Powerful Christian Evangelist Warns of Persecution Coming Here, From a US Jail Cell
Now detained by ICE for over six months, evangelist Torben Søndergaard called in to Michael Brown's Line of Fire show to give his first public interview from detention.
“Why were you arrested in the first place?” Michael Brown, a Messianic Jewish cultural commentator and biblical scholar, asked Torben Søndergaard on Brown’s Line of Fire radio show. Brown had just explained to his listeners that Søndergaard is the leader of a “back to the Bible” type of movement. Søndergaard is a Christian minister and founder of The Last Reformation, which encourages Christians to live out what they read in the biblical book of Acts. He is also a Danish national seeking asylum in the U.S.
Søndergaard, calling in from an ICE immigration detention center in Florida in his first interview since being detained, said he still doesn’t know why he was arrested. Initially the officer arresting him had mentioned suspicion of gun smuggling, but Søndergaard said nothing has come of that initial statement, and in fact, no charges have been filed against him.
“One hundred ninety-five days, celebrating my birthday, celebrating my anniversary, New Year’s, Christmas — away from my family,” Søndergaard said. “I’ve been married with my wife 27 years. I’ve done ministry full-time over 20 years. And I’ve never done anything criminal. And I have no idea how long time it will go still.”
Søndergaard said he was handcuffed, put in isolation for 10 days, and has been detained since. When he was initially released from isolation to be detained with others, he found he was unlike his fellow detainees:
One of my roommates, he have murdered somebody. Another guy, he have stabbed his boss in the back with a knife. What have I done? I’ve been preaching the Gospel. The day before I got arrested, I baptized 10 people and prayed for people and shared Jesus. And so it’s been very unreal.
Søndergaard said he doesn’t understand “why it’s not on every news media outlet out there” or “why nothing is happening.”
A Warning of Persecution Coming to America
Søndergaard ended the interview with this prophetic warning about persecution coming to America, connecting the message to his detention:
When I left Denmark, I was in shock. I could never imagine that I should experience what I experienced in Denmark. And I was sitting here … on the way to America and I was like, “God how can this happen? I’ve been so proud of being Danish and suddenly the government come after me.”
And then God said: “Torben, I’ve brought you to America to make my people ready for what is coming, because persecution are also coming to America.”
And now I’ve experienced it. … I’m a preacher, I’m a pastor, I’m a minister who’s been sitting in jail without any charges.
Søndergaard’s Asylum Claim and a Possible Retrial
Søndergaard came to the U.S. in 2019 and sought asylum from religious persecution in Denmark. After a federal judge decided against him, his immigration attorneys will be pursuing a retrial, an official update posted Jan. 17 to Friends of Torben said.
The opportunity for retrial stems from the fact that the Webex video of the hearing of the federal judge’s decision was illegally recorded and leaked to the public. The video was covered by a Danish tabloid, the headline reading, in part, (translated) “Sect leader in shock.” A retrial would allow Søndergaard’s attorneys to update/supplement his asylum claim and present new evidence, according to Søndergaard’s spokesman. He added, “These folks who thought that they were hurting Mr. Søndergaard ended up strengthening his asylum claim.”
Søndergaard’s lawyers filed a notice of appeal on his denied asylum application on Dec. 23, according to an update, and have a couple months to prepare the appeal. A statement posted to Søndergaard’s Facebook said, “the judge’s ruling today was full of factual errors and failed to address the key points of Torben’s defense.” It added, “Torben will not be deported anytime soon and this battle is far from over.”
Søndergaard’s immigration lawyer, Michelle Sánchez, explained to Michael Brown what the immigration judge said in court: Søndergaard had proven that he fears persecution, but not that his fear of persecution is objectively grounded.
Targeted by Secularist Elites
Sanchez disagreed with the judge, explaining that Søndergaard was directly referenced in the making of a Danish law which criminalizes “psychological violence.” A Danish politician had specifically identified such psychological violence by citing a preacher in a documentary called Guds Bedste Børn (God’s Best Children) who was casting out demons in front of children. Søndergaard is the only preacher in the film who casts out demons. God’s Best Children was produced by a government-owned TV station and used to vilify Søndergaard, fostering media coverage, national outrage, and the passage of a law that could be used against him.
Sánchez suggested that the law was targeted “specifically to punish” Søndergaard.
An excerpt from a Danish parliamentary document, translated from Danish to English by Google, records Danish politician Mads Fuglede saying from the parliament floor:
Many of you may have followed the documentary “God’s Best Children” and seen how a preacher commits exorcisms in front of shaking and crying children, and … this kind of behavior can be described as psychological abuse, that can leave serious trauma in the children. For us, it is important to clarify that the bill also applies to radical religious communities that exploit the basis of the Free Church’s existence and perpetrate psychological violence on children in the form of exorcisms, etc.
The Last Reformation’s documentary series on Søndergaard’s situation is called Fighting for the Gospel. The first episode shows that the unhappy child Fuglede references was not crying from fear of a Christian practice, but because he wanted to go swimming in the baptismal pool where Søndergaard was ministering.
The second installment of the series came out Dec. 24 and more are slated for the future to further explain why Søndergaard left Denmark and his detention in the U.S.
