Keyes has no license

Marriages he performed aren't legal, records show

The Star Beacon, Ohio/May 27, 2005
By Shelley Terry

The leader of a controversial church is not a licensed minister and cannot marry couples, according to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's office in Columbus.

State laws provide that persons who perform marriages must be licensed by the secretary of state and Charles D. Keyes of Apostolic Faith Church, Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly in Jefferson Township, is not, and never has been, licensed to do so, officials in the Secretary's ministry registration office said Thursday.

This means the following marriages performed by Keyes on Aug. 2, 2003, according to Ashtabula County Probate Court records, are illegal:

  • Jason Jackson and Tonya Keyes;
  • Isaac Jackson and Alisha Keyes;
  • Terrance Clark and Janaya Keyes; and
  • Ralph Clark II and Tia Chestnut.

Probate Court officials said Thursday they only recently discovered Charles Keyes was not licensed to perform marriages.

In an attempt to contact Charles Keyes about the matter, messages were left at the church office in Jefferson and at his home in Ashtabula. At his home, a young woman said, "He has been advised by his lawyer not to comment." The woman was told to tell Keyes if he would like to discuss his minister's license, or lack of one, to call the Star Beacon. He did not return the phone call.

As for the marriages, Tonya and Alisha Keyes are Charles Keyes' daughters and the Clarks are sons of Carolyn Clark, who was beaten to death May 7 in her Ashtabula apartment. Her estranged husband, Ralph Clark, is in jail, charged with the murder.

In legal papers Carolyn Clark filed shortly before her death, she accused the church and its leaders of sexual and physical abuse of church members, including minor children. She said she wanted to get her husband and children away from Charles Keyes, who she believed had brainwashed them. Social-service and law-enforcement officials are looking into the allegations. No one from the church has been charged.

None of the four couples Keyes "married" have listed phone numbers, so they could not be reached for comment.

Carolyn Clark's sister, Marilyn Butts of Virginia, said Thursday she was disturbed upon hearing Charles Keyes was not licensed to marry people. Her nephews are among those who were wed illegally during a group ceremony.

"That's terrible," she said. "Now what are they going to do?"

Former members of the church have said Charles Keyes arranges all the marriages, although Robert Keyes, church spokesman, has denied that.

Former church member Gloria Coleman said church leaders control every aspect of the congregants' lives, including marriages, sex, finances, dress, recreation and school activities.

She charges Oree, Charles and Robert Keyes are the "ring leaders" of abuse, which includes child molestation, rape, sodomy and mind control.

"I suffered several breakdowns under their leadership," she said. "I never came forward before to tell my story because no one would do anything about it ... Now, something must be done."

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