Is This ‘Real Housewives’ Star Really Running a Cult? Ex-Church Members Say Yes

Chad Kirkland/Bravo via NBC

Chad Kirkland/Bravo by way of NBC

Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise has at all times been about drama—petty digs at so-called greatest buddies, mascara-streaked tears over crumbling relationships, and a wholesome dose of flipping tables and smashing wine glasses.

But not too long ago, season storylines have been overtaken by critical prison investigations, with Teresa Giudice serving jail time for monetary fraud, Jen Shah going through expenses over conspiracy to commit wire fraud and cash laundering, and Erika Jayne presently entangled in allegations that her husband embezzled his shoppers’ settlement funds to bankroll their extravagant life-style.

In the new season of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, Mary Cosby will take her flip within the scorching seat in response to accusations that she has remodeled her late grandmother’s Faith Temple Pentecostal Church right into a cult.

Eyebrows have been raised from the second viewers first met Cosby, and discovered about her unconventional non secular path. The eccentric, designer-clad preacher married her step-grandfather Bishop Robert Cosby shortly after her grandmother Rosemary “Mama” Redmon Cosby handed away in 1997, thereby inheriting her multimillion-dollar property, her numerous companies, and her commanding place within the church.

Cosby was already quizzed over the cult allegations on the Season 1 reunion, which aired in February. Host Andy Cohen introduced up leaked audio recordings of Cosby’s sermons, together with one the place she complained about not getting sufficient birthday playing cards and referred to as the congregation “stingy” and “poor.”

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Cosby denied to Cohen that she was pilfering cash from the church to fund her costly life-style, calling the declare merciless. “My church couldn’t possibly take care of me,” Cosby stated. “I’m a God-fearing woman. I would never do that.”

“Clearly I’m not gonna get on national television, be a Housewife and be in a cult,” Cosby defended herself to Entertainment Tonight. “Like, come on. I believe in my church. There’s no cult. My church members, they know those are false allegations. Those are ridiculous. It’s the people that are looking for fault.”

But questions have solely intensified, and the Season 2 trailer reveals Cosby’s co-star Lisa Barlow assembly with the late Salt Lake City group chief Cameron Williams, who states unequivocally, “Is it a cult? Yes. Does she call herself ‘God’? Yes.” (Williams’ household declined to remark when approached by The Daily Beast.)

The Daily Beast spoke with seven former Faith Temple church members, six who agree with claims that Cosby has been working her church like a “cult”—alleging she refers to herself as God, encourages members to work at her household’s numerous companies free of charge or minimal wage, berates congregation members from the rostrum, and instills the fear that if anybody ever leaves Faith Temple for an additional church, they are going to be condemned to hell.

Cosby’s personal uncle Ernest Walton believes Cosby is operating a “cult,” saying his mom can be disillusioned. “I think it’s an abomination,” he says. “Everything’s coming out into the light now and everything’s coming down.”

A second former male member, who requested to have his title withheld and was on the church for 25 years earlier than leaving in round 2018, says Williams was spot on with what he informed Barlow. “It’s cultish what they’ve done,” he says. “It’s the mental manipulation to try to get people to believe that she has power to either take them to heaven or condemn them to hell.”

“It’s not a joke,” says Abby, a former member raised within the church who left age 22 within the late 1990s, and requested to have her full title withheld as a result of a detailed relative remains to be an energetic member. “She’s got these people terrified. That woman is the most evil thing that ever walked this Earth. You have no idea, all those smiles and shit—that is not real.”

Former church member Ralph Arnold Jr. says he “unequivocally” believes Cosby is operating a cult, and her teachings go in opposition to elementary Christian beliefs. “She preaches that she is God on earth,” he explains. “The church has gone to ruin and most everyone has left because Mary has no anointing whatsoever when she preaches. She just screams at her members and mentally abuses them into submission. [She] brainwashes them on the regular, not to mention the utterly flamboyant and hypocritical life she lives.”

“We were going to church for religious reasons,” ex-member Rosebud, who requested for her final title to be withheld, provides. “We thought we were learning a new way of life, a new way to praise God, but that was never the case… There is so much shady stuff going on in that church.”

