Several Daily Voice readers say they've been aggressively approached in a variety of locations throughout Bergen County by members of the World Mission Society Church of God, which has congregations in Bogota and Ridgewood.
Local police say there's little they can do, however, if the purported victims don't report the incidents to them.
"These people are always at the Paramus Park Mall stopping people," Zeina Mansilla of Rochelle Park said. "At the point when they start talking, I keep walking."
"They have approached me several times in the Ramsey Shoprite and in Five Below," Amanda Breslin of Mahwah said. "I made the mistake of giving one girl my cell number. The texts were relentless. She made sure to mention to me that my toddler was welcome too and that there were babysitters at the church.
"The women are pushy and scary."
One woman posted on Facebook that her brother's friend was "stalked and followed" to her car in the Teterboro Walmart parking lot last week by a group member wearing a "Mother of God" jacket.
Both Moonachie and South Hackensack police said they never received any reports matching the Facebook post, however. Police in several other towns said the same thing.
"Most people probably brush it off like I did a few years ago [in Saddle Brook and Garfield]," Amanda Torres wrote. "The conversation didn't get past a question, but they were following and leering. I would have thought the police would laugh at me or have more important issues."
The one and only recent report substantiated by police comes from Hasbrouck Heights, where a 21-year-old resident said a woman claiming to be from the church knocked on her front door and tried to force her way inside on the Fourth of July. The stranger stuck her foot in the door but was bitten on the leg by her dog and fled in a waiting car, she said.
Over the past several months, unsubstantiated reports have popped up throughout the country of World Mission Society Church members using religion as a front for sex trafficking.
Authorities have unanimously agreed that the human trafficking angle appears nothing more than an urban myth: Narrow Brush with Human Traffickers at a Southern California IKEA?
(A similar story spread across college campuses earlier this year: There is no sex trafficking Bible group trying to kidnap you from campus . )
Former members have gone to court accusing the World Mission Society Church of being a "doomsday cult" that scares people into joining and donating money. Church officials said the accusations were unfounded.
The church -- which began in South Korea in 1964 before expanding to other parts of the world -- believes that co-founder Jang Gil-ja of South Korea is, in fact, "God the Mother" in the flesh.
It claims to have 2,200 churches in 150 countries with 1.7 million members -- including more than 660 in Bergen County.
"The biggest difference between our Church and other churches" is that "we believe in God the Mother as well as God the Father," the WMSC says. "According to the prophecies of the Bible, God the Mother is to appear in the last age of redemption."
Church members participate in publicized community cleanups and offer help for "spiritual needs" during disasters, it says.
Church missionary Victor Lozda insisted members had nothing to do with the reported incidents in Bergen County. Unfortunately, he said, church members are now being harassed over the reports.
"The incidents involving sex/human trafficking were already cleared out and people were able to see that it was nothing but a bad case of Internet rumors being sensationalized," Lozda wrote in an email to Daily Voice.
"Our Church has been operating in Bergen County for over 12 years, and we have never had any such accusations made about our Church members. In fact, the total opposite has been said about our group as we often work with the public and public officials to make Bergen County better for all of our neighbors," he added.
If the incidents cited by readers are true, police say, they could constitute harassment. If you are uncomfortable to the point of feeling threatened, they urge that you seek out a safe area and call 911.
Victims "need to contact the police if they find these ppl harassing them," a New Jersey State Police dispatcher said. "Nothing can be done if they aren’t reported."
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