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Students Approached by Religous 'Cult'

default article imageAn anonymous female student was approached in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center (RSSC) by two women affiliated with the World Mission Society Church of God who attempted to ask her to attend a “Bible Study” off campus on Thursday, Feb. 7.

This organization has allegedly been associated with human trafficking, abuse and neglect, “terror” recruiting, and being described by former members as a “cult,” according to reports from several media outlets.

The women wore black and were described as being in their twenties to early thirties.

The student confided in her Residential Assistant (RA), who also wishes to remain anonymous, that the church members began a conversation with her about their beliefs in Christianity and asked her about her religious views. The student claimed that the group members pushed the idea that God is a woman and then invited her to attend an off-campus meeting at a discreet location to further discuss this ideology. The student Google searched the address and found that the location was not a church, but an apartment complex. An onlooking student notified Monmouth University Police Department (MUPD) and they subsequently questioned the woman and asked her to leave.

According to Bill McElrath, Director and Chief of MUPD, a call was received following the incident by an observing student in the RSSC and the officers were asked to investigate.

Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Life and Leadership Engagement, commented, “They (MUPD) did a subsequent search and found no illegal criminal activity.”

McElrath explained that because there was no immediate threat, a Timely Warning or Emergency Notification was not sent to the University community. However, both Nagy and McElrath noted that the church members were soliciting on campus without permission, which is a violation of University policy.

The Outlook reached out to police departments in Long Branch, West Long Branch, Deal, Allenhurst, Eatontown, Asbury Park, and Shrewsbury and were informed that officers were contacted with questions regarding similar events in their jurisdiction’s police reports. Nothing was reported in these municipalities.

An RA, who chose to remain anonymous, was “outraged” with the way the University handled this incident. “The students had gotten an email blast last semester and many times before that when there was a stranger on campus,” he said. 

The RA made a post to his personal social media account that has been shared by numerous students informing them of the situation. “I guess it’s important to look out for someone like that, but at the same time, is it not important to reach out to the students?  Even if it’s an alleged sex trafficking ring or whatever, isn’t it important to let students know that?”

Kailey Monteiro, an RA and sophomore social work student, said “Residential Life was in no way involved with the media posts.”

Because of the post, the RA received an inbox message from another student confirming a separate incident also happening in the Student Center.

Kaitlin Korgeski, a senior communication student, said that she was approached by a man and woman who were members of the Church of God at her former school, Marywood University, in Scranton, PA. “They were young and super nice. Because there was a woman with him, you think they’re super trusty. So, we exchanged phone numbers and I went on with my day and thought nothing of it,” she said.

After the encounter, the pair were “blowing up” Korgeski’s phone, providing her with meeting times and locations. She recalled, “It wouldn’t even be like a church location. I would tell them I don’t have time and play it off.” Finally, she expressed she was not remotely interested. “I told them to please stop contacting me. Next week, another text” The Church continued to contact Korgeski for about two months.

The World Mission Society Church of God was first formed in 1964 in South Korea by leader Ahn Sahng-hong, who is idolized as the living reincarnation of God before their death in 1985. Since then, an unnamed Korean woman has been named the new incarnation of God. They also believe in Jesus Christ and God the Mother. 

Many lawsuits have been filed against this organization. In 2018, The Bergen Record reported that a woman and member had undergone "psychological harm and trauma after joining [World Mission Society Church of God] and that she was pressured into having an abortion.”

An article by People uncovered similar instances in 2015. Michele Colon, from Ridgewood, NJ, defected from the cult. She filed a civil suit stating the cult “uses a number of psychological control tactics…to prevent its members from exposing its criminal and tortious behavior.”

The World Mission Society Church of God has four locations in New Jersey: Bogota, Ridgewood, Belleville, and North Brunswick. None of these churches could be reached for comment, as their website does not offer a phone number or an email. An Outlook reporter attempted to send a message on the website, but it contained no submit button.

Many news stories from across the nation have reported on this, with incidents of approach by church members in Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, and more. Similar incidents have occurred on college campuses, including Boston College, Boston University, University of Northern Florida, and Rider University.

If you see any suspicious activity on campus, McElrath encourages students and members of the community to call MUPD at 732-571-4444 immediately.