LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Posts on social media are accusing a church in Louisville of human trafficking, and the church said its members are receiving death threats.
Police said there's no evidence of human trafficking at World Mission Society Church of God, but the social media rumors have spread from Louisville to Bowling Green and northern Kentucky .
"Someone started this rumor online, and it was just a snowball effect to what is is today," said Victor Lozada, a missionary at the church in Middletown.
The posts alleged that members of the church are inviting people to events at the new location on Old Henry Road. Women said they were approached at Mall St. Matthews and at businesses in Middletown, Springhurst and Jeffersontown.
Some people are accusing the church members of aggressively trying to get people to join their bible study with in-your-face type of tactics.
"No, actually, our church members are not like that," Lozada said. "Maybe sometimes when it comes to matters of religion or any topic, people can become a little passionate."
Florence Police in northern Kentucky also issued a Facebook post saying there's an investigation after numerous inquiries about the church group but says much of the information appears to be largely speculation and hearsay fueled by social media.
On New Year's Eve, police say they were called to the church's Louisville location for allegations of slander and harassment from the posts. LMPD says the same church member called police twice that day. LMPD says no report was filed.
"They did put an extra patrol out there in case of any other incidents, and they told us to let them know of any suspicious activity," Lozada said, adding that the inaccurate posts are putting its members in danger.
"Someone almost ran over a few congregants with their vehicle not too long ago," he said. "Our members' personal information is getting posted online. They've gotten phone calls and death threats and harassment calling at all hours of the night."
Lozada said the church has been in the community for over five years and had a location in downtown Louisville. The church has received awards for its community service, and church members worked with Brightside volunteers cleaning up litter along Hurstbourne Parkway in February of last year.
The church says it has 2.5 million members worldwide and 80 to 100 members in Louisville. The church issued this statement Tuesday:
The World Mission Society Church of God is a Christian church that has been spreading the gospel and love of God the Mother to over 175 countries of the world. This work has been recognized by many governments and agencies. For example, in 2016, Queen Elizabeth II honored us with the Queen's Award for Volunteer Service. Likewise, in 2011, 2014, and 2015 the White House gave us the President's Volunteer Service Award.
In furtherance of our calling to spread the Gospel, we have opened churches throughout the US, one of which is in Louisville, Kentucky.
Recently, we were made aware of a social media post in which someone appears to accuse the Church and its members of being linked to a ring of sex/human trafficking. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are a church of Christian love and denounce any such activities wherever they may be carried out.
Unfortunately, it appears they have not only falsely accused us, but also others have posted and shared the personal information of some of our Church members. This has led the Church and the Church members to be harassed and their lives to be threatened. This is not only unfair, it has endangered innocent people who are simply trying to worship God as their heart moves them.
We have contacted the local police department and have made them aware of what is going on.
In addition to monitoring the situation, they have also assured us that the accusation of dozens of local people disappearing is not an accurate reflection of any information they have. Indeed, if thirty people had vanished, there would be a national outcry through the media and other sources. Obviously, that has not happened.
The Police have assured us they will work with the Church to help resolve this matter, and they have also encouraged us to seek legal advice to determine if there are other remedies available. 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.
We should add that of course we understand that human/sex trafficking is real and that members of the public should be alerted about the dangers of this criminal activity. We intend to speak with local government officials and agencies that deal with this issue to see how we can work together to raise awareness about this matter. However, our Church and Its members in no way, shape or form have perpetrated these horrendous activities.
We would like to ask the public to please help us stop spreading this wrongful accusation, and help us stop the harassment our members are experiencing due to it.
Thank you for reading this and we encourage you to visit our Church and see for yourself that our organization is nothing like what is being said online.
For more information on the church please visit: www.wmscog.com
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