Former members of Mary Cosby’s church have claimed the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” star is running a cult, a storyline that has been teased in promos for Season 2 of the Bravo reality series.
Reformed acolytes of Cosby’s Faith Temple Pentecostal Church spoke out about their shocking alleged experiences with the religious leader-turned-reality star in an exposé published by The Daily Beast Thursday.
“I think it’s an abomination,” Cosby’s own uncle Ernest Walton said, referring to his niece’s Utah institution as a “cult.”
“Everything’s coming out into the light now and everything’s coming down,” he added.
According to people who fled Cosby’s congregation, she allegedly refers to herself as God, manipulates members to work for her family’s businesses for free or minimum wage, verbally abuses them and frequently tells them they will be condemned to hell for various reasons — including leaving the church and not tithing enough.
“It’s not a joke,” Abby, a former church member who left at age 22 in the late 1990s, said. “She’s got these people terrified. That woman is the most evil thing that ever walked this Earth. You have no idea, all those smiles and s–t — that is not real.”
In previews for the remainder of “RHOSLC” Season 2, Cosby’s co-star Whitney Rose says, “All the rumors are that Mary is a cult leader.”
In another scene, Lisa Barlow meets with the late Salt Lake City community leader Cameron Williams, who says, “Is it a cult? Yes. Does she call herself ‘God’? Yes.”
Later, Cosby tearfully defends herself to Barlow, exclaiming “I’m not God! I worship the god in me!”
That isn’t true, though, said former member Ralph Arnold Jr: “She preaches that she is God on Earth.”
Cosby inherited her late grandmother Rosemary “Mama” Redmon Cosby’s church and multimillion-dollar estate after the elder Cosby’s 1997 death. Mary later married her step-grandfather and Mama’s husband, Bishop Robert Cosby. (The two are not blood-related.)
Mary frequently flaunts her multiple homes and racks of designer clothes on “RHOSLC,” a display of wealth that has been met with sharp criticism from former church members who claimed she’s shamed them into draining their bank accounts — and even offering food stamps when funds were low — for her financial gain.
“The church has gone to ruin and most everyone has left because Mary has no anointing whatsoever when she preaches,” Arnold said. “She just screams at her members and mentally abuses them into submission. [She] brainwashes them on the regular, not to mention the utterly flamboyant and hypocritical life she lives.”
A former male member who requested anonymity added, “It was all about money. [There would be] grueling hours and hours of people badgered” for donations.
“They would sit and demand money until they got a certain dollar figure, whatever [sum] was in their head before they let people go” he claimed. “Now, that didn’t mean they had guns to your head, but they would shame you if you left. They would shame you if you didn’t give enough. So, it was a form of mental manipulation.”
A former female member, who also asked for anonymity, said that she grew up in the church unable to celebrate Christmas “because all the money [her parents] had” for gifts went to the church.
“My grandpa got injured in the war and got a settlement of money and they took it from him, all of it,” she said. “A lot of the members there are on food stamps, and they struggle to pay their own bills. They [would] make them give them everything.”
Mary has denied claims that she used money from her congregation to fund her lavish lifestyle.
“Clearly I’m not gonna get on national television, be a ‘Housewife’ and be in a cult,” she said on “Entertainment Tonight” in January. “Like, come on. I believe in my church. There’s no cult. My church members, they know those are false allegations. Those are ridiculous. It’s the people that are looking for fault.”
Arguably more disturbing than Mary’s alleged pilfering are accusations that she claims to be able to determine one’s journey in the afterlife.
“Mary is trying to convince people that she’s God, or like this special mediator,” the anonymous male said. “That she has power that she can talk to God and she can decide where you’re going [heaven or hell]. Mary tries to equate herself to like a female Jesus.”
In a previously leaked audio recording from one of Cosby’s sermons, she is heard telling her congregation, “You don’t just walk up back in here. You got to go through the door. … For there’s one God, and one mediator between God and man. Who do you think that is?”
A member then cries out, “You, Mary!”
Former churchgoer Arnold offered a warning to those who still subscribe to Cosby’s brand of Christianity.
“I would behest them to run for their lives as fast as they can away from her and [Robert]. To protect whatever faith they may still have and try to start healing,” he said. “[The congregation] is faithful to a fault, and what has happened to them is just heartbreaking.”
“The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.
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