Not Your ‘Church Next Door’: ‘Cult’ Ignored Abuse, Ran ‘Pyramid Scheme,’ Lawsuit Claims

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FIVE WOMEN IN California have sued a network of organizations associated with the International Churches of Christ and two of its leaders, claiming they are victims of childhood sexual abuse and a financial pyramid scheme perpetrated by a “cult.” The federal claim, filed Friday night in the Central District of California and obtained by Rolling Stone, comes amid a flood of litigation in the state’s final days of a three-year window that gave adults additional time to sue over childhood sexual abuse.

The plaintiffs allege the ICOC and its affiliated organizations — Hope Worldwide; Mercyworldwild; and a splinter group known as the International Christian Church along with its Los Angeles headquarters, the City of Angels International Christian Church — “indoctrinated” members into a “rigid” belief system that isolated them from the outside world, then “facilitated and actively concealed” incidents of sexual abuse and trafficking while they were minors. The suit also names church founder Kip McKean and the estate of another leader, the late Charles “Chuck” Lucas, as defendants. Additionally, the women claim, the churches and their leaders created a “system of exploitation that extracts any and all value it can from members,” straining members financially, while silencing any dissenters.

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