VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A group of protestors sat on the corner of Rock Church in Virginia Beach Sunday morning protesting the pastor, John Blanchard, and saying that they want justice.
“To give voice to the victims and to bring attention to the public,” Sebastian Pignato, the event organizer, said.
Blanchard and 16 other men were arrested in an online chatting sting in 2021. Authorities say Blanchard believed he was talking to an underage girl but was actually communicating with an undercover detective. A year later after the arrest, Blanchard’s charges were withdrawn.
“He wants to claim he is innocent. Let’s see about it in the court of law,” Pignato said.
Now, protestors are looking to gain the attention of the Commonwealth’s Attorney in Chesterfield.
“We want to hopefully get the attention of the Commonwealth Attorney, The Chesterfield Commonwealth Attorney, so she will wake up and prosecute this man,” Pignato said.
Pignato says that he wants Blanchard to resign from his duties and that the church needs to step in and make this decision.
“A grievance this big the pastor needs to go,” Pignato said. “The church, in particular, they are the ones who hold the keys to making this man step down.”
Blanchard returned to the pulpit this month and has continued to maintain his innocence. He told the congregation in early December, “These statements are demonstrably false. You can dress up a lie. You can twist it, you can misrepresent it, but I’m sorry, a lie is still a lie.”
The Rock Church also continues to stand behind Blanchard. In a recent statement, Bishop Anne Gimenez said, “We have always believed in John’s innocence. His humility and submission to those over him during this time has been a testimony to his character. He has spent the time in fasting and prayer and has invested much of his time in his family and education. We anticipate his resumption of church duties in the near future.”