A feminine former member, who requested anonymity as a result of a member of the family remains to be within the church, likened Cosby and her husband to con artists. “They make you afraid,” she says. “You are afraid to not go to that church and you’re afraid to go to the church as well. It’s really messed up… If not a cult, they are definitely scam artists that manipulate the members of the church into giving them pretty much all of their money so that they can live high and mighty on the hill.”

And whereas former member Ernest Enoch disagrees with the time period “cult” and expresses his upset with former members who spoke out in opposition to Cosby, saying the problems dividing Faith Temple ought to be addressed internally quite than in public, he admits that when he left the church in Jan. 2021 it value him his relationship with somebody he thought of household.

“I would never say that I personally belonged to a cult, that’s making me look like a fool,” Enoch says. “I disagree with some things, but they’re my disagreements. People [are] not talking to each other right now because of all this stuff. I saw somebody and it broke my heart because he’s like a son to me and he barely could look at me, he barely could talk to me… because he knows that I’m not affiliated with them anymore.”

A lawyer for Cosby said that, “[A]ll religious institutions, including the Faith Temple Pentecostal, accept donations from their parishioners; however they don’t force parishioners into poverty to make such contributions.” He said the suggestion that Cosby calls herself “God” is “extremely offensive and has no basis in reality.” (In the trailer for subsequent season of RHOSLC, Mary is seen angrily telling cast-mate Lisa Barlow “I’m not God—I worship the God in me.”)

Faith Temple Pentecostal Church was began by Cosby’s grandmother Dr. Rosemary Redmon Cosby, recognized to her congregation as “Mama.” According to Faith Temple’s web site, Mama left her hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana, together with her 4 kids in January 1961 on a pilgrimage to Salt Lake City, believing she had been referred to as there by God.

In 1975, she married Robert Cosby, who was 20 years her junior, and he grew to become Bishop of Faith Temple. Over the years, Mama amassed a large fortune by means of the church and operating numerous companies, together with eating places. She owned three properties within the Salt Lake City space, a condominium in close by Zion Summit, in addition to a trip home in St. Cloud, Florida.

“God established through Mama, a church of ministers, as Elisha established a school of prophets,” Robert Cosby wrote on the church’s web site. “Mama teaching the ministers to be of one mind, going against everything that mainstream Christianity teaches and allowed God to manifest himself in her.”

The church was at its peak within the 1990s, with Rosebud and Ralph estimating at the very least 500 individuals packed into the pews on Sundays. Rosebud’s mom was so deeply invested within the church that Rosebud says she adopted Mama from Indiana to Utah, and that she herself was named in honor of Mama, whose first title is Rosemary.

Rosebud says her mom took her sisters and her to the church nearly on daily basis, and on Sunday they might be there from sunup till sunset. “That was our life,” she says. “They would give the adults weekly schedules. If you became a member of Mama’s church, you were dedicated to attending the whole weekly schedule.”

When congregants weren’t at Faith Temple, those that didn’t have full-time jobs exterior of the church did housekeeping at Mama’s home or at one in every of her numerous companies. Rosebud says her mom, who labored at an area hospital, did free work in her spare time at Mama’s balloon and flower store, or would go to Mama’s home to wash.

Abby says she was additionally made to work free of charge at one in every of Mama’s eating places. “I don’t even remember getting any money at all, to be honest with you,” she says. “I was just grateful that she chose me.”

Mama died from coronary heart failure on the age of 64 in January 1997, at her trip home in St. Cloud, Florida, abandoning a multimillion-dollar fortune. Her daughter Rosalind Cazares—Cosby’s mom—claimed Mama was in excellent well being earlier than her sudden loss of life and prompt her stepfather might have been the trigger, based on native experiences. Although a choose granted Cazares’ request to have Mama’s physique exhumed and have an post-mortem carried out, it was in the end decided that she died of pure causes.

Cosby claims that it was Mama’s want for her to marry her step grandfather, who she just isn’t associated to by blood, as a result of he was 20 years youthful than Mama. “My grandmother told me for herself that she wanted me to take her place,” Cosby beforehand stated. “My grandmother felt like she robbed his youth and so she said, ‘If something ever happens, I want you to marry one of my girls because I know they’ll be loyal to you and treat you good like you treated me.’”

“I did marry him,” she added. “I didn’t want to… That’s weird to me. But [my grandmother] really did want me to, so I obeyed her. I trusted every word.”

