In a respectful and compassionate manner, Nightline’s March 12 broadcast of the “Faith Matters” series brought to light a group of reformed prostitutes who have turned to religion and who are helping other women leave the destructive life of a Vegas prostitute.
Hookers for Jesus is a group started by former prostitute Annie Lobert who hit rock bottom with a cocaine overdose, and decided to leave the prostitute lifestyle when, as she put it, God changed her life. ABC reporter Neal Karlinsky graciously told her story and the story of other women who have found hope through Lobert’s ministry and the church of Pastor Benny Perez.
“Along with a pair of volunteers from a nearby church, [the women are] on the streets looking for prostitutes with one goal in mind: to save them,” Karlinsky said. “We keep our cameras at a distance as they hand out gift bags filled with bibles.” Karlinsky interviewed Lobert about her former life as a hooker. “But Annie Lobert isn't exactly your average missionary,” he said. “Before she was a so called ‘hooker for Jesus,’ Lobert was to put delicately, a hooker. Starting as a teenager, she sold her body through escort services, websites and on the streets of Las Vegas for 11 years.”
Karlinsky highlighted the church Lobert has paired with, The Church of South Las Vegas, that provides resources for her Hookers for Jesus ministry. “Leaving the game as they call it, usually means taking a beating from a pimp and giving up all the money, clothes and worldly possessions they have,” Karlinsky noted.
“I want to reach them,” Lobert told said. “I, I, I know what it's like to be where they are. I know what it's like to be with a pimp and not being able to come home because you don't have enough money... Sex for sale is an addiction.” One recently reformed prostitute, identified as “Tammy” even told the cameras that her pimp had broken her jaw. The financial distress alone makes if difficult for some girls to make the change. “To help,” Karlinsky said, “Pastor Perez and his church have donated this house as a first stop for prostitutes trying to escape their old lives.”
Karlinsky ended the segment by showing viewers the freedom Hookers for Jesus can bring to these women. “After all the man beatings and fear, this night was like a visit to another world,” Karlinsky pointed out. “And that calling card of their old lives, the feeling of shame was forgotten, at least for a while. Remember Tammy? That's her with Pastor Perez.”
This was a welcome change from Nightline’s usual take on faith and sex. In February 2008, the Culture and Media Institute covered Nightline highlighting the "merits of porn." And in July 2008, Nightline’s “Faith Matters” series focused on ridiculous "religious eccentricities."