One of the main pillars of the report is Dad’s travel to Asia. So I have a few things to share on that.
As mentioned in the report, Dad had two apartments that he purchased in Bangkok. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, Dad enjoyed the idea of a good investment. These units were cheap by American standards, and it seemed like a good way to build his investment portfolio. But more importantly, he looked for more opportunities to invest because he was trying to build for retirement.
To give context, during the majority of Dad’s ministry at RZIM, the organization did not pay anything towards his retirement. That decision was made in the early days of the ministry when budgets were tight and never revisited. He was on his own for those things for a long time. It was only in the last fifteen years, or so, that the board realized what had happened and took steps to try and correct that.
Even before the report, people have put out completely absurd, judgmental, and inaccurate information about Dad’s salary at RZIM. Depending on the source, those numbers are straight up lies or a complete manipulation of the data.
If an organization offers benefits to their employees, the cost to an employer is significantly more than what the employee earns. Some people have taken the amount RZIM paid towards Dad’s employee benefits and lumped it together with the salary he received. Adding those numbers together made Dad’s salary look much higher than it was.
Dad and the board always focused on keeping his salary in line with comparable positions at similar ministries. I think his final raise, something he didn’t take often, was meant to help give him more to invest and save for retirement. The salary bump and new retirement fund contributions were RZIM’s way of trying to help correct what had been overlooked for 20 years.
Dad invested to help gain ground, and the apartments were part of that. It was far less expensive to invest in real estate in a place like Thailand and still make a profit on it. Doing so in the United States would have cost far more up front. It also made sense to do it in a place he often traveled to because it would actually save RZIM money.
It was cheaper to reimburse him for time spent there for speaking engagements or writing, instead of paying for a hotel. He got an investment, they got a savings.
Why did he write there? One, invitations from Asia were a huge percentage of his ministry opportunities. While US universities are closing their doors, Asia is opening theirs. So it was easy to add writing time into his itinerary there since he was in the region so much. But secondly, being Indian, Dad felt at home in Asia.
The apartments were not a secret. We knew about them. He offered them to the family if any of us were ever going to be traveling there. And I believe he even offered them to other people who were in need of them at times.
ACCORDING TO THE REPORT
Now, on to what else the report says about the apartments. Actually, first, let me point out what it doesn’t say: all of these supposed “amorous” communications they say they have, and they do not mention a single one inviting one of these people to his apartment. It seems like if he had this double life there would be mentions and uses of this apartment with some of these people. But they don’t seem to have any of that.
All they claim to have, as it relates to the apartment, is that he “housed” his massage therapist in one of them. The evidence presented for this claim is this: in the notes section they found initials that matched hers with the phone number to the second unit. Is that it? Because that seems inexact.
Here are a few arguments against why even that is not compelling.
- For one thing, the initials matching a known therapist could be a coincidence.
- Even if it was her, the “note” does not prove that they were ever or regularly there at the same time. I already mentioned he offered the accommodations to other people when he wasn’t even going to be there.
- Even if he did have a therapist staying there, the scandalous tone with which they mention it is confusing. Wouldn’t that actually be the preferred way of doing it? Wouldn’t this be evidence of putting up a boundary? And wouldn’t this boundary be out of character for a man they say had no boundaries?
DON’T FOLLOW THE EVIDENCE, APPARENTLY
Go where the evidence leads. That’s how the saying goes. Just not in this case.
Lynsey Barron spent a great deal of time using supposed emails/text messages to paint a picture of Dad’s alleged behavior in Asia. Their own report says that the greatest amount of evidence came from his phones. So naturally, when they found all this evidence pointing towards behavior in Asia, they pursued those people to find out what these messages meant and how far this supposed behavior went.
Actually, no. They didn’t do that. And that is very odd. The report says at the beginning,
“we did not not enlist resources on the ground in Asia, where Mr. Zacharias frequently traveled, to locate and interview witnesses there.” (Page 1)
So the most damning “evidence” they had pointed to people and behavior in Asia. He spent a significant time in Asia, as much time there as anywhere else. The evidence they say is so credible pointed to Asia as ground zero of his behavior. And where did they choose to not do interviews, or devote any resources from the investigation? Asia.
Dad spent a significant amount of time in Asia. They could have spoken to hotel staff, doormen from the apartments, security from hotels and the apartments. There are a lot of people who witnessed Dad’s behavior and could tell you whether they saw any signs of anything suspicious. But they didn’t talk to them. Instead, they focused on people sent to them by biased sources: Anurag Sharma, Vicki Blue, Julie Roys, and Steve Baughman.
And before I wrap this post up, there’s one more telling thing from the report. After spending time talking about the frequency of Dad getting back treatments in Asia, they just drop this little gem into the report:
“we have very little insight into whether Mr. Zacharias engaged in inappropriate massage behavior when in Asia.” (Page 6)
And yet the fact that he received back treatments in Asia is included in the same section as allegations of abuse and misconduct in massages, despite their lack of “insight.” The reason is clear: the receiving of back treatments in Asia is meant to look extreme and give weight to the accusations of the people alleging misconduct. The question they want readers to ask is why would someone get a back treatment so often unless there was something else going on?
So they use the accusers’ stories to help “sell” concern about his travel in Asia since they have no proof about his behavior during back treatments there. But they use his travel in Asia to “sell” the accusers stories since they have no proof of the behavior in those either. That’s what you call circular reasoning. (If A, then B. If B, then A).
When it comes to abuse, there is no evidence. However, we do know of evidence that shows accusers changing their stories. So the abuse investigation is definitely incomplete.
When it comes to traveling in Asia there is no testimony, and apparently “no insight” into massage behavior there. There is only an indication of receiving regular back treatments. That component is incomplete.
When it comes to inappropriate communication, the one charge that allegedly does have documented proof was left at that. No further investigation was done; they strangely stopped with what was stored on the phones. They didn’t talk to people and witnesses in Asia who could have shed a lot of light on the subject, not even enough to verify if there was a physical relationship. They had their “strongest” leads in an area where he spent a large percentage of his time and did nothing to get more clarity on them. So that part is incomplete.
In fact according to Julie Roys herself, leads and names of “accusers” came from her. She says she gave Barron the names of the people to talk to.
At the presentation of the report to the boardboat, Ms. Barron was asked if she had investigated the possibility that any of these witnesses had colluded or been coordinated by an outside source. She said no, declaring that her only job was to investigate my dad.
But based on her own report, it doesn’t seem like she even investigated him.