Cosby claimed they waited and prayed about their relationship for “two years” earlier than tying the knot. However, native experiences from the time declare they married in Chicago in September 1998. Cosby was 25 and Robert Cosby was 45.

Cosby’s marriage divided the church, prompting Cazares to separate from Faith Temple and begin her personal church, taking half of the congregation together with her, about 200 members, based on The Salt Lake Tribune. Cazares ended up submitting go well with in opposition to Robert Cosby, as soon as in 1997 and once more in 2007, claiming he had mishandled belongings from her mom’s multimillion-dollar property and meant to chop her out of her inheritance. (Cazares and Robert Cosby had each been made representatives of Mama’s property.)

“This includes the failure to identify and account for the articles of personal property that were given away, sold, destroyed or otherwise not preserved by defendant Cosby while he was acting as personal representative of the estate,” her 2007 go well with claimed. Cazares alleged that Mama’s signature had been cast on deeds and mortgages previous to her loss of life. A jury in the end dominated in Cazares’ favor, and ordered Robert Cosby and Faith Temple’s enterprise supervisor Annie Johnson to pay her $1.2 million.

Around the time Cazares left and divided the church in spring 1998, Ralph and a few of his members of the family left the church as properly. Not solely did he disapprove of the wedding, Ralph says, however he additionally didn’t consider that Mama or Cosby have been God. “I was raised hearing it all the time and watched the adults in my family worship [Mama] and say it all the time,” he explains. “Not only the adults in my family but her herself. She would preach it… It was beaten into our brains and psyche.”

Some sources say that whereas Mama’s management techniques have been questionable, the state of affairs at Faith Temple deteriorated considerably underneath Mary’s reign. One of probably the most stunning claims is the verbal dressing downs Cosby allegedly difficulty from the rostrum, singling out sure members of the church.

The male former member says underneath Cosby and Robert Cosby “it was all about money.” On Sundays, he alleges, there can be “grueling hours and hours of people badgered” for donations. “They would sit and demand money until they got a certain dollar figure, whatever [sum] was in their head before they let people go” he claims. “Now, that didn’t mean they had guns to your head, but they would shame you if you left. They would shame you if you didn’t give enough. So, it was a form of mental manipulation.”

“I witnessed Mary ridiculing [senior leaders] a couple of the times that I went back,” Ralph says. “There would be church meetings where [senior leaders] were picked apart and mentally beaten down in front of the entire congregation… She is blatantly making fun of, ridiculing, and verbally abusing her congregation members.”

There’s been a handful of Cosby’s sermons posted on YouTube, one in every of which was performed on the RHOSLC Season 1 reunion. In one explicit recording, Cosby will be heard calling her congregation poor and stingy, apparently over an absence of tithe cash coming into the church and never receiving sufficient birthday playing cards.

“You’re not in church, you think I’m stupid,” she asks. “Coming in here draining me? I ain’t preaching over y’all’s sin. I’m doing everything else, y’all ain’t helping. Halfway pay your tithes. I got 14 birthday cards. Your old stingy selves. You old poor people. I don’t want no poor people around me. You’re poor as hell. And if you ain’t poor, you stingy cause you still poor! God said you was poor.”

While many Christians consider in paying tithe to the church, round 10 % of their earnings, a number of sources say that each Mama and Cosby demanded a a lot larger share. Rosebud recollects that her mom was paying almost half of her checks to the church when it was led by Mama, taken from her wage as a cleaner at a hospital, the place Rosebud estimates her mom was making $5 an hour within the late 1990s.

“Mary and [her husband] require all of their members to give them way more money than their monthly tithes. They call them love offerings,” Ralph explains, saying that such donations saved his household in poverty and subjection.

“There were a lot of times we would come home [and] we had no lights because my mom said she had to pay her tithe, or she put a little extra in the collection plate for offerings,” Rosebud recollects of the sooner years of the church when it was led by Mama. “If [Mama or leadership found] out you gave two cents to anybody else’s church, they would go off. They will stand up there on the pulpit, and they will call you out.”

The feminine former congregation member, whose grandparents and mom have been additionally a part of the church, says she remembers individuals have been pressured handy over their meals stamps in these days. “My mom never had Christmas growing up because all the money [her parents] had for Christmas gifts were given to the church,” she says. “My grandpa got injured in the war and got a settlement of money and they took it from him, all of it. A lot of the members there are on food stamps, and they struggle to pay their own bills. They [would] make them give them everything.”

