Light of the World ex-member describes abuse

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Beneath the Light of the World Church there is a shadow, according to an ex-member who spoke out exclusively to Eyewitness News to warn others.

"It has been traumatizing to be part of that community where you are oppressed and controlled," said a former member who wishes to remain anonymous.

He hopes that the sex crime investigation of the church's proclaimed apostle, Naason Joaquin Garcia, will reveal the church's cult-like practices, such as corporal punishment for children who violate church rules.

RELATED: Legal team for La Luz del Mundo church leader facing sex charges says he's wrongly accused

"My mother would beat me. My mother and father would beat me and I would run away from home so I wouldn't have to experience that," said the former member.

He describes two worlds in a ministry that has as many as 5 million followers. The youth are forbidden to have friends outside the faith. No movies, concerts or dancing. Yet, he says that Garcia has young girls dance for him at his birthday parties.

"Growing up in the church, one of the things that at everybody was taught was to never doubt his sanctity as someone who is viewed as an angel of God on earth," the former member said.

RELATED: Bail set at $50 million for La Luz del Mundo church leader facing sex charges

Among the 26 felony counts filed against the married 50-year-old and three co-defendants is that he asked minor girls to perform in a "flirty" way with "as little clothing as possible."

He's also accused of child sex trafficking, pornography and forcible rape. The State Attorney General Xavier Becerra has made a plea for other potential victims to call a state hotline, (323) 765-2100.

"No law of human kind and certainly no law of God would permit what Naason Joaquin Garcia is alleged to have committed," said Becerra at a Sacramento news conference.

The church member turned whistleblower said that the church has been struggling to keep teens in the fold. Smartphones have enabled them to see other views of the world and question authority. The church instructs parents to shun even a child for disobedience.

"One of the primary teachings is to disown children. They talk about removing non-believers as cancerous tumors because they are more dangerous to the family," the ex-member said.

He said that there are many young people who have suffered abuse and family estrangement. They have created their own social media community on Reddit called EX-LLDM, which stands for La Luz Del Mundo.

"If they truly are a church of the Light of the World, the people there really need to look for that light and that truth," the ex-member said.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.