Metro Weekly

Virginia Beach pastor who said trans teens in restrooms would lead to assaults charged with soliciting sex from minor

Pastor John Blanchard of Rock Church has been charged with solicitation of prostitution following a two-day sex sting by Chesterfield Police.

Pastor John Blanchard – Photo: Chesterfield County Police Department.

A Virginia pastor who claimed that allowing transgender students to use gender-affirming restroom facilities in schools would facilitate assaults of female students has been arrested for allegedly soliciting a minor for sex.

Pastor John Blanchard, of Rock Church, in Virginia Beach, was arrested along with 16 others in a two-day sting operation set up by Chesterfield County police from Oct. 28-29.

Police say the operation targeted men who’d been communicating with someone they believed was a teenage girl but was actually a police officer. When the men arrived at a motel room looking for sex, they found several police officers, who then arrested them, Mike Louth, a major with the Chesterfield County Police Department, told The Virginian-Pilot, a Hampton Roads-based newspaper.

Blanchard, 51, was arrested on Friday, Oct. 29, and charged with felony solicitation of prostitution before being released on bond. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison — though it is likely he will not face the maximum sentence.

A video from Rock Church’s YouTube channel shows Blanchard participating in a Sunday service two days after his arrest.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Nov. 3, Rock Church announced that Blanchard would be stepping away from all ministerial duties until the charges against him are resolved. The church said it has been advised by legal counsel not to comment on the charges. In the meantime, Bishop Anne Gimenez, who co-founded the church with her late husband in 1968, and Blanchard’s wife, Robin, who has been a senior pastor at the church since 2013, will lead services in his absence.

See also: Virginia GOP congressman rails against gay marriage, transgender shelter access in House floor speech

But the church’s statement also served as a lecture about judgment, condemnation, and forgiveness.

“We are all committed to walking in integrity and truth at Rock Church International and will continue to take steps to do so,” the statement said. “As followers of Christ, we must remember that redemption, salvation, grace, mercy and healing are all gifts given to the children of God. Although everyone must address their own convictions and consequences, our assignment as believers is not to condemn, but to be agents of God’s love, healing, justice, and reconciliation.”

The church also offered thanks for the support it received since news of Blanchard’s arrest, and asked that the Blanchard family’s privacy be respected “while they walk through this difficult journey together.” The couple has two daughters. 

The Blanchards both attended a Virginia Beach school board meeting on Oct. 24, during which they, and other community members, railed against a policy, adopted in September, that requires schools to affirm transgender students’ gender identities. The Blanchards specifically expressed concerns about allowing transgender students to use restrooms that match their gender identity, saying that such a policy would put girls at risk of sexual assault.

See also:

High school survey asks if “queers” should use bathrooms with “normal people”

School board candidate becomes first transgender person elected to office in Ohio

Pennsylvania candidate becomes first nonbinary person elected to a judicial position in the United States

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