Two teen boys were arrested and charged with sexual assault on Wednesday in a church that has long been a target of criticism for its teachings.
The two boys, ages 13 and 14, were taken into custody Wednesday morning by authorities in New Orleans and were being held on $2 million bond, according to a news release from the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.
A third boy was arrested last week in St. Louis, Missouri, and charged.
The allegations against the two teenagers come after several local and national churches and community leaders have been under fire for what critics say is a pervasive culture of child molestation in their midst.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., who has led a campaign to end child molestations, called on people to demand that churches and faith communities do more to stamp out such practices.
He said the arrests, which occurred in a nondescript church on the city’s east side, showed that church leaders “need to do more and act more forcefully to stop the rampant sexual abuse and violence that plagues so many churches in our communities.”
Jackson said the church’s leadership has failed to take appropriate measures to protect its children and have a culture that leaves its youth vulnerable to being sexually abused.
The arrests came as thousands of people rallied in New York and around the world to protest the church in St Louis and other locations.
The protest was organized by the National Association of Evangelicals.
It drew thousands to Manhattan’s Lafayette Square Park and then into the city itself.
More:More:Hundreds of people gathered outside the church Wednesday night.
Some carried signs saying, “We want a place of peace” and “Stop sexual abuse of children.”
Others carried signs that read, “Stop molesting children, not a place for us.”