Twelve leaders of Imperial Valley Ministries in California have been indicted for forcing homeless people to perform labor.
With the promise of hot meals and beds, Imperial Valley coerced its victims into panhandling for nine hours a day, six days a week before locking them in group homes with deadbolts.
In the recently unsealed indictment, the homeless victims describe the lengths Imperial Valley went to monitor them. The ministry also took their identification and coerced many into sacrificing welfare benefits.
United States Attorney Robert Brewer said of the atrocity:
"The indictment alleges an appalling abuse of power by church officials who preyed on vulnerable homeless people with promises of a warm bed and meals. These victims were held captive, stripped of their humble financial means, their identification, their freedom and their dignity."
In addition to performing slave labor, many victims with illnesses and disabilities were denied medical assistance.
People were appalled to see the horrors imposed upon the victims—by a church, no less.
The church leaders—including the pastor—will be charged with benefits fraud, conspiracy, forced labor and document servitude.
Apparently they missed the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3–12):
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
- Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
- Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
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