By Victor Ochieng
Two pastors have been caught in a recent Tennessee police bust in which 32 men were nabbed by Knoxville police officers for human trafficking and soliciting underage girls for s*x. The two pastors were children’s Pastor Jason Kennedy, 45, and Life House Church pastor Zubin Parakh, 32.
After their arrest, they were relieved of their duties by their respective churches. If they were Catholic priests, they would have only been suspended awaiting investigations.
Kennedy and Parakh are facing 60 years in jail for soliciting underage prostitutes, a term close to life sentence.
“Finding these people who are trying to buy Tennessee children is a priority for us,” said Mark Gwyn of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI). “We want anyone responding to these ads to think there may be a TBI Agent on the other end of it. We will do whatever we can to make a difference in reducing the human trafficking that takes place in Tennessee.”
The bust came as a notable stride towards curbing child prostitution. Nevertheless, the men are presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.
According to Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, Kennedy responded to online ads for females he believed were underage. On the other hand, Parakh agreed to have s*xual activity with an underage female whom he believed was 17-years-old, not aware she was an undercover cop, says TBI report.
Both took not guilty pleas. They’re being represented by Greg Issacs, a Knoxville defense lawyer.
“Stings of this nature are typically high-pressure law enforcement operations that ensnare a lot of people,” Isaacs said. “Many of those individuals are not predisposed to commit the crimes they are swept up and later charged with, so I would encourage everyone to keep an open mind as this matter goes forward.”
Speaking on the issue, Senior Pastor Ron Stewart, who’s been with Grace Baptist for close to three decades, said he’s never had to deal with a situation like this. He said that besides Kennedy being his colleague, they were also good friends.
“Jason was a guy that talked so much about his wife and how much he loved her, and she talked about how she loved him and their three children. I mean, they were a great family,” said Stewart.
He said there was no single time anyone ever complained about Kennedy’s behavior despite the fact that the church is fitted with cameras and is highly alert on safety rules when handling children.
TBI Director Mark Gwyn said the state won’t stop at anything when it comes to dealing with the vice.