“It Could Happen to Anybody”
Sanchez went on to say, “I think in the back of that judge’s mind, he didn’t want to set a precedent” that would allow other individuals from Nordic countries to apply for asylum. She referenced Denmark’s “burqa ban,” a law that affects some Muslims, and attempts in Denmark to ban male circumcision, which would affect the nation’s Jewish community. Brown, who testified in Søndergaard’s asylum hearing on religious persecution, also cited an example of religious persecution in a Nordic country. Before charges against her were dropped, Finnish politician and grandmother Päivi Räsänen faced possible imprisonment in Finland for stating Christian beliefs on sexuality and opposing same-sex marriage.
Brown emphasized to Christian listeners the importance of supporting Søndergaard as a fellow Christian:
Don’t dare say for a moment ‘Well, Torben’s controversial so why should I care? I don’t agree with everything on Torben.’ If this could happen to him, with a simple gospel message on the streets, living out New Testament faith, it could happen to anybody. If it could happen to him here in America, under these asylum issues and immigration issues, and if he could be falsely accused, it could happen to anybody. So this is a brother we are standing with and someone who, very frankly, is ultimately in jail because of his Christian faith.
Brown testified at Søndergaard’s asylum hearing via Zoom as an expert witness on religious discrimination and on Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity. He recalled to The Stream:
It was quite jarring – even heartbreaking – to see Torben in handcuffs and in his orange prisoner’s jumpsuit, looking extremely thin as well. I remain baffled as to why Torben has been held in custody this long and was deeply disappointed to learn that the judge refused his appeal for asylum. I encourage everyone to pray that God, the one who opens doors that no one can shut, would bring about His best plan for Torben and his family. And where there has been a miscarriage of justice – only the Lord knows every detail – may it be overturned.
Søndergaard’s legal team filed a defamation lawsuit against his former student Paul May on Dec. 9. His spokesperson said Dec. 21 his detention is separate from his asylum case and has not been ordered by a judge but instead occurred at the discretion of an ICE officer. The spokesperson said the immigration officer “was fed false and misleading information” about Søondergaard and that this information lead to the officer’s decision to detain him. “We are very confident that we are going to be able to secure Torben’s release from ICE custody very soon,” he said.
In news commentator and Christian minister Shawn Bolz’s Dec. 10 interview with Søndergaard’s spokesman, Bolz said he had looked into online claims against Søndergaard and described them as “gross, gross accusations but with no substantiation.”
How Søndergaard’s Ministry Began: Dissatisfaction, a Fast and a Changed Life
The Last Reformation, through a YouTube channel, free films, books, and in-person training, has sparked a global movement of Christians seeking to live as the believers in the biblical book of Acts lived: casting out demons, healing the sick and leading people in turning away from sin, being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit. Many of the ministry’s YouTube videos are Torben’s interviews with people who have been healed, set free from demons, turned away from sin, baptized and have spoken in tongues at local events called kickstarts.
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Søndergaard wrote in the preface to his book, The Sound Doctrine, published in 2004, that after being saved in 1995, he was active in sharing his faith and well-known in churches for being bold in doing so. But at some point, he realized that despite his efforts, “there were almost no lasting fruits of what I did. I could not think of one who had truly come to God through what I did, or who had been healed or set free from demons.”
“Decide that your life should look more like Christ. More like Paul and those people in the Bible who were following Jesus.”
— Torben Søndergaard
After a 40-day fast and scripture study, Søndergaard felt “filled up” with new understanding of God’s Word and wrote The Sound Doctrine, a book discussing the fear of God and living in righteousness rather than in slavery to sin. When the author prayed for healing for people, he started to see miracles. He was invited to an in-studio interview on a secular Danish news show. He prayed on the show, people were healed while watching TV, and the next episode of the news show featured some of those stories. And then a worried secular establishment decided to target Søndergaard.
Greetings From Detention
On his behalf, those with access to Søndergaard’s Facebook account have posted the public updates he has produced in detention.
In Søndergaard’s New Years greeting, he said detention is “the best Bible school one can join.” He has baptized five of his fellow detainees and seen many more experience healing and deliverance from demons. He started three Bible studies and a “Bible school” in which he’s teaching daily. Søndergaard said he’s “thankful” for all God has done in his life in the past six months. But he also expressed the stress of his situation on him and his family: “We have needed so many miracles just to be able to pay the bills and keep fighting. And there have been times here we just, to be honest, wanted to give up. But we have also seen many miracles and God has been faithful through it all.”
He encouraged listeners to fearlessly serve God:
Decide that your life should look more like Christ. More like Paul and those of the people in the Bible who were following Jesus. Pray and fast and study how the early church was following Jesus — how they were going around preaching the Gospel, healing the sick, making disciples. Read it and then take some steps in faith like you have never done before and then start to live it out, because this is a life for all of us and God has so much more for us. And I have experienced that in the last six months in here.
In Søndergaard’s 2019 interview with CBN News, years before being detained, he issued the same warning he gave on Brown’s Line of Fire: “I believe through all of this, I have a message to people in America that we need to be prepared. We need to be alert. To say that that will never happen in America — that is a lie. I have said the same in Denmark. This is going to come to America.”
The author of this article, Aliya Kuykendall, is a member of a local house church fellowship whose leaders are connected to The Last Reformation and have been deeply impacted by Søndergaard’s life and ministry.
Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow Aliya on Twitter @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.