The president of a Christian charity in Iowa is facing prison time after he admitted to embezzling nearly a half-million dollars in donations and using the money to fund his "sex addiction."
According to the News & Observer, Jon S. Petersen is the longtime president of World Ambassadors, Ltd., a nonprofit he founded with his wife, Catherine Peterson, in 1993 to provide a "Christian outreach to international students on college campuses."
On Monday, the 55-year-old admitted to struggling with a "sex addiction" from 2005-2015, and would pay for this addiction through his credit cards, home equity lines of credit, and World Ambassadors' donations.
Prosecutors said Peterson drained nearly all of the charity's funding: From January 2010 through December 2014, the nonprofit received total deposits of $476,466. Of those deposits, $475,555 was deposited into Petersen's personal checking account either by bank transfers or checks payable to himself from that account.
The AP notes that his guilty plea concerned his "personal 2013 tax filing, when he failed to report $114,000 diverted from the group as taxable income." In addition to facing a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison, Petersen may be required to pay restitution to the group's donors.
Back in 2010, the IRS reportedly revoked the charity's tax-exempt status after it "repeatedly failed to file a required annual disclosure on its income and spending." However, World Ambassadors, Ltd. was still registered as a nonprofit corporation and in good standing with the Iowa Secretary of State's Office.
Pornography and sexual sin are becoming more and more common, according to watchdog organization Covenant Eyes, which found that the porn industry generates $13 billion each year in the US - more than the collective revenue of the top technology companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple, EarthLink and Netflix.
The church isn't immune to such sins: Christianity Today found that 37 percent of pastors admit that they struggle with Internet pornography, and 51 percent say it's a source of temptation.
In an op-ed on his website, Insight for Living, Charles Swindoll calls sexual addiction "the no. 1 secret problem in your church."
"Without your knowing, it could be eating your church alive. And the scariest thing is . . . you may not realize the extensive damage it's causing. It's ruining marriages, destroying relationships, harming youth, and hurting the body of Christ."
"You hardly need to be reminded that fallen pastors and priests did not 'suddenly' fall. More often than not, pornography played a role in their downward spiral," Swindoll wrote.
However, he encourages those struggling with sexual addiction to remember that help exists: "There are hundreds of reputable agencies and ministries that specialize in overcoming pornography addiction," he said. "Some of them are even free: www.XXXchurch.com being one of them. The greatest need any person struggling with pornography abuse has is accountability. That individual should seek a person of authority to whom he/she is accountable in this arena of their lives."