Oprah hosts defeated believers

Former, current Victory church members air dirty laundry

Grand Forks Herald/June 26, 1994
By Stephen J. Lee

Despite a legal tussle to stop it, the "Oprah Winfrey" show on the Victory Church in Grand Forks will air locally on Thursday, say station officials at KTHI-TV, Channel 11 in Fargo.

The show, taped May 20, is titled "Are you in a cult and don't know it?" and features two Grand Forks couples disputing the merits of the 13-year-old independent Pentecostal congregation.

The Oprah show airs in Grand Forks on KTHI's Channel 11 at 3 p.m. and on Canadian CKY-TV's Channel 2 slot on cable at 4 p.m. KTHI officials added that Winfrey's company sometimes switches programs only a day before they are scheduled to be aired.

In a promotion to be aired before the show, Karlene Croy is shown onscreen while Oprah says, "She was trapped by a cult for 12 years and she didn't even know it."

Croy was the key lieutenant to Pastor Renee Julison for 12 years until she was deprogrammed last fall by nationally known cult expert Rick Ross at the behest of her husband, Brad Croy.

Their public criticism led to dozens of people leaving the church in recent months. The Croys, Ross and others say that Julison and her husband, Ed Julison, have abused them emotionally, spiritually, and financially. The Croys and two other couples sued the Julisons in Grand Forks District Court seeking damages for the alleged abuse.

Renee Julison tried to keep Oprah from airing the show by suing her, NBC and the Croys in U.S. District Court in Bismarck in May. Judge Patrick Conmy refused Julison's request for an immediate prohibition on the show's airing. Still pending is the lawsuit seeking more than $100,000 for the damages that allegedly would result to the church and Julison if the show airs.

Appearing on the show with the Croys and Ross are Mr. and Mrs. Z, who are running the Grand Forks church since the Julisons moved to Daytona Beach, Fla., this winter.

One of the points disputed is the Croys' charge that the Julisons tried to break up their marriage.

"They tried to separate us just because I would not submit to them," Brad Croy tells Oprah, while Mrs. Z shakes her head in disbelief.

The Oprah show also includes taped telephone calls on Renee Julison chastising Karlene Croy for not weeding the Julisons' flower garden. Karlene Croy said she almost daily did personal work for the Julisons in their home. Renee accuses Karlene of being lazy and called Brad Croy "the devil you are living with."

The telephone call is a good example of the kind of name-calling, abuse and mind control the Julisons practice on the church members, according to Ross, a Phoenix-based cult expert who has deprogrammed more than 20 ex-members of Victory Church.

"These groups are like a slime that oozes into the cracks of our lives," Ross tells Oprah.

the Z. family [Note: the Z. family later left Victory Chapel and are no longer associated with the Julisons in any way, shape or form] defend the Julisons and the church on the show and say the show and ex-members' criticism is a threat to religious liberty.

The Julisons have started a new ministry called Faith Center International, which is meeting at the NBC Suites Hotel in Daytona Beach. Several people from the Grand Forks church have moved down there to live and work in the ministry. Renee Julison did not respond to a request for comment.

According to sources close to the church, Sunday attendance at Victory Church has dropped off dramatically from as high as 200 in recent years to about 70.

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