MIDDLETOWN — A World Mission Society Church of God spokeswoman said recent allegations involving its Bible study group’s activities are the result of spurious rumors shared on social media.
Authorities recently announced that accusations involving female parishioners being linked to a human/female sex trafficking ring are untrue, according to Cromwell Police Chief Denise Lamontagne. Officers conducted an investigation following a complaint that churchgoers were speaking to customers outside Shop Rite and Stop & Shop, encouraging them to take part in discussions.
“Recent social media posts discussed concerns that this is a scheme, and may have a direct involvement with a human/female sex trafficking ring,” Lamontagne said in a press release about the probe that showed the claims to be false.
The World Mission Society Church of God is located at 24 Old Church St. in Middletown.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” public relations liaison Carly Adames said about the charges, which have generated a “snowball effect.”
“We are a Christian church that practices God’s love, and denounces such activities wherever they may be carried out,” she said.
The rumor originated a few years ago in other regions of the nation and has been investigated and disproved by various local and state police, she said, adding the issue recently gained more attention in Connecticut.
People tend to believe that claims posted and shared on social media platforms are valid, she said.
“Due to the age of technology we’re living in, rumors spread fast on social media, and unfortunately many people automatically believe what they read, and are quick to repost without checking facts. This, in turn, is a great danger, because people not only continue to spread this false message, but others have posted members’ personal information online,” Adames said.
Some parishioners have received death threats, while others experience harassment at all hours of the night, she said.
“Not only is this unfair, but has endangered innocent people who are simply trying to worship and follow God as their heart moves them,” she said.
Preaching the gospel or inviting people to take part in Bible study is protected by freedom of religion as well as the First Amendment.
“It is not a crime,” Adames said. “Our church and its members in no way, shape or form have perpetrated these horrendous activities.”
The World Mission Society Church of God is a Christian nondenominational church established in 1964. The church, which has locations in Middletown and Meriden, has more than 7,000 locations in 175 countries, according to its website.
Members actively raise awareness to prevent these types of “atrocious” sex trafficking crimes from happening, Adames said, pointing to a Feb. 27 human trafficking prevention forum held in partnership with Florida International University as part of the parish’s campaign to reduce crime.
The Middletown congregation has participated in a variety of community service initiatives, such as environmental cleanups on Newfield Street and at Veterans Memorial Park, a consolatory visit to the One MacDonough Place Assisted Living home, a cultural etiquette and education event for elementary students, leaf cleanup and snow removal assistance for seniors, as well as other activities.
“When people hear of teachings or concepts different from their own, or that they never heard before, many tend to react negatively. That is the root cause of discrimination, racism, bigotry and various forms of prejudice. But, ‘different’ doesn’t mean ‘wrong,’” she said.
For information, visit connecticutwmscog.com.