House of Prayer under investigation, again | News
ATLANTA -- Back in March 2001, they pushed, kicked and screamed. More than 40 children refusing to go with the people trying to help them.
Dozens of children rescued after allegations of abuse at the House of Prayer. Some of those children are now adults and they're speaking out about their experience for the very first time.
This, as we learn the Atlanta Police Department has a launched a new investigation into the church.
"Imagine for years being tortured by snakes," said Naomi Smith-Howard.
"I wanted to commit suicide," said Tenishia Smith.
"They hiss at you and then pick at you."
"A church is a place where you go to worship God," said James Smith, Jr. "It is not a place where you are demeaned and degraded."
Once members of the infamous 'House of Prayer,' these siblings, Tenishia, Naomi and James Jr., said they are still feeling the effects, more than a decade later, of what they call "years of abuse."
"We've experienced physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse," said Tenishia.
The church made national headlines back in 2001 when its Pastor Arthur Allen and four other members were arrested and charged with cruelty to children for the beating of two young boys.
Pastor Allen and one of the church members were convicted. Allen served two years in prison.
In all, 41 children were removed by the State of Georgia, including Teniesha and James. The brother and sisters attended the church under the orders of their parents. However, their mom is now deceased.
Their father, they haven't had a relationship with him in years since leaving House of Prayer.
"Our grandfather was his first member," said Naomi.
"At the time when we were taken away, we were too scared to say anything," said James Jr.
According to his sister Teniesha, "We was children when it happened and being children, we were taught that if we say anything, we go against them, we go to hell."
They say Pastor Allen claimed, all along, he was following biblical teachings and not being abusive. Often reciting this scripture like, "He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly."
Naomi, who is now happily married, shares a story she says haunts her to this day.
"Pastor Allen took my arm and twisted it all the way to the back of my head and said "See, that's what you'll be to a man is a dog.""
"They hold you up in the air. It's two men on the arm, two on the leg and someone is just standing over you beating you with a belt and if that belt broke, it was another belt," said Tenishia.
Today, the House of Prayer remains open with a strong following including young children. Pastor Allen is out of jail and he continues to lead the congregation.
"He has mind control over these kids," said James Jr.
The Smith's said they are speaking up now for the children who are still inside this church and they are concerned for the children's safety.
11Alive News obtained an incident report that confirms Atlanta Police have launched a new investigation into the House of Prayer.
In the report, two former members give graphic details of how their daughters were sexually molested by a current member of the church.
"My young daughter came to me and told me and her mother that a young man in the church had molested her," said Michael Oglesby.
In an exclusive interview with 11Alive News, Pastor Allen confirmed a police investigation is underway.
Watch 11Alive News at 11 p.m. for the story.