims and practices, we strongly reject any act that impairs the dignity and honorability of any person. By consequence, we trust that these unsubstantiated allegations do not degenerate into religious intolerance and discriminatory acts against the membership of the church,” their statement ended.

A 1995 study describes La Luz Del Mundo as a Pentecostal movement that takes elements from Mexican culture as well as the dominant Catholic culture.  It is also described as an authoritarian church with strategic ties to Mexican politics.

Bail for García has been set at $25 million.

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