“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.” ― George Bernard Shaw, link
Today, you are going to read an amazingly transparent testimony of Michelle Freeman, a former member of Calvary Temple. She opens up her life to us, never shying away from self examination as she brings us inside a church that caused the break up of her family. I think her willingness to look inside herself while, at the same time, assessing the pressures that were placed on her from the time she entered Calvary Temple make for a compelling tale of courage, pain, failure, faith and redemption.Frankly, her willingness to share her life, the good and the difficult, with us is nothing short of courageous. I am sure her insights will help many people who find themselves trapped in a cultlike environment.
Thank you, Michelle.
Even now, after all these years, after leaving in December 2007, I still sometimes wonder how in the world I allowed my family to be destroyed by Bob Scott and Calvary Temple. While I know that it wasn't intentional…the destroyed family part…I honestly believed that Calvary Temple was a safe place to raise my boys. Although my ex-husband never attended the church, and openly disliked Bob Scott, I believed that through prayer, his heart would be changed and he would then become a member, joining his family. Not only did that not happen, he divorced me because of Calvary Temple.
I guess I should go back to the beginning…just how did my sons and I wind up at Calvary Temple?
Growing up in western Pennsylvania, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, also known as “born again” in the Methodist Church, but by senior year, I was working and had fallen away from church, also known as "backslidden". My mom had divorced my dad and on the night of my high school graduation, we moved to Northern Virginia. This was 1978, and by 1979, I was a USPS employee.
I was 18 years old when I first met Bruce Dimsey. I was taking the pre-hire dexterity training at the Merrifield mail processing plant and Bruce Dimsey was the trainer. He was nice enough, and then after I passed the training and was eventually hired, Bruce was again the person in the training room who directed my training. He was friendly, and affable, and partied with others in the crowd I hung out with.
Not too long after, Bruce soon seemed changed…when asked, he told me that he had been "saved" and was attending a church called Calvary Temple in Sterling, VA and was pastored by a man named Star Scott. I kid you not…my first thought was, "what kind of name is that? What kind of name is that for a church? It sounds like a cult!"
Fast forward, I started dating my future husband, and after 3 years, we married, and soon after started our family. My oldest son was born in 1987, and our second son was born in 1990. In the meantime, my husband and I had already decided that we didn't want our children raised in the public school system, and both boys attended a Montessori school in Warrenton, VA.
Meanwhile, I knew that I wanted my boys to be raised Christian, and I soon began having conversations with Bruce about salvation, and church, and more. Bruce had also given me cassette tapes of Bob Scott, Kenneth Copeland, and Kenneth Hagen to listen to in the car. I remember that I really wasn’t all that interested in listening to the Bob Scott teachings, so I listened to the others first. I liked them enough, but then I finally put in one of Bob’s teachings. I have to say that I thought the level of teaching was high, and that I really liked what I heard.
Coming from a Methodist background, and having attended an Episcopalian church for the year prior to joining Calvary Temple, I was used to 20-minute canned sermons that didn’t really have too much meat in them. I shared all of this with Bruce and that was when he encouraged me to visit Calvary Temple, and I did just that on a Wednesday night in April 1995. Star Scott did not "teach" that night, instead Richard Miller was there in his place. Richard, I thought had done a great job…he had a white board and was going through the points that he wanted to make in what I thought was a clear and concise manner…I was hooked.
By summer, the boys and I were driving to every service, and I remember standing in the parking lot of the Post Office telling my husband that I wanted three things:
- To join Calvary Temple Church
- for the boys to attend Calvary Temple School, and
- to move to Sterling, VA.
By that October, all three things had come true.
As a mom, I delved right in…I wanted to be a mom that was actively engaged in her children’s activities. Even though I was a working mom, I hoped that working wouldn’t be a hindrance to raising my children. Everyone that attended Calvary Temple, both the church and the school, seemed so nice and warm and I made friends quickly. The church and school were well-tended to, and it seemed that everyone always came to church, were fully committed and on fire for the Lord.
Although he never attended services, my husband came out to the boys’ activities, whether sports, field trips, and parent-teacher conferences. Dale was, and still is, an excellent father. He knew just about everyone who attended Calvary Temple, attended social gatherings outside of CT sanctioned events, and we vacationed with many of the families there.
