FBI Raids Three Cult-Like Churches Said To Prey On US Veterans
FBI agents on Thursday raided three churches in the southern United States that have been accused of functioning as cults that prey on military veterans and active duty service members—and profiteer from their government benefits.
The Savannah Morning News reports that the three raided churches are associated with each other. Each is located near a U.S. Army base:
- The Assembly of Prayer Christian Church near Augusta, Georgia is just outside the gate of Fort Gordon
- The House of Prayer Christian Church in Hinesville, Georgia is less than eight miles from Fort Stewart
- The Assembly of Prayer Christian Church in Killeen, Texas is less than four miles from Fort Hood
While the FBI has not released a statement, reporting suggests agents were executing search warrants without making arrests…yet.
In 2020, an advocacy organization called Veterans Education Success sent an 11-page letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Georgia Veterans Service alleging that the churches “target veterans in order to access GI Bill funding, VA disability compensation and VA home loans.”
Former member Gladys Jordan—whose 28-year-old son remains in the church near Fort Gordon and refuses to talk to her—told The Daily Beast:
“They have a fraudulent Bible college and a so-called ‘home’ for the soldiers. They bring them in and give them a home-cooked meal, and from there… they have them lie to the VA to get into the Bible college, they steal their benefits, and they never get a diploma from there that’s worth anything because it’s not valid.”
In its letter, Veterans Education Success said it was approached by multiple veterans who said the church organization had defrauded them. In addition to being coached on how to mislead the VA during its curriculum inspections, the veterans said the church is “coaching veterans [to apply] for VA disability so they will receive 100% ratings and pressuring them into paying their disability compensation to [the church] through tithes.”
Many veterans who applied for VA disability had “nothing wrong with them and were told to falsely state whatever was necessary to get 100% for a specific disability,” former students told Veterans Education Success.
Former church members also say the church takes out mortgages in members’ names and forges signatures to do so. One service member said he returned from a deployment to Iraq to find five houses had been purchased in his name.
Former students at the bible college said they were compelled to recruit new students during class time. When base authorities shooed the student-recruiters away from barracks and post exchanges, the church resorted to sending students who were still on active duty to recruit in uniform. Some say higher-ranking active duty members would use their rank to force lower-ranking soldiers to attend the church.
Veterans Education Success says all of the military veteran former students interviewed by the organization’s lawyers used or exhausted their GI Bill benefits without receiving a completion certificate—for whatever that would be worth. Some attended the “college” for over 10 years.
Financial shenanigans are only part of the troubling tales. Former members also allege cult-like practices, including stalking of members who try to leave the church and even an attempted abduction. One church leader is said to claim to be one of the “last prophets” and that he communicates directly with God.
Amber Fitz-Randolph lives near Fort Hood and manages a Facebook page honoring installation soldiers who’ve died. She told Daily Beast the Assembly of Prayer is “absolutely a cult…(they) were sneaking into barracks at all hours to torment and threaten soldiers who wanted to stop going, or wouldn’t give them enough money.”
“The cult leader, Rony Denis, is infatuated with Jim Jones,” said Jordan. “This is a modern-day Jim Jones cult. That’s my scare, that he’s gonna take my son to another country and do the same thing that Jim Jones did.”
The three raided churches are just the tip of the iceberg: Former member says there are 12 churches in the network, 11 of which are near military installations.
If the organization and its leaders are truly comparable to Jim Jones, the FBI’s raid could foreshadow dangerous events for church members in the near future. After all, government scrutiny of Jones triggered the mass suicide of 909 people at his commune in Jonestown, Guyana.
Sat, 06/25/2022 – 22:00