The pastor of Bellview Baptist Church in Westlake accused of molesting an 11-year-old girl since 2017 has been fired, according to a statement released Wednesday by church leaders.

John Michael Ward, 45, of Westlake, was arrested Monday and charged with 10 counts of first-degree rape; 40 counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile; and two counts of pornography involving a juvenile. Following an investigation by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff's Office, he told detectives he molested the girl since she was 9 years old and videotaped her nude on two occasions.

Ward served as Bellview's pastor since July 2012, according to the church website.

Church deacons, with help from the Carey Baptist Association, voted unanimously to terminate Ward "because of his sexual immorality and failure to maintain the high standard of integrity for the office of pastor outlined in the Bible," the statement reads. Bellview Baptist Church is affiliated with the Carey Baptist Association.

Bellview church leaders are "cooperating fully with the sheriff's office in the investigation," according to the statement. Church leaders have already met with the victim's family and plan to provide financial and emotional support for Ward's wife and family.

"Bellview Baptist Church leaders request prayer, respect and privacy as we process this traumatic event," according to the statement.

Judge Sharon Wilson set Ward's bond at $640,000.

Calcasieu Parish Government and Cameron Parish Reporter

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