Two church pastors charged with trafficking in undercover sting

Jason KennedyKnox County Sheriff's Office

Two church pastors have been arrested as part of an anti-trafficking operation for seeking to have sex with an under-age girl in Tennessee.

Jason Kennedy, 46, and Zubin Parakh, 32, were among 32 men and women arrested by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), it was announced on Friday.

They had answered an online ad to have sex with an under-age prostitute.

According to a police report seen by WVLT, Kennedy responded via text to an ad placed by an undercover agent. He agreed to pay $100 for half an hour of sex with two girls, one of whom was 15 years old.

He went to an arranged meeting place, handed over the money, and removed his trousers. He was then arrested, and charged with human trafficking and patronising prostitution.

Kennedy was a children's minister at Grace Baptist Church in Karns, Tennessee. He was fired on May 20 when news broke of his arrest.

A statement from the church said: "The children's pastor of Grace Baptist Church has been terminated as a result of an arrest in a police sting related to prostitution and human trafficking.

Zubin ParakhKnox County Sheriff's Office

"The actions of the children's pastor for which he has been arrested were part of his life outside the church, and we have received no questions or concerns related to his conduct within the church or its ministries.

"The children's pastor was hired two-and-a-half years ago. The church's background check turned up no issues that indicate any previous problem. In fact, the children's pastor in his application affirmed that he had no issues in his background of a criminal or other nature.

"We are praying for his family and will continue to provide the services of our ministry to them."

Senior pastor Rev Ron Stewart said the news of Kennedy's arrest had shocked his congregation. "He did it, but it's like a tsunami that can cover a whole island. His tsunami has come across our whole church," he said.

Parakh is creative pastor at Lifehouse Church in Oak Ridge. According to WVLT, TBI director Mark Gwyn said Parakh responded to ads indicating that he wanted to have sex with under-age girls. He has also been charged with patronising prostitution and trafficking.

Both men are due for preliminary hearings on May 31.