By Erik Galicia
Social media has proven itself time and time again to be an efficient means for the spread of false and harmful information.
Members of Riverside City College’s Elohist Club, which focuses on preaching the World Mission Society Church of God’s version of Christianity, claim to have learned this through personal experience.
What sets their doctrine apart from other Christian ideologies is their preachings about “God the Mother,” which teaches that God exists in both male and female form. Several social media posts in the last few years have made accusations that “God the Mother” preachers on college campuses are connected to sex trafficking.
According to RCC Elohist Club members, these social media accusations have resulted in stigma and harassment.
Stacy Rangel, vice president of the club, was preaching to a student across the street from RCC last September when she claims another student interrupted the encounter.
“She starts pulling her and she’s like, ‘Come on girl, you don’t even know what they’re involved in,’” Rangel said.
Rangel also reported an incident the week before the start of the Spring 2020 semester on Terracina Drive, which runs through the middle of the college off Magnolia Avenue. Rangel claims a student she approached reacted suspiciously and then went behind some bushes and started taking pictures of club members.
When the club confronted the student, Rangel says the student was worried about the sex trafficking allegations she had heard. The club then invited the student to speak to an RCC police officer who happened to be nearby if she felt the problem was severe enough to warrant taking photos of the interaction.
“I’m a mother,” Rangel said. “If you were to do something with this picture and somehow the cops come to my house, the first thing that’s gonna come to my head is my child. What are they gonna do to my child? They’re probably gonna take her. You don’t know what kind of legal problems you can get me into.”
The club provided Viewpoints with Facebook comments on “God the Mother” posts that threaten violence against missionaries.
“Kill them,” some comments read. “”Throat punch the little b——.”
According to Stacy’s Husband and club President Joe Rangel, the allegations against Elohist clubs began in 2017 at the University of Tennessee.
“I was there,” Joe said. “The police got involved in trying to arrest one of the missionaries that was with us. We ended up clearing up the (misunderstanding.) But from there it got spread out through mass media.”
Several law enforcement investigations across the country have found no evidence that Elohist clubs and the World Mission Society Church of God are connected to sex trafficking.
According to Lt. Jayson Wood of the Riverside Police Department, there are no indications in the agency’s system that “Elohist Club” and “World Mission Society Church of God” have ever been mentioned in a sex trafficking investigation conducted by the RPD.
“The ones that are being victimized here (are) actually us,” said Valerie Dewong, club secretary and treasurer. “It’s unfair and unjustifiable that we are receiving this kind of backlash, especially with no proof.”
Dewong said she would like to trust that RCC will support the club’s freedom of expression and ensure the safety of its members. She argued that the stress caused by the attacks could end up affecting the academic performance of club members.
“We’ve had a lot of members think about coming to this campus,” Dewong said. “But if this kind of thing is gonna happen to them, obviously they would have to go to school somewhere else.”
RCC’s Elohist Club prides itself in its volunteer service, which includes blood drives and environmental cleanups. It’s affiliated church has also received a Volunteer Service Award from both President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump, as well as the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in the United Kingdom, which requires government audits to ensure legitimacy.
“We’re just trying to be students and also share our beliefs and what we’re passionate about,” Dewong said.