Families Claim Religious Club's Cult-Like Practices Injured Teens

Agape Press/July 25, 2005
By Jim Brown

Two families have filed a negligence lawsuit against a religious club at a Nashville high school, alleging that their teenage daughters suffered physical and emotional injuries as a result of their involvement in the so-called "Victory Club."

Parents of two female students at Hillsboro High School have filed a negligence suit against the school and the "Victory Club," a group sponsored by the Bethel World Outreach Center. The two Nashville families involved in the suit are accusing the Victory Club and Bethel of brainwashing their teenaged daughters with bizarre, cult-like teachings.

The plaintiffs' attorney, David Lyons, says one of the girls attempted suicide after Bethel and Victory Club leaders pressured her into speaking in tongues and told her to stop taking her medication. "She felt intimidated by it," he says, "and so she said she started to speak in a language that was just gibberish."

At this, Lyons says the club leaders reportedly "all fell back and said, 'Praise God! You've been touched by the Holy Spirit. You're speaking in tongues.'" He says the girl, however, maintains that she made up what she said and that "she was just speaking gibberish to get them away from her."

Also, the counsel for the plaintiffs notes, Victory Club and Bethel leaders told one of the teens she had to fast for several days in order to strengthen her walk with God. But the lawyer contends this led to the girl's falling "out of touch with reality," and her behavior became increasingly alarming.

"She wasn't eating, she wasn't sleeping, and she was talking in tongues 24-7," Lyons notes. "During class she would get up and begin to speak in tongues" and would "preach and quote scripture all day long." And, in addition to her other erratic behavior, the girl would not bathe. "Her mother had to watch her 24 hours a day," the attorney says, "to ensure that she would take care of her personal hygiene and wouldn't harm herself."

The teen eventually had to be hospitalized for severe hydration and malnourishment. After being admitted to the hospital's psychiatric unit, she was diagnosed as suffering from "religious indoctrination." Bethel spokesman Michael Swain declined to comment on the suit against the church and the Victory Club.

Bethel World Outreach Center is a member of the Every Nation family of churches, which is part of "The New Order of the Latter Rain." The "New Order" is a cult movement that covertly believes its leaders are the collective reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

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