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New Year, New Lawsuit for Olivet University

David Jang’s U.S. operations face continuing problems

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World Olivet Assembly, a movement founded by controversial Korean-born leader David Jang, continues to face legal problems in the U.S.

A group of four students from Jang’s Olivet University in California have sued the school, claiming they were victims of trafficking and visa fraud. Promised scholarships and schooling, they say they were largely confined to campus and forced to provide unpaid manual labor in violation of U.S. law.

Evidence submitted in a separate wire fraud and racketeering lawsuit that World Olivet Assembly settled last August sheds light on how Jang’s movement moves money between companies it quickly creates and closes down.

The lawsuits were reported by Newsweek, the once venerable newsweekly that was led by disciples of Jang’s but is now owned by two former disciples who have turned on Jang and have aggressively covered the movement’s problems.

In addition, World Olivet Assembly has long used its affiliation with the World Evangelical Alliance to mainstream Jang and defend him against charges of heresy. But last June, WEA severed ties with groups related to Jang.

Ongoing problems at Olivet University

In 2018, an Olivet student named Rebecca Singh called 911 to report that she was being held against her will at the campus in Anza. Agents from Homeland Security Investigations raided the campus in 2021. An investigation is ongoing.

Now Singh and three other students who came to America on student visas arranged by the school have sued Olivet, claiming they were victims of Jang’s global trafficking scheme to exploit disciples in the movement’s schools and business ventures around the world.

 

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Olivet denies the claims and has countersued the four students. The lawsuit came as Olivet’s accreditation hung in the balance. The Association for Biblical Higher Education put Olivet on its “Accredited Institution on Warning” status last November, but has now labeled it as an “Accredited Institution.” Newsweek, which is owned by former members of Jang’s sect, wrote:

The accreditor declined to affirm Olivet’s status beyond the next year until a legal dispute with California’s education regulator is resolved. “Action on reaffirmation is deferred for one year in light of a pending action by the State of California,” ABHE said. ABHE did not respond to Newsweek’s email requesting comment.

California’s education regulator has filed an administrative suit that would shut down Olivet after education inspectors searched its campuses in the state and found 14 alleged violations. Olivet has rejected the accusations. Monica Vargas, a spokesperson for California’s regulator, said ABHE’s decision would have no bearing on the state’s case.

International Business Times, which is owned by Jang’s disciples, regularly criticizes Newsweek’s reporting on Jang’s operations, including its report on the Olivet lawsuit, which it called “A Tempest in a Teapot.” “Covert Team Inside Newsweek Revealed as Key Players in False Human Trafficking Lawsuit,” claimed IBT.

Lawsuit exposes Jang’s modus operandi

Last September, World Olivet Assembly settled a lawsuit that claimed WOA had engaged in wire fraud and racketeering by defrauding the Texas-based e-commerce lender 8fig out of millions of dollars that were illegally distributed to a network of 17 Jang-related institutions and individuals.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the lawsuit reveals how WOA, known internally as the “Community,” seeks to raise revenue and promote its mission through three “arks” designed to protect the Community from a “second flood:” a media ark, a university ark and an e-commerce ark.

“The Community is a denomination of churches and para-churches originating from South Korea and headed by Pastor David Jang,” said the lawsuit.” The Community employs a variety of businesses and outlets to (1) fund the Community, (2) spread its worldview, and (3) control the narrative around the Community.”

“The Community uses various media platforms such as the IBT Times, Christian Media Corporation International, Christian Today, Christian Post, and Tech Times to generate revenue from ads as well as protect the Community’s image via the press.”

The lawsuit listed Jang’s universities in Washington, D.C., St. Louis, Missouri, and Nashville, as well as two new institutions: Great Commission University in Howe, Indiana, and Jubilee University in Lexington, Missouri.

The suit claims all the Jang-affiliated groups “held a common purpose to financially support the World Olivet Assembly through illegal wire and mail fraud.”

MinistryWatch has reported on Jang-related groups for years.

In 2020, Olivet University pleaded guilty to falsifying business records in connection with a money-laundering scheme.

Main photo: Pastor David Jang / Photo by Hto0501/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

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Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.

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