LOS ANGELES (RNS) — A trial date has been set for Naasón Joaquín García, the leader of the Mexico-based megachurch La Luz del Mundo who is facing a number of sex abuse charges.
A Superior Court judge on Monday (April 12) ordered the trial date for García to begin Sept. 27, according to the California attorney general’s office and a statement from La Luz del Mundo.
In August 2020, bail was set at $90 million for García, who faces counts of forcible rape and forcible oral copulation of a minor, human trafficking and possession of child pornography. Also charged alongside García were Alondra Ocampo and Susana Medina Oaxaca.
Oaxaca, who is out on bail, will also face trial beginning Sept. 27. Meanwhile, Ocampo, according to the Los Angeles Times, reached a plea deal after she pleaded guilty to four counts last October. The terms of Ocampo’s plea have not been disclosed, the L.A. Times reported.
The church has maintained García’s innocence and, in the statement Monday, said it believed he was not getting due process.
“Delaying the trial until September 2021 while continuing to require a record $90 million bail for the prominent religious leader shows the inequity of our current bail system,” the church said.
“We are confident that once the trial is concluded, his innocence will be demonstrated and he will be acquitted.”
According to court documents, Ocampo took photos of minor girls “touching each other sexually at her direction” to send the photographs to García. Ocampo directed one of the victims, along with other minors, to perform “flirty” dances for García while wearing as little clothing as possible.
After the dance, García “gave them a speech about a king having mistresses and stated that an apostle of god can never be judged for his actions,” according to the court papers.
Founded in 1926 by García’s grandfather, Eusebio Joaquín González, La Luz del Mundo rejects the Christian concept of the Trinity. It teaches that Jesus is God’s son and that church leaders, like García, his father and grandfather, are his apostles.
They eschew religious symbolism, viewing crucifixes as idolatry. During worship, genders are segregated in the pews, and women cover their hair and wear long, modest skirts.
Followers of La Luz del Mundo do not celebrate Christmas or Easter, but they do recognize the birthdays of García and the other apostles.
In February 2020, a former member of La Luz del Mundo sued the church and more than a dozen of its leaders, alleging decades of abuse at the hands of the group’s leaders.
In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, Sochil Martin alleges her aunt and a foster mother “groomed her to serve as an erotic dancer and sexual servant,” first to Samuel Joaquín Flores, the church apostle and leader who died in 2014, and later to Flores’ successor, Naasón Joaquín García, the church’s current apostle.