FBI raids Georgia churches near military bases; sources say church targeted soldiers

The Assembly of Prayer church on Old Tobacco Road was raided by the FBI on Thursday morning.

The Assembly of Prayer church on Old Tobacco Road was raided by the FBI on Thursday morning.

The FBI raided three churches affiliated with the House of Prayer Christian Church in Georgia and Texas on Thursday.

The FBI has not released a statement about the raids.

The House of Prayer is owned by the non-profit foreign company House of Prayer Christian Churches of America Inc., which registered with the Secretary of State for Georgia in 2004. The company’s publicly traded officials are affiliated with the Churches of Georgia and use the Hinesville, Georgia Post Office boxes as mailing addresses.

More crime news in Augusta: Man convicted of bank fraud involving low-income Augusta apartments

The churches, mainly located near military bases across the country, have been accused by former members and a veterans’ advocacy group of operating as a cult and targeting soldiers.

In August 2020, Veterans Education Success, an advocacy organization based in Washington DC, asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Georgia Veterans Service to investigate alleged abuses of the GI Bill program by House of Prayer Christian Church biblical seminaries.

veterans claimed the House of Prayer Christian Church “misleads the VA during inspections and targets veterans to access GI Bill funding, VA disability compensation, and VA home loans,” according to the organization’s letter to the VA and Georgia SAA.

The Assembly of Prayer church on Old Tobacco Road was raided by the FBI on Thursday morning.

The Assembly of Prayer church on Old Tobacco Road was raided by the FBI on Thursday morning.

Raid near Fort Gordon

Half a dozen FBI agents were seen at the back of the Assembly of Prayer church on Tobacco Road in Hephzibah during a raid that began at 7:15 a.m. Thursday and continued into the afternoon.

According to a property search, House of Prayer Christian Churches owns 2952 Old Tobacco Road, the address of the Assembly of Prayer church in Richmond County.

At about 1:00 p.m., officers were seen using stairs at the back of the building during the investigation, according to Sgt. William McCarty of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

“We were there to help them, but referred everything to the FBI,” McCarty said. He said he could not confirm whether any arrests had been made.

The Assembly of Prayer church in Hephzibah is located just outside Gate 5 at Fort Gordon.

In an email sent Thursday, Anne H. Bowman, deputy public affairs officer at Fort Gordon, said: “Fort Gordon was aware of the organization called the Assembly of Prayer Church through our law enforcement channels, but the installation had no prohibited from the organization or any other official dealings with them (despite their website claims).”

Bowman confirmed that “reports have been made to the Fort Gordon Police Department of recruiting/applying attempts by church members, but there have been no incidents, clashes, arrests or the like,” she said in another email Thursday evening.

The House of Prayers church in Hinesville was the subject of a raid by FBI agents Thursday morning.  The raid took place shortly after 8 a.m.  The church is located on the 2500 block of Airport Road.

The House of Prayers church in Hinesville was the subject of a raid by FBI agents Thursday morning. The raid took place shortly after 8 a.m. The church is located on the 2500 block of Airport Road.

Raid near Fort Stewart

The FBI also raided the House of Prayer Christian Church in Hinesville on Thursday. The raid took place just after 8 a.m. on block 2500 of Airport Road.

Bystanders saw FBI agents traveling with weapons to multiple buildings while a group of women was guarded by an officer with a weapon.

Jenna Sellitto, an FBI spokesperson, confirmed that the agency was executing a court-authorized search warrant. She said no arrests had been made as of Thursday afternoon.

The House of Prayer Christian Church in Hinesville is less than 8 miles from Fort Stewart in Liberty County.

Raid near Fort Hood

The Assembly of Prayer Christian Church on Massey Street in Killeen, Texas, was also raided by the FBI on Thursday, according to Killeen Police.

The church is less than 4 miles from Fort Hood.

According to officials, Killeen agents arrived just after 7:30 a.m. to help the FBI divert traffic.

Ashley Demorest, a former Church member who observed the raid, said she had joined the Church from 15 to 23, “until I finally escaped.”

Amber Fitz-Randolph, leader of The Ft. Hood Fallen Facebook page, launched in 2017, said members of the Church in Killeen sneaked into the barracks and threatened soldiers.

In a text message Thursday afternoon, Christopher Haug, chief of media relations at Fort Hood, said they are aware that the FBI is investigating the church and that their police are investigating.

Demorest said she had asked soldiers at the base to join the Church.

“When I was 16, I went with other members to” [Fort Hood] and do what the Church would call “soul winning” to invite people to the Church,” she said.

In its 2020 letter from Veteran’s Education Success to the VA and Georgia SAA, the organization cited similar requests.

“Soulwinning is an organized event coordinated by the clergy of the HOPCC,” the document said. “Five days a week, individuals are paired up and dispatched to recruit new members at or around military bases. … Students would recruit at mail exchanges, barracks, and base housing.”

The document also cites specific members’ experiences with recruiting at bases in Georgia.

Abe Kenmore, Georgia statewide reporter for USA Today Network, contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: FBI Raids House of Prayer Churches in Hinesville, GA

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.