York -- Inside a church alleged to be a cult were some 36 members
chanting the name of Jesus, raising their hands and singing.
At the front of the Good Life Pentecostal Church in York last
Thursday night was Rev. Edward Morey, carrying a wooden stick
about 4 feet in length. While conducting a Bible study, he used
the stick to emphasize points and strike the floor.
The Good Life Pentecostal Church, involved in at least two lawsuits,
is causing quite a stir in York these days.
Last Wednesday in York County District Court, Caryn Hacker of
Omaha testified that Good Life Pentecostal Church qualifies as
a cult because the church practices the use of physical and mental
deprivation, isolation of its members from family and society,
active recruitment (witnessing), lack of outside communication
such as television, turning money over to the church, and fear
Hacker spoke during a hearing on a custody suit between a divorced
couple, Carol and Robert Peterson, both of York. Carol, a member
of the Good Life Pentecostal Church, is the custodial parent of
the couple's three children: Sadie, 15, Cassie, 11 and William,
6. Robert Peterson is not the blood father of Sadie, although
he did adopt her.
Robert Peterson filed for custody of the three children, claiming Carol:
Hacker, a certified master social worker who has investigated
religious and cult-like groups for the last 11 years, testified
that Morey has a "big impact" on how the church members
conduct their lives and what they believe, according to a story
in Thursday's edition of the York News-Times.
Give up freedom
Hacker said a cult is a group of people who give up their sense
of freedom to the leader of the group. She said the only cult
criteria that Good Life Pentecostal Church did not meet was that
members do not practice communal living, the News-Times said.
She said members are recruited by "love-bombing" them,
which means they are told things to make them feel a need for
love and happiness. The love eventually becomes conditional and
members must follow the belief system to remain a part of the
On the day she spanked Cassie about 40 times, Carol Peterson said
Cassie was expelled from Good Life Pentecostal's school, York
When Cassie came home that day, Carol Peterson said she made her
copy Bible scriptures relating to rebellion and from the dictionary.
Cassie kept making mistakes so her mother spanked her for each
mistake, Carol Peterson said. The spankings took place over a
period of 4 ½ hours.
Debra Worman of York, a former member of the Good Life Pentecostal
Church, testified that the church tried to cast demons out of
her son because he liked snakes and was rebellious, she to the
Worman testified that a member of the church cannot question Morey
and that if a member does say Morey is wrong or off track, the
member can be labeled a wtich or that the member is of Satan.
Worman said Morey excommunicated her from the church under allegations
that she was a witch, lesbian and child molester.
Worman said she volunteered to be investigated for child molestation
by York City Police and the Nebraska State patrol. After a thorough
investigation, no charges were filed against her.
Goes on TV show.
In fall 1988, Worman went on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show and
said she had been abused by a cult. She didn't name the cult
or her hometown. Three members of the Good Life Pentecostal Church
in York filed suit against Worman alleging that she had slandered
the church. That case was dismissed last year.
Morey told The Independent that he would not address any
allegations against him, but he did say the allegations are untrue.
Kyle Nielsen, 30, secretary of the church board, who has been
with the church since its infancy, tole The Independent
that Worman is trying to hurt the church. Dozens of people have
attended the church and left and did not say bad things about
it, he said.
"No one had as juicy a testimony as Deb had," Nielson
When asked if the church practices mind control, Nielsen and three
other church members laughed.
"We're all individuals. We all have control of our faculties,"
Bill Budler, treasurer of the Good Life Pentecostal Church, who
say through the Peterson vs. Peterson custody hearing, said the
church should not have been involved in that case.
"I think the church was put on trial without prior notice,"
In an interview with The Independent, Carol Peterson's
mother Irene Brumbaugh of York, said she at first encouraged Carol
to join the Good Life Pentecostal Church. Carol testified that
she used to drink and use drugs before she joined the church.
Bur after Brumbaugh heard about what happened to Worman, she began
to question the church's activities.
As Carol got more involved in the church, her visits to her parents
became less frequent, Brumbaugh said.
Learning about cults.
Brumbaugh has taken it upon herself to find out as much as she
can about cults and the Good Life Pentecostal Church. She has
gathered stacks of documents relating to the church and cults.
Brumbaugh said she is particularly concerned about the children
in the church's school, York Christian Academy.
Nielsen said 11 children are enrolled in the school, which is
adjacent to the church building, located at 74 Nebraska Ave. in
According to a supplementary sheet for parent representatives
none of York Christian Academy's monitors has graduated from high
school except for Rhonda Bouchard, the substitute monitor, who
completed the 12th grade at Grand Island Senior High
Monitor John Cemer attended Trenton Public Schools through the
ninth grade; monitor Vivian Cemer also attended Trenton Public
Schools through the ninth grade; monitor Kimberly Morey, 20, daughter
of Morey, attended York Christian Academy from 1981-85 and has
a GED; monitor Jo Anne Morey, 18 attended York High School and
has a GED; monitor Irene Morey, wife of Morey, attended a high
school in California in 1967-68, but did not graduate.
Inside the school, there are no computers, no music room, only
a student room with cubicles where students study.
York Attorney Bruce Stephens, who represented Robert Peterson,
said Cassie Peterson testified that when she didn't understand
something at the church school, she was told to read it again.
She read it again and didn't understand. She read it a third
time and still didn't understand. Then she was told to pray about
That is not the way to teach children, Stephens said in his closing
argument, Wednesday. Cassie Peterson no longer attends school
at York Christian Academy, but her sister, Sadie and her brother,
William, still attend the academy.
Sadie, who once had dreams of going to college in interior decorating
and going to Germany, admitted in court Wednesday that her dreams
changed after she began attending York Christian Academy.
"I'm happy where I'm at. I'm satisfied where I'm at and
I just can't see myself being happy anywhere else," Sadie
said. She said she may take some college courses but will let
the Lord tell her what to do.
District Court Judge Bryce Bartu asked Sadie if she believed the
Lord speaks through Morey. She answered that Morey gives messages
Bartu asked her what she would do if Morey asked her not to go
to college, and she answered that she would consider the suggestion
and pray about it. If Morey asked her to go to college, she said
she would consider it and pray about that, too.
Nielsen said he has two children in York Christian Academy. They
wouldn't be in the school if he didn't feel they were getting
a good education, he said.
The school uses a self-paced curriculum that comes from Accelerated
Christian Education in Lewsiville, Texas.
Nielsen said church members want their kids to attend the school
so they son'e be exposed to sex and drugs in public schools.
When asked why women in the Good Life Pentecostal Church all wear
long hair, Nielsen said it's scriptural not to cut a woman's hair.
So do women just let their hair grow to the ground?
"No," he said. "It won't get that long."
Nielson and other church members said they don't watch television
because there isn't anything worth watching on it.