My boys were well-behaved, so there were very few occasions of corporal punishment at the school. The school used the A Beka Education books, a well-known program used by home schoolers. I was satisfied that my boys were receiving a good education.
Basketball was the sport of choice for the school program because at a minimum you only needed 5 players. My oldest son excelled at the sport, while my youngest, even though he wasn’t very interested in sports, was made to participate.Eevery student, boy or girl, had to participate in basketball or cheerleading – there was no choice.
As the years progressed, in my eyes everything seemed fine. However, it as evident that my husband was growing unhappy. I didn’t know what to do about it. To me, serving Jesus was a choice that I was not going to abandon, and I truly believed that Calvary Temple was the best place to do that. I did realize that Dale did not like the church, but he never told me that he no longer wanted the boys or me to go there.
In 2002, when my oldest son, Stuart, was in 8th grade, he told me that he no longer wanted to attend Calvary Temple. I blamed my husband for his change of heart and I talked Stuart into staying.
Then in 2006, halfway through 10th grade, my youngest son, Channing, told me that he and four other boys wanted to leave Calvary Temple. There was no talking him out of it. There were meetings, I made Channing read Christian books, hoping he would change his mind, but he didn’t.
Then the unthinkable happened. We parents of the now “Famous Five” (Channing and the other 4 boys who wanted to leave) were counseled by Calvary Temple leadership to treat our sons as if they were dead. We were told that in Deuteronomy, rebellious children were taken to the gate and stoned to death. Since we could not legally and literally stone our sons, we were to treat them as dead – no new clothes; they had to ask for every bite of food they ate, etc.
My stomach was sick! I loved my son! How could I treat him as if he were dead? What about Luke 15 (The Parable of the Prodigal Son?) The father did not treat his prodigal son as if he were dead…he loved him and he watched for his return! God forgive me, I did as I was told, but that only lasted for about one week. I couldn’t do it! I just could not treat my young son, my questioning son, my brave son…as if he were dead. I enrolled Channing in public high school, the very place I never wanted him to be, and…
…then the discussions with my husband started. Can you imagine my trying to explain all of this to him? Trying to convince him that this all was best for our son? Dale grew more and more quiet…
Another blow to our marriage and family was when our oldest son graduated from Calvary Temple School June of 2006. Calvary Temple leadership had sent down an edict that Dale (my husband) could not attend the graduation. Why? They said it was because he did not attend church. God forgive me, I relayed the news to my husband. This man who was such a good father…had attended everything that involved our children; had driven to Tennessee, staying awake all night, several years in a row, just to attend NACA basketball tournaments…this good man could not attend his oldest son’s graduation…and I allowed it…
…and then in October 2006, my husband quietly told me one day that he wanted a divorce. He told me that he couldn’t live like this any more, meaning live like Calvary Temple wanted us to live. I was devastated, absolutely devastated, but still…I did not see…
We reconciled on Thanksgiving Day, and the next few months were tense, to say the least…and I did not see, and I changed nothing…
On a winter day in February 2007, a week after our Anniversary; after 21 years of marriage, my husband was done. He asked me a second time for a divorce. I knew that he was serious and that there was no turning back for him. Again, I was devastated. But still, I did not see; I changed nothing. If anything, this made me even more committed.
But God began to remove the scales from my eyes. Little by little, as I packed up half of the belongings in my house, as I looked for a rental for my oldest son and I; as I watched my family implode right before my eyes…I also began to see what Calvary Temple and Bob Scott really were.
In Calvary Temple, everyone is expected to attend the following:
- every service,
- prayer nights on Tuesday and Thursday,
- outreaches, basketball games,
- Home Fellowship Groups,
- Men’s breakfast,
- and on and on.
Congregants are expected to carry notebooks with them, and take fastidious and copious notes from Bob Scott’s teachings, to get the “nuggets” that only the “Man of God” can speak to us. The first years that I attended, I filled page after page in my notebook; I was an excellent student.
In around 2006, I wrote less and less; Bob Scott was no longer teaching but appeared to be talking in circles. Most of the services he stood in the pulpit and delivered what I would call *sanctioned gossip*. There seemed to be constant drama and strife going on in Calvary Temple families, in the Young Adult group, and with the kids in school.
