Church responds to human trafficking allegations

Representatives from the World Society Church of God spoke out last week about recent human trafficking allegations against members of the church while the Kennesaw State University Police Department continued to look into the accusations.

Justin Gautier, a church member, reached out to The Sentinel with a statement from the church. In the emailed statement, they said that the accusations that the church and its members are linked to a human trafficking ring in Marietta are false.

They wrote that the spread of this supposed misinformation is causing church activities to be disrupted and their members to be religiously discriminated against.

“This is not only unfair, it has endangered innocent people who are simply trying to worship God as their heart moves them,” the statement reads. “Our Church has been very active in the community since the year 2009 and has never experienced this type of treatment.”

The statement also mentions that members understand the realities and dangers of human and sex trafficking, and they plan on working with government officials and agencies to raise awareness of the issue in the community.

“However, our church and its members in no way, shape or form have perpetrated these horrendous activities,” Gautier wrote.

They also said the accusations that they are aggressive and persistent when recruiting are false and are a result of misinformation spread over social media. Gautier said the church has carried out recruiting and outreach activities the same way since the start of its involvement in the community.

The statement reported that after the church sought help on how to handle the allegations, the local police department recommended that the church seek legal advice.

“But frankly, our goal is simply for people to see the truth that the accusations are false so we can all simply move on with our lives,” Gautier said.

Accusations that the church’s members are part of a human trafficking ring in Marietta started circulating around both of KSU’s campuses earlier this month, causing a panic amongst students who reported they were approached by church members who invited them to a Bible study.

The accusations reached students at other colleges and universities in the area, including Georgia State University and the University of Georgia.

The investigation into the allegations against the Church of God members is still open, according to university spokeswoman Tammy DeMel.

DeMel explained that the KSU PD has identified the two individuals from the Church of God and has no reason to believe that the two are involved in any criminal activity.

The World Mission Society Church of God have opened a church in Marietta and a church in Norcross, Gautier said. Neither of these locations, however, are listed on the church’s website.

Check back with The Sentinel for more updates on this story.

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