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Pastor made videos of women and girls in church restroom, receives 7-yr sentence

The dark side of the church: Ex-Pastor Robert Lyzenga was handed a seven-year sentence in an Indiana court for videotaping ten females, five of them underage, in his own church's restroom.
The dark side of the church: Ex-Pastor Robert Lyzenga was handed a seven-year sentence in an Indiana court for videotaping ten females, five of them underage, in his own church's restroom. Lukeroberts, Creative Commons

In a case certain to spark outrage, a judge sentenced a former Indiana pastor this week to four years in prison and three years of probation for making videos of females of various ages with cameras set up to record activity in the women's restroom of his Lafayette, Ind., church.

The Indy Star reported July 19 that Robert Lyzenga was sentenced Friday to four years in prison for videotaping five women and five girls in the women’s restroom just off the sanctuary at Sunrise Christian Reformed Church. He admitted back in May that he had hidden two cameras in the restroom. The former pastor, 58, pleaded guilty to videotaping the ten victims in 2011 and 2012.

Lyzenga told authorities that he had not intended to videotape any children. However, from the footage and still photos taken from the videos, police ascertained that Lyzenga had continued to download and watch the videos, regardless of age. He even edited some of the material.

The youngest victim was five years old.

During the time he taped the victims, Robert Lyzenga led the 200-member church as pastor.

Police were able to determine from the various angles of the shots that Lyzenga had repositioned the cameras several times. One camera was positioned directly over a stall. One camera caught a 16-year-old victim exposed and Lyzenga had edited the video clip to provide “slow-motion replays showing her exposed pubic area,” according to a sentencing summary released by Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington.

Judge Randy Williams could have sentenced Lyzenga to as little as two years or as much as ten years in prison. He settled for middle ground, sentencing Lyzenga to four years in prison, with three years of probation. He was also ordered to not have contact with any of the victims. Upon release from prison, Lyzenga will have to register as a convicted sex offender.

Robert Lyzenga is just the latest Indiana pastor to head off to prison for some form of sexually-oriented wrongdoing.

Back in December, Steve Harding, a 61-year-old youth pastor at New Palestine United Methodist Church (in New Palestine, Ind.) and a Southern Hancock School Board member, was sentenced to two years in the Hancock County Jail and one year of supervised probation after pleading guilty to felony charge of sexual misconduct with a minor. Harding accepted a plea deal for having sex on two separate occasions with a young girl who was 13 years old at the time of the first encounter and 14 at the time of the second.

In March 2013, 55-year-old Jack Schaap, former pastor -- for 11 years -- of the 40,000-member First Baptist Church of Hammond, was sentenced to 12 years for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old parishioner. The sentence was two years longer than that recommended by prosecutors.