Emily Gao
Mercury Staff

Members of The Church of God approached student residents in apartments to discuss ‘God the Mother’ 

A religious organization at UTD is responding to student concerns after reports surfaced of various members soliciting residents in University Village.

Although the Senate Bill 18, which took effect on Sept. 1, allows canvassing by non-university affiliated groups on campus, solicitation is still prohibited in University Village, which is considered private property. The University Housing resident handbook instructs residents to inform solicitors of the rule against all types of solicitation and to contact UTDPD.

An alert on the Wildfire safety app that reached over 1,900 in-app views warned that UTD students have been approached at university housing by members of the World Mission Society Church of God in an attempt to engage them in conversation about “God the Mother.” ATEC senior Mary Braden shared her experience on the app and said that representatives from the Elohim Bible Study Club, the UTD branch of the Church of God, approached her twice at her previous apartment in university village in the fall of 2017 and 2018. 

“(The first time), there was a knock on my door, I come to it, and there are a few people standing around,” Braden said. “They start talking to me like, ‘Hey, do you know what God the Mother is?’”

University Village does not have any policies in place to prevent solicitors at student housing.

“(University Village policy is) just what’s written in the handbook,” said Matthew Grief, associate vice president for student affairs. “If there (are) solicitors there and they don’t leave when they’re asked, call the police and ask for assistance.”

After the representatives from Elohim Bible Study Club left Braden’s apartment, she was instructed by her Peer Advisor to report the incident to UTDPD.

 “I called PD, and about two hours later an officer came to my door. He took my statement but said that as long as they’re not soliciting payment, trying to force themselves in, or asking you to go somewhere, they’re allowed to be on campus,” Braden said. “I felt kind of hopeless.”

The Elohim Bible Study Club no longer goes door-to-door for recruitment purposes.

“We had bible studies with students in the UTD apartments (and) invited others in the building, not realizing this wasn’t allowed,” said Brianna Redick, the off-campus advisor to the Elohim Bible Study Club. “UTD police met with us and informed us (of) the student housing rules.”

Although the incidents were reported to and addressed by UTDPD, UTD Housing Operations was unaware of any solicitation at University Village.

“I haven’t (heard about solicitors at University Village),” Grief said. “A response to a student concern is usually how we find out about somebody who’s not supposed to be (there).”

According to the official website of The Church of God, the church was established in 1964 in Korea by a man named Ahnsahnghong, who members believe is the second coming of Christ. The official mission of the Church of God is to “save all mankind” and the church has received awards for its community service initiatives.

“That day everyone in the (building) group chat was Googling this group and (they were) like, ‘This is a cult. There’s human trafficking,’” Braden said. “We were all a little weirded out that they were allowed to be on campus to begin with.”

Local police departments in Pennsylvania and Georgia have issued apology letters to the church in response to rumors about human trafficking, and a police investigation at Kennesaw State University found no evidence of involvement in any criminal activity by the church.

“Elohim Bible Study Club will continue to share God’s love with students on campus,” Redick said. “It’s important to us that all people have a chance to learn about God the Father, and God the Mother and receive the water of life from God Elohim, including the students at UTD.”