Church stages fake kidnapping, members could face charges

A 14-year-old Pennsylvania girl says her church went too far by staging a kidnapping.

CNN Wire

8:22 PM CDT, March 26, 2012

Dauphin County, Penn.


A 14-year-old Pennsylvania girl says her church went too far by staging a kidnapping.

What was supposed to be a lesson in religious persecutions now has triggered a police investigation.

"I was terrified. I had a pillowcase over my head and my hands behind my back. I said, 'What's going on? And they said, 'Just do what we say and you won't be hurt.'"

Kidnapped, thrown in a van, staring down the barrel of a real gun.

And guess what, it was all fake. However, the girl had no idea, believing the real horror that left real scars, both physical and emotional.

"I was just wondering why. Like, they heard me crying because I was crying. But why not right then and there tell us it was a joke?"

More like a lesson said Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church near Middletown.

In order to teach teens what real life persecution of believers are like, Pastor John Lanza said they arranged a surprise raid Wednesday night.

"To secure the shock value and to make it much more real, because those who are threatened don't have a warning," said Lanza.

Assistant District Attorney Fran Chardo had his own warning: fake kidnapping teens has real consequences.

"If people didn't know and agree to this, it's actually quite serious. False imprisonment of a child as someone under the age of 18 is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years prison," said Chardo

We're told an off-duty police officer was involved, using an unloaded but actual gun.

"It's extremely disturbing. It's a matter under investigation. I don't want to comment on the matter itself. But this sort of conduct is extremely disturbing."

Days later, this girl, still thinking, she was going to die.

"I was just thankful that I was left alive."

The teens were taken to the pastor's house, where it appeared he was being assaulted. Eventually, the girl said the adults in charge told the students that it was a staged event.

Church officials said they never had any indication she was in such distress.