The FBI on Thursday raided three church buildings related to the House of Prayer Christian Church in Georgia and Texas.
The FBI has not launched a press release relating to the raids.
The House of Prayer is owned by the international nonprofit firm House of Prayer Christian Churches of America Inc., which registered with the Georgia Secretary of State in 2004. The enterprise’s listed officers are affiliated with the Georgia church buildings and use Hinesville, Georgia, publish workplace containers as mailing addresses.
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Its church buildings, that are primarily positioned close to army bases all through the nation, have been accused by former members and a veterans’ advocacy group of working like a cult and concentrating on troopers.
In August 2020, Veterans Education Success, an advocacy group primarily based in Washington D.C., requested the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Georgia Veterans Service to research alleged abuses of the GI Bill program by House of Prayer Christian Church’s bible seminaries.
Veterans alleged the House of Prayer Christian Church “deceives the VA during inspections and targets veterans in order to access GI Bill funding, VA disability compensation, and VA home loans,” in keeping with the group’s letter to the VA and Georgia SAA.
Raid close to Fort Gordon
Half a dozen FBI brokers have been seen behind the Assembly of Prayer church on Tobacco Road in Hephzibah throughout a raid that began at about 7:15 a.m. Thursday and continued into the afternoon.
According to a search of property data, House of Prayer Christian Churches owns 2952 Old Tobacco Road, the handle of the Assembly of Prayer church in Richmond County.
At about 1 p.m., brokers have been seen utilizing stairs behind the constructing through the investigation, in keeping with Sgt. William McCarty with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
“We were there to assist them, but referring everything over to the FBI,” mentioned McCarty. He mentioned he might not verify if there have been any arrests.
The Assembly of Prayer church in Hephzibah is positioned simply outdoors of Gate 5 at Fort Gordon.
In an e-mail despatched Thursday, Anne H. Bowman, deputy public affairs officer at Fort Gordon, mentioned “Fort Gordon was aware of the organization called the Assembly of Prayer Church through our law enforcement channels but the installation had no bans against the organization or any official dealings with them (despite their websites claims).”
Bowman confirmed “there were reports made to Fort Gordon law enforcement of recruiting/solicitation attempts by the church members but there were no incidents, confrontations, arrests or anything of this nature as a result,” she mentioned in one other e-mail Thursday night time.
Raid close to Fort Stewart
The FBI additionally on Thursday raided The House of Prayer Christian Church in Hinesville. The raid came about simply after 8 a.m. on the 2500 block of Airport Road.
Onlookers noticed FBI brokers with weapons touring to a number of buildings whereas a gaggle of ladies have been being guarded by an officer with a weapon.
Jenna Sellitto, an FBI spokesperson, confirmed the company was executing a court-authorized search warrant. She mentioned no arrests had been made as of Thursday afternoon.
The House of Prayer Christian Church in Hinesville is positioned lower than 8 miles from Fort Stewart in Liberty County.
Raid close to Fort Hood
The Assembly of Prayer Christian Church on Massey Street in Killeen, Texas, was additionally raided by the FBI on Thursday, in keeping with the Killeen Police Department.
The church is positioned lower than 4 miles from Fort Hood.
Killeen officers arrived to help the FBI with site visitors diversion simply after 7:30 a.m., in keeping with officers.
Ashley Demorest, a former member of the church who noticed the raid, mentioned she was a member of the church from age 15 to 23, “until I finally escaped.”
Amber Fitz-Randolph, chief of The Ft. Hood Fallen Facebook web page, which was began in 2017, mentioned members of the church in Killeen have snuck into the barracks and threatened troopers.
In a textual content message Thursday afternoon, Christopher Haug, chief of media relations at Fort Hood, mentioned they’re conscious the FBI is investigating the church and their police are trying into it.
Demorest mentioned she solicited troopers on base as a member of the church.
“When I was 16 I would go with other members to [Fort Hood] and do what the church would call ‘soul winning’ to invite people to the church,” she mentioned.
In the Veteran’s Education Success’s letter to the VA and Georgia SAA in 2020, the group cited comparable solicitations.
“Soul-winning is an organized event coordinated by HOPCC’s clergy,” famous the doc. “Five days a week, individuals are paired up and sent out to recruit new members on or around military bases. … Students would recruit at Post Exchanges, barracks, and on-base housing.”
The doc additionally cites particular members’ experiences recruiting on bases in Georgia.
Abe Kenmore, Georgia statewide reporter for USA Today Network, contributed to this story.
This article initially appeared on Augusta Chronicle: FBI raids House of Prayer churches in Hinesville, GA