Church of Bible Understanding Enjoined from ‘Helping’ Homeless, Runaway Youth
from the N.Y. Daily News
A Manhattan Supreme Court Justice on May 24 placed a restraining order on the Church of Bible Understanding, the widely criticized cultic group which has been accused in its Brooklyn operation of luring runaway and homeless children with promises of jobs and then refusing to pay them or let them leave.
Judge Stanley Ostrau said that the group must not house or transport anyone under 18 without parental consent, and must not hold any of the youths against their will. He also ordered that no church members may enter Under 21, a Times Square youth shelter run by a Rev. Bruce Ritter, a Catholic priest.
According to a complaint filed by Covenant House, the religious group “wrongfully, maliciously, willfully and without any pretense of legal process imprisoned and confined the children from Under 21 and deprived them of their liberty.”
The group, which calls itself both the Church of Bible Understanding and The We People, had been sending its members to Under 21, under the guise of being homeless, to recruit youths with promises of jobs, money, food, shelter and “salvation,” according to Covenant House officials.
But once the teenagers were taken to a four-story house on Woodruff Ave. in Brooklyn, many were not allowed to leave, according to signed statements by youths who eventually did leave. In addition, some of the boys who worked at the Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning Service, which operated out of the same house, said they were not paid the “allowance” they were promised.
Police summoned by Covenant House went into the Woodruff Ave. house Monday to escort two youths out who said they had not been allowed to leave.
An attorney for the group denied that children were being held against their will. “I met a couple of the kids,” said attorney Paul Appel. “They said they liked the program, that they found a great deal of warmth there. If they want to leave, they can leave.”
According to a statement by a 14-year-old boy who went to the house, about 125 youths were there, some of whom wanted to leave. “We had a meeting that lasted from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., when we were told we could have two hours of sleep,” he said. “We were not allowed to sleep during the meeting. Also during the meeting, the leaders yelled at and humiliated some of the kids until they cried.”
“This is the worst example of cultist activity, and we cannot permit a cult to exploit these most exploitable children,” said the Rev. Bruce Ritter, president of Covenant House. “We will do everything in our power to fight them.”