University Police Find No Ties Between Mother of God Church and Sex Trafficking

The+U+denied+rumors+that+the+Mother+of+God+Church+was+involved+in+sex+trafficking.+%28Courtesy+Wikimedia+Commons%29

The U denied rumors that the Mother of God Church was involved in sex trafficking. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Maddy La Turner, Investigative Editor, Copy Chief

 

On Thursday, March 5, an evangelical organization known as God the Mother, the Mother of God Church or the World Mission Society Church of God — which recruits on the University of Utah campus — was rumored to have ties to human trafficking. The group was cleared of these rumors by the University of Mississippi in January 2018 and the University of South Carolina in September 2019. At this time, no connections have been made between the organization and criminal activity, though the group’s “behavior is still alarming to our students who have encountered them,” according to a statement by Police Chief Rodney Chatman to Unsafe U.

The church is known to recruit in two ways. Women from this group will approach female students on campus and ask if they believe in a female god, which may lead to an invitation to a study group, where students were rumored to have been targeted. The second method the group uses is approaching students and asking if they want to join a Bible study group.

Targets have primarily been female students. In the past few months, students have been approached late at night near the Union and the library. The group has been recruiting on campus for over a year and is widely considered a cult.

Michaela Lemen, a fifth-year student studying biology who was approached by the group, described their behavior as “insistent. Really insistent.”

“I’m used to those random ladies handing out flyers that sometimes show up, and they aren’t too terribly pushy unless you talk to them,” Lemen said. “But these folks felt like they were on a different level. I did feel a little threatened, but I carry pepper spray with me at all times and knew I could probably outrun them if given the chance.”

Fears that the church may be tied to sex trafficking stem from the group’s inability to identify with a campus organization as well as from unfounded, viral social media posts. The church has been reported multiple times, but no laws prevent the group from being on campus, and no action has been taken to remove them.

“Honestly, the best word to describe how I’m feeling is protective,” Lemen said. “I’ve been through my fair share of s— so I’m fine, but these people make my sorority sisters uncomfortable, disrupt their studies and make them feel unsafe on the campus we are supposed to call home. That’s unacceptable to me.”

Instances like these have been reported at college campuses across the country, such as Ithaca College, Brown University, Lehigh University, Arizona State University and Portland State University. The FBI is aware of the group’s activities, according to Chatman.

The World Mission Society Church of God was founded in 1964 in Korea. In an interview with People magazine, Michele Colon, a former member of the church, stated that the organization “uses a number of psychological control tactics … to prevent its members from exposing its criminal and tortious behavior.” Former members “allege that recruitment efforts targeted young Caucasians who appeared wealthy, and that members were dispatched multiple times a week to malls and colleges for recruiting drives.”

The “psychologically vulnerable” are also alleged to be targets. Among other tactics, the church seeks to isolate new members from their families and control members’ time and information feeds. The church also engages in brainwashing techniques to get people to join the organization.

Chatman did not address if the police department was allowed to do anything at this stage. This article will be updated as information comes.

[email protected]

@m_laturner