Ex-pastor Carl Lentz couldn’t have picked a better time to be excommunicated from Hillsong Church, as many former members of the religious institution are now accusing it of “slave labor”!
Nicole Herman, who co-founded Hillsong LA in 2013 and since accused church leadership of “abuse of volunteers and real, amazing people,” made her Instagram public this weekend so anyone could reach out with church-related complaints. She wrote in an IG Story on Saturday:
“I’m here to help anyone with a broken heart as well as a million other amazing people who left this cult.”
In an interview with the New York Post on Wednesday, Herman said she was flooded with traumatic Hillsong stories. One of those accusers was Yolandi Bosch (above, left inset), who told the outlet that she and hundreds of other former staffers, students, and volunteers are currently looking for legal representation so they can file a complaint of what they describe as “industrial slave labor” against Hillsong to the Parliament of Australia, since the church was founded Down Under.
Bosch went on to detail her awful experience at the church’s eponymous college in 2012, telling The Post:
“They convinced me to drop everything I was interested in becoming.”
Yeah, definitely not what we would consider good spiritual guidance.
The now 32-year-old alleged that a rep for Hillsong College, the school affiliated with the church, convinced her to give up a career in film and move from South Africa to Australia to attend the Christian program. She claimed she was immediately asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement preventing her from speaking out about her experiences there without permission (usually a red flag, y’all). While Bosch didn’t sign the NDA, she said the school quickly began controlling her life, sharing:
“You had to ask a pastor’s permission to date. They had to choose the person you dated as well. If they don’t think your relationship is what they like, they’ll tell you it’s not permissible.”
Seeing as the church has, like many other religious institutions, been accused of homophobia, we think we can safely assume same-sex relationships were considered “not permissible.” But Bosch said Hillsong took it to an even bigger extreme: when a student ratted on her for sleeping on the couch of a platonic male friend after a housing mixup, she claimed that she and the male friend “weren’t allowed to ever talk again.”
It didn’t stop there. Bosch alleged the administration encouraged the residents of the female dorm she was eventually moved into to bully her, stalk her, and report on her daily purchases to a church-assigned mentor. She recalled:
“They would pretend like it was normal, for them to follow me around.”
Aside from watching her every move, Bosch claimed the church also pressured her to wear more “girly” clothes and to go blonde. She alleged:
“They were obsessed with trying to change me — they tried to break me down. They hated my black hair. I was told it looked demonic.”
Overall, Bosch said the experience “felt like a reality show” and says “it’s really a cult,” which she believes many members were subjected to as a test to find out “who can be onstage and who they can misuse for volunteering.” As for how these volunteers were misused? Herman claimed Hillsong leadership would abuse volunteers and members to fulfill their “petty needs” under the guise of a practice called “honoring.”
While this is all terrible, it sounds like these claims are just the tip of the iceberg — and we’ll surely be keeping an eye out for the expected avalanche of complaints to come.