I can honestly say that I believe that the majority of congregants attended the services so that they can hear this gossip. I have since disposed of my notebooks. Towards the end of my tenure there, I believe that Bob Scott said nothing of use from the pulpit. In fact, my notebook was full of doodles, or comments about Bob Scott. Here is one example.
“What did he just say? He just contradicted himself again! I have just spent an hour sitting here listening to nothing!”
I started questioning my deacon, as well as others in my Home Group. I noted that the Young Adults were biting and devouring one another. The Captains (leaders) were essentially spying on the young adults, which now included my oldest son, and reported their findings to those above them. The Captains would befriend the young adults, gain their confidence, and then report up. In other words, talking about people was encouraged.
I remember Bob Scott saying several times that
“You are never wrong in reporting up.”
I asked others in the church about the example of Luke 15. David Wilkerson had published a tremendous newsletter regarding Luke 15 and how a prodigal child was to be treated. We parents copied that newsletter and shared it with one another, encouraged by the stand that we had taken to love our sons, not discard them. Then, Bob Scott publicly denounced David Wilkerson from the pulpit.
I began to see more and more…the scales were coming off quickly now. I started having clandestine conversations with other members who were also noticing the same things. As I moved my oldest son and me out of our home, leaving my youngest son and estranged husband behind, I finally understood just what was happening to my destroyed family. I felt powerless to stop the destruction…
I realized that I was being now watched. Bob Scott’s daughter, Kimberly, and his wife, Greer, were watching me. They watched who I talked to. They sent me text messages and emails if I missed a service or an event.
As time went on, I was brought into meetings with my deacon, and then I finally was told to meet with Bob Scott, Greer, Kimberly, Kimberly's husband, youth pastor Jeff Heglund, and several other pastors. I asked about Luke 15. I also brought up Galatians 5 – that this ministry had put us back under the law making Jesus’ blood of no effect.
I remember that Bob Scott said almost nothing. The only thing that I can firmly remember was him saying, “Well, yes, I guess that you can look at it that way…”
I also remember leaving that meeting feeling as if they had satisfied my questions. Essentially the scales were trying to come back o. Then, I remember saying,
“Wait a minute! Again, he said nothing! He addressed nothing!”
Two more specific events are important to my story. The first incident a very close girlfriend. On my birthday, she took me down to the pond located on the property and proceeded to castigated because I still loved my husband and son! She claimed that I wasn’t obeying leadership, and she was *concerned* for me. She even went so far as to visibly shudder because I had told her that I still loved my husband and if he wanted to make love to me, I would love him in a heartbeat. I was in shock! How could my friend, who knew how much I loved my husband, who knew how devastated I was, how hurt and confused I was by the destruction of my family…how could she not want my family to be restored? I was done. God severed my relationship with my friend.
The second occurrence was this. I was sitting in a service, most likely doodling and daydreaming about being anywhere else but at Calvary Temple. Bob Scott was droning on from the pulpit, and I will never forget this as long as I live. I heard him growl like the wolf that he is. One of my friends who also was seeing the truth about Calvary told me that at the same time I heard him growl, she saw the mask removed for an instant and saw the wolf.
I knew it was time…I had planned on leaving Calvary Temple by New Year’s Day 2008. I had made a commitment to help with the Children’s Christmas Program. Bruce Dimsey and his wife had invited Stu and me to their house for Christmas dinner. Not wanting to go back on a commitment, I was going to see these last two things through and then leave. But God had other plans. It was a Friday night, two weeks before Christmas. I was in our rental home, painting. I had not attended the Friday night basketball games and I received text messages from Kimberly Heglund, asking where I was. She said, “Where’s the Michelle that we once knew?” As with hearing Bob Scott growl, I literally felt the hand of God on the middle of my back, pushing me out of Calvary Temple. I left that night and never set foot in Calvary Temple again.
Other important events were still to happen. My oldest son still attended the church. Although I knew that he was beginning to see, I was trying to persuade him to leave. That was the exact opposite of what I did when he was in the 8th grade. He told me, with tears in his eyes, that if
“I was talking about Calvary Temple, then I was talking about him.”
Meaning, if I was saying that Calvary Temple was a cult and that Bob Scott was a wolf, I was essentially saying the same things about him. I knew from that point on that all I could do was love my son, and pray for the scales to be removed from his eyes.
