Apostolic church businesses probed

Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation investigating canceled policies

The Star Beacon, Ohio/May 28, 2005
By Shelley Terry

Jefferson Township - Members of the Apostolic Faith Church, Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly, have been an independent church for about two years, and running businesses for the church for about 10 years.

All the while, allegations of physical abuse and violations of child labor laws have swirled around them.

As of Friday, no one in the church has been arrested on these charges; however, officials at the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation said they investigating why the church canceled all its policies in July 2004 while continuing to operate eight businesses.

Workers' Compensation laws are designed to protect employees who are hurt on the job. Employers with one or more employees are legally required to furnish workers compensation insurance. If an employee is then injured, the employee files a claim with the workers compensation insurance company.

"They could be subcontracting, but each business has a name and the business name is not associated with the church," a spokeswoman said Friday. "Special investigations is looking into the matter."

Robert Keyes, who is a brother of the church leader, Charles Keyes, said in a May 9 interview about half of the 275 or so congregates work at several businesses headquartered at the Griggs Road church or at other locations in the county.

Profits from the businesses are going toward the construction of a $1.8 million octagonal worship center on Griggs Road, he said.

Church businesses include:

  • Miraculous Shine Car Detail, 3130 State Road;
  • Promise Landscaping;
  • AFC Video Services;
  • Jubilee Construction;
  • Heavenly View Print Shop;
  • Glorified Beauty Salon and Hair for Less Barber Shop, at 841 Griggs Road;
  • Modest Apparel, an alterations and sewing shop; and
  • Floral Design.

The church also used to own and run two scrapyards.

In 1999, a former church member, a cult-survivor advocate and a private investigator reported the church was in violation of child labor laws and was abusing children at the sites, 2701 N. Bend Road, Saybrook Township, and 618 Route 6 in New Lyme.

According to the cult-survivor advocate's report to the investigator, dated Oct. 27, 1999, children as young as 5 were forced to work at the scrapyards under dangerous conditions. Many were injured and treated by members of the church instead of going to a hospital or a doctor's office, the report said. If the children went to sleep or misbehaved, they were whipped across the back with a rubber hose, the report said.

This report was forwarded to Ashtabula County Children Services and local law enforcement.

Dianne Solembrino, executive director of Children Services, said Friday, "We always investigate all allegations, but unless we can substantiate it, we can't get any further."

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini and the Sheriff's Department did not return phone calls Friday, regarding the matter. But, essentially, nothing was done in 1999, and since that time, the church sold the North Bend Road scrapyard.

However, church members Steven Turner and Ralph Clark still own the New Lyme property and will continue to hold title to it until the land contract from the purchasers - a Saybrook Township family - is paid in full.

In a land contract, the seller retains title to the property until the land contract is paid in full, and a warranty deed is recorded, transferring title.

Clark is in the county jail, charged in the May 7 beating death of his estranged wife, Carolyn Clark, who had left the church.

Carolyn Clark accused the church of being abusive and cult-like in her divorce affidavit. She was planning to leave town with the couple's five youngest children at the time of her death.

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