The male former member says Mama was at all times clear about the place the funds have been going. “Mama had the utmost respect for the people, she was transparent in everything, including financial situations within the church,” he says.”She didn’t conceal nothing from no one.” However, someplace down the road after Cosby married Robert Cosby, he claims “somebody had got an addiction to the finer life and saw that they [could] milk the church members for funds, and live this exotic life.”

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Abby says whereas she knew that Cosby and her husband have been rich because of inheriting Mama’s numerous companies, it wasn’t till seeing Cosby on RHOSLC that she realized the diploma of their wealth, describing the ostentatious show of Cosby’s properties as a slap within the face to her struggling congregation.

While church members have been used to visiting and doing family work at Mama and Robert Cosby’s marital home, Abby recollects that after Mama died, Robert Cosby addressed the church, saying issues can be totally different.

“I’ll never forget the bishop said, ‘This is not going to be the same as when Mama was here. Y’all abused her, wore her out, killed her. Now, I’m not going to be like that, you will not get my face, you’re not going to intrude upon my privacy, things are going to change.’”

“All of us never knew,” Abby says of seeing Cosby’s mansion and the rooms full of racks of designer garments. “That’s the first time we all saw what she had; it is overwhelming hoarding. We didn’t know that. We all did think, ‘Where’s all this money going?’ They said we were going to build a temple, a temple greater than the Mormon Temple. Seriously, we’ve been so damn poor. And that’s the first time in all these years I ever saw what they had.”

“I think it’s an abomination,” Walton provides, of his niece’s grand show of wealth on the present. “And it’s the worst thing that they explored it all on TV and got to be movie stars and stuff. And it’s ridiculous.”

“It’s ​​sickening to think about all the people on fixed income and to know friends and family that have took the equity out of their homes… because they gave to that,” the male former member says.

Abby believes that Mary and Robert Cosby are hellbent on utilizing the church to fund their extravagant life-style. “Trust me, whatever those people have, she takes,” she claims.

Several sources consider Mama and Cosby’s teachings go in opposition to elementary Christian beliefs by referring to themselves as God, in addition to permitting their congregants to confer with them as God, and by instilling fear in members that they won’t get to heaven until they consider in them and observe their teachings. “They felt like they were next to Jesus,” Rosebud says. “[Cosby] preaches that she is God on earth,” Ralph provides.

“Mary is trying to convince people that she’s God, or like this special mediator,” the ex male member explains. “That she has power that she can talk to God and she can decide where you’re going [heaven or hell]. Mary tries to equate herself to like a female Jesus.”

In an audio recording from one in every of Cosby’s sermons, Cosby tells the congregation, “You don’t just walk up back in here. You got to go through the door… For there’s one God, and one mediator between God and man. Who do you think that is?” A congregation member seems to name out, “You, Mary!”

“I don’t know, I ain’t say it,” Cosby responds. “But you ain’t coming back unless you come through me, I know that. I know the father, honey, and he comes to me.”

“They put the fear in you, that if you don’t go to that church, you’re going to go to hell,” the feminine former member says. “My mom has some issues with the damnation of feeling like she’s going to hell. As a grown adult, she has it beaten into her head, that’s the only way. She just is so torn in her heart knowing that it’s not the truth, but because she believed that for so long… I mean, it’s brainwashing.”

Rosebud says she felt compelled to talk out after watching Cosby on The Real Housewives, and in anticipation of Bravo not taking the cult allegations as significantly as they deserve. Abby and Rosebud say they need their kinfolk and others who’re nonetheless at Faith Temple to understand what’s occurring round them. “Their brains are still clouded, and they’re still devoted,” Rosebud says. “They don’t see anything wrong.”

Ralph echoed their sentiments. “I would tell them to open their eyes and really examine what has happened,” he provides. “In their heart of hearts, they have to know that God left the leadership of Faith Temple long ago and is now only in their hearts. I would behest them to run for their lives as fast as they can away from her and [Robert Cosby]. To protect whatever faith they may still have and try to start healing. [The congregation] is faithful to a fault, and what has happened to them is just heartbreaking.”

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