Osteen Megachurch volunteer charged with child abuse
WASHINGTON (AFP) – A volunteer at a Texas church home to the largest congregation in the United States has been charged with sexually abusing an autistic child.
Alvaro Daniel Guzman, 25, was charged with indecency with a child over a February 2010 incident at a Lakewood Church activities program for special needs children, according to local media reports in Houston. The arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday but Guzman is still free.
Lakewood is a Protestant “megachurch” run by pastor Joel Osteen, whose weekend services draw more than 40,000 people. Osteen’s television ministry is broadcast in dozens of countries.
Guzman allegedly fondled an 8-year-old autistic boy while he helped him climb into a play structure. Another adult volunteer allegedly witnessed the event and reported it to church officials and authorities.
The arrest warrant was issued this week. As of Saturday, Guzman was not in custody, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Lakewood Church, in a statement posted on its web site, said Guzman was “immediately removed” from volunteer services and that state authorities were “notified immediately.”
Guzman had passed a criminal background check, according to the church. It said there were three adult volunteers in the Champions Club room at the time of the incident, which occurred during a church service.
“The minor’s parents continue to worship and volunteer faithfully at the church,” the statement said. “The minor continues to attend the Champions Club.”