The daughter of a Hammond megachurch's founder has issued a public apology for keeping silent about "the many nefarious actions" of her father and other church leaders.
In an open letter written last week and a news release issued Monday, Linda Murphrey apologized for not speaking out on what she called a cycle of church abuses at First Baptist Church of Hammond.
Murphrey's apology comes in the wake of the federal sentencing of her brother-in-law, former church Pastor Jack Schaap. Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in prison last week after pleading guilty to having a sexual relationship with an underage church girl he was counseling.
Her letter reiterates what she claimed earlier this year in a Chicago Magazine article -- that her father, church founder Jack Hyles, used power and oppression to make church members like subservient "zombies."
She has contended this leadership mentality was passed down to Schaap, who eventually married Hyles' other daughter and took over the church.
"The dynamics went beyond merely ingesting a sermon," Murphrey states in the letter. "It had crossed over into complete worship of your pastor.
"You looked and acted spellbound," she added in reference to church parishioners. "You sat there in awe, mesmerized. Not by scripture. Not by God and his word ... But by one man -- Jack Hyles, my own father."
A spokeswoman for Murphrey, Kathleen Kaiser, said the woman grew disillusioned with the church over the years, eventually leaving the church and family in the early 1980s at age 27.
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Murphrey spent several years in "therapy and deprogramming to recover from the religious abuse of her father's ministry," the press release states. "I had to leave that world. I did and I never looked back," it continues.
After Schaap was implicated in the sexual relationship with a church minor last year, "I grieved deeply in the following weeks, and one reason for the grief was due to feeling that I should have spoken up years ago," Murphrey's letter states.
"My heart hurts for the precious victim of Jack’s crime. How I wish I could erase her pain, disillusionment and confusion. I hurt for ALL the victims -- and there are so many," she wrote.
She states other people have told her of abuse recently.
"To every victim, I especially apologize - whether your abuse was sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual - or a combination thereof. My family hurt you, and if no one else in my family ever apologizes, at least you can hear it from one person in the Hyles family. I am so very sorry for what happened to you and for your pain," Murphrey's letter stated.
The press release says Murphrey is writing a book about her escape and recovery, and her entire letter can be found on her website, www.lindamurphrey.com.
Church spokesman Eddie Wilson could not be reached for comment Monday regarding Murphrey's letter.