In November, 2017, Ravi Zacharias privately settled allegations leveled against him involving a sexting scandal. A husband and wife accused Zacharias of soliciting nude photos of the wife after an extended period of correspondence over email.
In a statement released Sunday, December 3, 2017, Zacharias says he first met the couple in October 2014 while he was speaking at a conference in Canada. An honored apologist and well-known speaker, this was nothing out of the ordinary for him. According to Zacharias, the wife asked him to follow up with her husband, who apparently was questioning the Christian faith. This was the beginning of a correspondence which Zacharias claims was initiated by the wife. When the wife surprisingly sent nude photos of herself in 2016, Zacharias says he “clearly instructed her to stop contacting me in any form; I blocked her messages, and I resolved to terminate all contact with her.”
According to the couple, however, the correspondence looked more like Zacharias grooming the wife for sexual exploitation. Christianity Today (CT) reports in April 2017 the couple sent a demand letter through their attorney, asking for $5 million in exchange for keeping silent about the correspondence. In the demand letter, the couple state Zacharias exercised “controlling influence over [the wife] as one with spiritual authority.”
Zacharias’s Federal Lawsuit
Zacharias filed a federal lawsuit against the couple in August 2017, stating the husband and wife conspired together to damage Zacharias and to extract “an exorbitant sum of money” from him. Also stated in the lawsuit is the fact that the couple previously sued a pastor in Ontario, Canada, for allegedly coercing them into unadvisable loans and investments. The couple asked for $1 million in damages, but the lawsuit was ultimately dropped.
Zacharias dropped his federal lawsuit against the couple on November 9, 2017, after the couple requested mediation in lieu of going to trial. Since then, the two parties have reached a private settlement. While Zacharias has published a statement addressing the settlement, he told CT he is “legally prevented from answering or even discussing the questions and claims being made by some…” He did wish to assure the supporters of his ministry, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, that no ministry funds were used to pay legal expenses.
The Hard Lesson Zacharias Learned
Although Zacharias claims he did not do anything to sexually exploit the wife or mislead the couple, he does admit he “failed to exercise wise caution and to protect myself from even the appearance of impropriety.” In the statement, he says he is “profoundly sorry” and that he has acknowledged this “to my Lord, my wife, my children, our ministry board and my colleagues.”
“The question is not whether I solicited or sent any illicit photos or messages to another woman—I did not, and there is no evidence to the contrary—but rather, whether I should have been a willing participant in any extended communication with a woman not my wife,” Zacharias explains in his statement.
He also outlines the physical boundaries he observes with women who are not his wife of 45 years, which go above and beyond what many men in leadership do. However, he admits “the physical safeguards I have long practiced to protect my integrity should have extended to include digital communications safeguards.”
Zacharias is no stranger to allegations being leveled against him. An ongoing criticism of the apologist and his ministry claims that he uses the honorary doctorate he was given to deceive people into lending him greater credibility. However, Zacharias “routinely asks not to be referred to as ‘Dr. Zacharias’—even by employees,” according to a statement released by RZIM on the topic.
Even still, this has been a hard lesson to learn for Zacharias, the burden of which you can hear in this sentence: “In all my correspondence with thousands of people in 45 years of ministry, I have never been confronted with a situation such as this, and God and my family and close friends know how grieved I have been.”