Outside of the Greek-style, gold-columned temple in East L.A. earlier this week, Alejandra Joaquin covered her head with a blue lace veil.
Since Naason Joaquin Garcia was arrested last week at LAX and charged with child rape, human trafficking, child pornography and other crimes, many leaders and members in the Mexico-based La Luz Del Mundo megachurch have been quick to support him.
"He is the servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ," said Alejandra, speaking in Spanish. "That’s all I know."
La Luz Del Mundo has about 40 temples in Southern California. Members are taught to view their leader as an apostle, chosen by God. That doctrine distinguishes it from most Christian denominations and causes some to label La Luz a cult.
The East L.A. church is the group’s largest in Southern California. It’s also where Joaquin Garcia once served as pastor, more than a decade before he became the church’s international leader in 2014.
Prosecutors say Joaquin Garcia coerced underage victims into performing sex acts by telling them that if they defied his desires as “the Apostle,” they were defying God. Joaquin Garcia is scheduled to be arraigned on June 21.
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Aaron Schrank covers religion, international affairs and the Southern California diaspora under a grant from the Luce Foundation.