Louisiana GOP official, pastor charged with juvenile cruelty running for state House seat
The Rev. John Raymond of Slidell, an elected member of the Louisiana Republican Party governing board who is charged with four counts of criminal cruelty to juveniles, is running for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
"I feel it's important people who believe in conservative Christian principles hold positions to create laws to direct our state properly," Raymond said in an interview with USA Today Network. "I've spent 23 years serving St. Tammany Parish in promoting Christian conservative values, and I feel compelled to run to bring those values into law."
Raymond, founder of Lakeside Christian Academy, was arrested twice last spring on juvenile cruelty charges related to discipline he is accused of carrying out in his role as headmaster. Raymond said he has been on voluntary leave of absence from the school since his arrests last spring.
He is accused of holding a 4-year-old boy upside down by his ankles and "whipping his buttocks" and taping three 13-year-old boys' mouths shut with packing tape for talking too much in class.
He is also accused of covering the 4-year-old's mouth and nose with his hand to stop the child's "tantrum" in a separate incident. In a news release, police said witnesses reported Raymond's actions prevented the child from breathing "to the point of him going limp." The witness, a staff member, said the child was "out of it and lethargic" and "unable to stand."
The children whose mouths were taped said they had trouble breathing and suffered pain when the tape was removed.
Raymond said the accusations of his actions against the 4-year-old "are preposterous." Raymond acknowledged that he taped the three 13-year-olds mouths shut after giving them a choice of that punishment or calling their parents, "but tape isn't a crime."
"I'm completely innocent of these charges and confident I'll be fully exonerated in a fair judicial process," he said. "I love children, and that's why I started the school. I never hurt a child and look forward to putting these false charges behind me."
Raymond said the charges stem from "disgruntled ex-employees with an axe to grind."
Raymond, who also owns and operates The Bridge 88.7-FM Christian radio station, said he has a June 1 court appearance to set a trial date.
Raymond is a familiar figure in the Capitol who has testified in multiple hearings this spring supporting bills like requiring schools to post "In God We Trust" in classrooms, officially allowing historical Bible courses to be taught in public schools and in favor of LGBTQ restrictions. Among his written campaign promises: "Reject the woke trans-agenda."
Raymond said he is confident the charges against him won't impact his campaign.
"I trust the people of St. Tammany to recognize the 23 years I've served the community," he said.
Raymond is vice-chair of credentials committee of the Louisiana Republican Party State Central Committee and a member of the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee.
He is running for the District 104 seat, which will be open with current Republican Rep. Paul Hollis term limited. Raymond had previously run unsuccessfully for the District 90 seat held by Republican Rep. Mary DuBuisson.
More:Louisiana pastor, Republican Party official John Raymond arrested again on juvenile cruelty charge
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.