(Photo: Screen Grab via 11Alive)
After allegedly suffering abuse from House of Prayer pastor Arthur Allen in Atlanta, Ga., for more than 30 years until they defected a few years ago, two former members of the church gave God thanks when they heard he died in a house fire on Monday.
More than a decade ago, according to an 11Alive report, Allen, 81, was convicted of child abuse and spent two years in prison, from 2003 to 2005, for having children at his church flogged by adults with whips and belts in front of the congregation when they misbehaved.
"When it comes to abuse there's a time when God says 'enough is enough.' My heart goes out to those that are confused now because they were taught that as long as this person is here it is as if God is here," former church member Mathias Hardeman told 11Alive.
"I have seen such horrendous behavior, a pregnant woman that was married and grown get beaten with a belt. He ordered the men, his parishioners to beat this woman," explained Hardeman.
"I was born and raised in the House of Prayer. When this man says 'jump' you only ask 'how high' when he says 'sit' you ask 'how long.' You don't have a mind of your own. You're really like a puppet," he said.
According to 11Alive, just last November police had launched another investigation into the church as accusations of abuse had popped up again. Among those who reported stories of abuse were some of the same people who were children during the first investigation of abuse at the House of Prayer more than a decade ago.
David Lee Duncan, one of the children involved in the 2001 investigation, was arrested on child molestation charges.
Another former member, Michael Oglesby, said his family no longer speaks to him because he decided to leave the church.
"My mother, my step-dad, my brother, sister, my aunts, cousins, all of them, I've lost all of them because I defected," he said.
"I have totally lost my entire family, so at this point I'm saying thank God, thank God, at some point they may have a chance to live life to the fullest," explained Hardeman.
The Atlanta Fire Department said six people were in Allen's home at the time of the fire. Five of them were children and they all escaped.