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A church that was already accused of operating like a cult may actually be worse than we imagined.

The saga involving Adsideo Church in Portland, Oregon became public last August, when a woman sued her former pastor Jimmy Ellis Wicks Jr. and that church, claiming he forced her to work for the ministry without pay and sexually harassed her along the way.

The August lawsuit against Adsideo Church

Everything she described in the lawsuit made the place sound like a cult that controlled her every move.

The woman’s brother tried to rescue his sister from the Adsideo Church, but she contends in the suit that she couldn’t leave the church home or businesses without an escort and was prevented from accessing her phone, electronics or other personal belongings.

She said most of her pay was taken by the church for what its leaders said was to cover her room and board, and “mandatory church tithing,” the suit says.

Wicks eventually started sending her text messages in which he implored her to masturbate as a form of therapy, demanded that she FaceTime with him when she did so and instructed her how to use sex toys, she alleges in the suit.

He then started summoning her at all hours of the day and night to meet with him and forced her to have sex with him from January through April 30 of this year, according to the suit.

Those were all allegations, of course, but the woman wasn’t alone. Others who attended the church reported similar actions by Wicks to the local police. In one report, the woman who filed the lawsuit said she was afraid to leave the church because she could have been left homeless and “no man would want her.” That’s the kind of brainwashing that appeared to have occurred at this place: The church leaders injected themselves into the woman’s life, then made themselves indispensable to her. They made her think she couldn’t live without them and she had to obey.

Another woman who filed a police report (but didn’t file a lawsuit) said Wicks crossed sexual boundaries when counseling her after a divorce. She, too, didn’t say anything publicly because she didn’t want to be kicked out of the cult. Another woman was also cited by The Oregonian as having told police that Wicks fondled her.

A co-pastor at the church was accused of facilitating the abuse, by providing sex toys for the plaintiff to use, but that same co-pastor told police that she was actually also a victim of Wicks.

This is all the more disturbing when you consider there are only about 50 members of this church, 14 of whom are children. The handful women making these allegations represented a sizable proportion of the congregation.

Given all those details, it was really incredible that she found a way to break free and gather the courage to file a lawsuit against this church and the pastor (along with another co-pastor). She only did that after police didn’t take action against the pastor and church. A church member told the newspaper that Wicks no longer works with them.

She’s was asking the courts for all the backpay she was owed from 2015 to 2021, $50,000 to cover medical costs, and $1.5 million for other damages.

The revised lawsuit against Adsideo Church

Now that same plaintiff has filed an amended lawsuit that includes more allegations against Wicks and the church’s lawyer Jiung “John” Bang. It also includes more defendants—specifically, companies that may have been run by the church and that profited from her labor.

The revised suit accuses Wicks and Bang of conspiring to have church members work for the businesses for little or no wages and then using income and profits from the businesses to pay Bang’s and Wicks’ salaries, buy real estate and hide profits.

The suit also alleges that Bang and Wicks required members of the church and employees of the companies to apply for unemployment benefits, with Bang assisting members with the applications as their legal counsel, even though the members were working for the church-run businesses.

These remain allegations. Wicks and the other defendants continue to deny any wrongdoing. But the stakes are now higher than before.

(Portions of this article were posted earlier)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.