I started attending a sweet little Nazarene Church after leaving CT. We did have prayer on Sunday evenings, and for months it seemed that our prayer time was focused on Calvary Temple. We prayed that the congregant’s eyes would be opened and that they would see CT for what it truly is. I remember distinctly one Sunday night that I never sat down. I stood praying the entire time. When I left that night, I knew that the heart of one of my kids, or my husband, had changed.
That Tuesday night, my oldest son came up into my room after CT prayer and skit practice…he held my hand. I woke up and asked him if everything was okay? How was skit practice? To which he replied that it was okay. He told me that Jon Miller and Mark Perozich had talked to him afterwards, but he did not go into details. It turns out that they had approached Stu and told him that leadership was directing Stu to move “out of his mother’s house in the middle of the night” and that if he didn’t, he would be put on visitor’s status and would not be allowed to participate in any CT activities. He would only be permitted to attend church, and would not be allowed to talk to anyone. My son made his decision…by that Wednesday, my son had left Calvary Temple for good!
My youngest son graduated from Potomac Falls High School and is a gifted writer, musician, and artist. My oldest son is a rural carrier for the USPS and is married to a wonderful woman, who is also a youth pastor. Unfortunately, after five years, my husband finalized his divorce from me.
As for me, I have been actively speaking out against Calvary Temple since 2007. My ex-husband was responsible for two significant events that happened in 2008 and 2009. He called Michelle Boorstein from the Washington Post. Michelle’s article was on the front page of the November 16, 2008, newspaper, which by design was published on the anniversary of the Jim Jones and Jonestown Massacre. Dale also sent a letter to the IRS which resulted in a very large investigation that almost landed Bob Scott in jail. Instead, he was merely fined. For a man worth millions, that was only a slap on the wrist.
My youngest son and I still have a strained relationship. My ex-husband and I have not spoken in over three years. My relationship with my oldest son and his wife is fine.
Hindsight being what it is, I can now remember things that should have had me grabbing my sons and running as far away from Calvary Temple as I could. Here are some examples.:
- Bob Scott and his wife Janet, as well as the other pastoral staff never greeted visitors
- Bob Scott and his wife Janet, as well as the other pastoral staff never introduced themselves to my husband, even though they knew that he wasn’t saved.
- When we first started attending CT, my youngest son was only five, and in kindergarten. A woman who attended CT was watching my boys after school until I could pick them up after work. I remember early on, going to her house, only to find that she had my young, sweet son on the counter and he was sobbing…she had spanked him and was trying to get him to confess that he had lied. I was devastated…but still I stayed.
- My husband never liked Bob Scott and he could never understand how he could have the race cars and drive the expensive cars that he did…I should have trusted my husband’s opinion…why didn’t I?
- The discipline of grown adults was very controlling, and I watched this, and in many ways condoned this.
- Three weeks after Bob Scott’s wife of 30+ years died of cancer, at the age of 55 he married a 19-year old virgin after proclaiming that he was the High Priest, and was not permitted to mourn his wife, and that he was to marry a virgin. I remember thinking…wait a minute! Jesus is our High Priest, but as with everything else, I pushed those thoughts down.
- I believe that Bob Scott has stolen from the congregation by instituting the tithe, the double and triple tithe, missions, offerings, specifically the Joash Chest raking in over $600,000 for a new church building that never got off the ground.
After leaving Calvary Temple, I had to take everything that I thought that I knew about Jesus and the Bible and strip it all of Bob Scott. I rejected everything that Bob Scott taught and studied for myself…
However, in spite of this, my family is still destroyed. I have moved on for the most part. I work two jobs, and I put myself through college earning a Bachelors degree in 2012. I will retire from the USPS in July of this year after serving over 36 years. I am a happy and kind person.
But I believe with all of my heart that Calvary Temple is a cult. I believe that Calvary Temple is a spiritually abusive and authoritative place. I believe that the congregants are supernaturally blind and I continue to pray that the scales will be removed from their eyes.
I believe the allegations of sexual and physical abuse of minors, and I believe that Bob Scott thinks that he is above the law. I pray that justice will be served for the children who were harmed as well as for the men and women who have been berated as well as psychologically and spiritually abused. I pray for the destroyed families like mine.
And I will not stop speaking out.