Sunny Side of The Stream: After 412 Days in US Detention, Asylum-Seeking Danish Christian Minister is Reunited With Family
My eyes filled with tears when I saw this photo of Torben Søndergaard embracing his wife. They have been separated for over 13 months as Torben was confined in immigration detention since June 30, 2022. My church congregation and I have been praying for Torben and his wife, Lene, since news broke that he had been detained.
The last time I wrote about Torben — the founder of The Last Reformation (TLR) and someone who has deeply influenced me and my church leaders — he had been detained in an ICE facility in Florida for over six months. That was back in January, so Torben spent another seven months locked away. He was detained for a total of 412 days. I can only imagine how happy Torben is right now to be reunited with his family.
This case is unusual and complicated, and the story isn’t over. Torben has been released and deported from the U.S. to his native Denmark. He immediately left from there to meet his wife and children in another country and is now safe with loved ones in an undisclosed location, according to an update from a spokesperson. They are joyful and thankful, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said Torben faced a stressful final couple weeks in the U.S.:
It became very apparent in the last month that someone high up in the ICE leadership wanted Torben removed from the U.S. The deportation officers were aggressive and even threatened to Torben with criminal charges in the weeks leading up to his removal. It was a very stressful final couple of weeks. Even a U.S. congressman publicly stated that Torben’s detention was political in nature and condemned the way the case had been handled by ICE.
Torben previously lost his asylum case in the U.S. immigrations court. He appealed and lost again. But Torben felt his case was marked by injustice, and he appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He could still win this federal case and be granted asylum in the U.S., which is what Torben says he’s hoping for.
For those who haven’t followed the case, Torben, a preacher of the Gospel, faced an onslaught of attack in Denmark. Many have repented of their sins, been healed, baptized, set free from demonic oppression, filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to make disciples through his ministry’s YouTube channel, free films, Bible schools and “kickstart” events. A documentary series was made by state-run TV, claiming to expose him and other religious leaders. TLR has made its own series in response called Revealing.
After the Danish TV series came out, state-run media continued to villainize Torben. He was directly referenced on the floor of the Danish parliament. The parliament updated the penal code to enable law enforcement to prosecute casting out demons in front of children or the mentally handicapped as psychological violence, akin to physical violence. Yes, doing what Jesus did — casting out demons in front of others — could make you a violent criminal in Denmark. Torben feared he and his wife might lose custody of their then-minor child.
After coming the U.S. in 2019, Torben applied for asylum and ministered in America until he was detained by immigration officials on June 30, 2022. They said he overstayed his visa. Torben’s legal team had said this is deceptive because he’s been the victim of a targeted campaign to slander him to U.S. officials that resulted in his visa being canceled without him knowing it and before he had applied for asylum.
The Last Reformation has three YouTube videos so far in their Revealing documentary series explaining Torben’s persecution. In the latest one, they highlighted two men whom TLR says “have been relentlessly attacking Torben since 2016” — anonymously. TLR didn’t expose their identities, but one they describe as a charismatic and manipulative former insider who seems to be taking revenge after being fired. The other they describe as a married French businessman who was having an affair with a woman until she came to one of TLR’s ministry schools and then broke up with him. He reportedly didn’t take that well.
A Congressman Highlights Torben’s Plight
Recently, Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana mentioned Torben while acting in his official duties.
The anti-Christian Biden administration is persecuting Evangelicals in every manner. Including incarceration, solitary confinement, and torture.
This is happening America. Powers and Principalities are running our WH. https://t.co/sqX8AQAlSp
— Rep. Clay Higgins (@RepClayHiggins) August 10, 2023
Higgins raised Torben’s case during a congressional hearing on DHS, saying he was entering into the official record a letter regarding his case. He said Torben has “been persecuted by this administration and targeted we believe because he’s an evangelical Christian minister.”
Called to America
Torben said in his last update from detention that he believes God has called him to America. “Give me America or I die,” he said, repeating what John Knox (d. 1572) said of Scotland.
For now, my congregation is rejoicing with Torben that he’s finally free and safe with family, and we’re praying he’ll be vindicated and able to come back soon.