BETHALTO • A pastor and an elder at Zion Lutheran Church here were charged Thursday in a case involving hidden cameras that were discovered in the building on Christmas Eve.
Authorities said they believed at least one minor was recorded in the changing area of the church sacristy.
Charged were David L. Von Bergen, 58, of Alton, a church elder, who was accused of using the cameras; and pastor Kale Hanson, 36, of Bethalto, accused of conspiracy for allegedly destroying the camera memory cards. Church officials could not be reached. The church website lists Hanson as pastor and another minister as senior pastor.
Von Bergen faces three counts of unauthorized video recording, two of them felonies, and one count of felony conspiracy. Hanson is charged with one count of felony conspiracy.
A statement from Madison County State’s Attorney Thomas Gibbons, who filed the charges, says that cameras were hidden in several places inside the church, including the sacristy. Gibbons said Von Bergen had tried to retrieve the cameras but was confronted by Hanson, who agreed to get rid of the evidence.
Von Bergen departed from the church with his cameras but was arrested later that night. Bethalto police Lt. Craig Welch said officers were called about 11 p.m. Christmas Eve, before the second service.
Gibbons said that the investigation was hampered by a loss of evidence but that police had determined that at least one minor had been recorded in the changing area.
“It’s appalling to think that an individual would violate the sanctity of such a holy celebration and the dignity of a church community with such a despicable act,” Gibbons said in a statement. “Further, to think that someone in a position of authority chose to destroy evidence of an act — regardless of the motivation — is extremely disheartening.”
Gibbons said other church leaders cooperated with police and identified the minor.
Bail for Von Bergen was set at $250,000 and for Hanson at $50,000. Gibbons said Thursday that neither man was in custody.
Maximum penalties are five years in prison for unauthorized video recording and three years for conspiracy.