SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) Days after more than a dozen children were killed in a terrible fire in a Haitian orphanage, we’re hearing from a former member of the church that was responsible for running it. Since Friday, Eyewitness News has been investigating the Church of Bible Understanding which is based in Lackawanna County.
According to Lackawanna County’s assessment database, the Church of Bible Understanding owns nine properties in the Scranton area. The church’s address led us to an antique store named Olde Good Things.
Many websites and former members of the church say it is a cult. Eyewitness News Reporter, Cody Butler, tracked down former member James LaRue, who has written about his experience with the group.
Cody Butler: “Would you call them a religious cult?
James LaRue: “Yeah! I mean that’s an inflammatory word.”
James LaRue says he was a member of the Church of Bible Understanding for 14 years, leaving in 1993. He has two books on his experience and how he was recruited at a mall.
“It sounded good. So I would pray with them to get saved. I didn’t know apart of that they wanted me to move in,” said LaRue.
LaRue says after he was recruited he worked in the construction, floor refinishing and carpet cleaning business before relocating to Scranton. It’s now called Olde Good Things which is an antique store that is run and operated by the church. Larue says employees of the church sign a large amount if not all of their weekly earnings over to the church as a donation.
“The individuals are literally living a life of poverty and obedience,” LaRue told Eyewitness News.
LaRue says money made through the antique business and “donations” help support two orphanages in Haiti including one that caught fire Thursday killing 15 children.
We spoke with the church’s spokeswoman in New York City. Eyewitness News Reporter Cody Butler pressed Temi Sacks on the church’s background and reports of questionable conditions at the orphanages.
Sacks: “It would be irresponsible for us to comment until after all the facts are in.”
Cody: “Would you be able to reach out and look into the church for more questions?”
Sacks: “I told you no Q&A.”
LaRue says some members have spent decades with the church.
“Many more of us out than are in, ” said LaRue.