The Third Concern: The Spa Workers’ Allegations
Baker-Hytch lists the hasty way RZIM responded to more allegations of sexual impropriety and abuse by Zacharias as another point of concern. He argues that Ramsden in particular discredited the allegations by describing them as “hearsay” and told the team the organization’s investigators were having trouble tracking down the anonymous spa witnesses and that meant “that those witnesses were not credible, or perhaps didn’t exist at all.”
Baker-Hytch went on to describe a personal interaction with Ramsden concerning the spa workers’ allegations and the investigation related to them that troubled him further:
During a phone call with me on the 30th of October, Michael stated that the investigators believed some of the witnesses were being coached in what to say by Steve Baughman, and that the investigators were saying that Ravi evidently had a lot of integrity. I had the opportunity to talk with the lead investigator Lynsey Barron on the 2nd November and I asked her about this and other things. She was clear that whilst there had been some challenges around interviewing Anurag Sharma [a former co-owner of one of the spas involved], it had never been her view that witnesses were being coached or that the women’s anonymity meant that they weren’t credible. She also said that she had no recollection whatsoever of saying that Ravi had a lot of integrity, and she emphasised that that would have been a very odd thing for her to say.
Additionally, Baker-Hytch pointed out the discrepancy between a statement Zacharias made about the allegations that was published on Christianity Today in December 2017. Zacharias insisted that he “made it my practice” not to be alone with a woman who wasn’t his wife, Margie, or one of his daughters. However, Baker-Hytch says “it was pointed out by the member of staff that we know that statement not to have been strictly true, in that Ravi had massages in a room alone with a woman on many occasions.”
(For more context on the spa workers allegations and RZIM’s response, check out our article.)
Apologies and Reparations Needed
Baker-Hytch asserts that the ministry needs to make a handful of apologies. First to the Thompsons for “the way that the ministry has unjustly portrayed them as extortionists, despite the lack of evidence to support the claim that they were deliberately trying to entrap Ravi.” Secondly, to the spa workers “if the investigation should confirm there is substance” to their allegations.
Thirdly, Baker-Hytch calls for an apology to “critics without and concerned team members within” for the way their concerns were “ignored” and for the way some of them have been “misrepresented, undermined, and even ridiculed” by leaders of RZIM.
Finally, Baker-Hytch says an apology should be made by RZIM for “failing to hold Ravi to account.”
The scholar is also calling for heightened accountability for the ministry. While Baker-Hytch says he is confident in the investigative team led by Barron to “get to the truth” and that he is encouraged that the full report on the investigation will be made available to the public, he says there are a couple more steps RZIM needs to take to right its “reputation for non-transparency.”
Baker-Hytch says it is imperative the current investigation include the situation concerning Thompson’s allegations against Zacharias, and not just the spa workers’ claims. Additionally, he believes RZIM should rethink its U.S. Board of Directors being anonymous. He is pushing for RZIM to rebuild trust by filing IRS Form 990s in the future.
Finally, he is asking the heirs of Zacharias’ nondisclosure agreement with the Thompsons to release the Thompsons from it.
Baker-Hytch concludes his letter by emphasizing the need for the organization’s “cultural overhaul.” He writes, “I believe that a period of intense soul searching will be needed, one in which we ask ourselves what it is about our corporate culture that may well have allowed such things to have occurred in our midst.”
You can read Baker-Hytch’s full letter here.