Church Accused of Running Abusive Internship Program

Last week, a gentleman by the name of Branden Palesano left a strongly worded note about church internships on his Facebook page. Check it out:

That’s scary. Internships and organized religion are emotionally and mentally abusive enough on their own, so just imagine what type of preachy, coffee-carrying, file cabinet organizing hell church interns must go through on the reg. Oh well, at least they’re not interns at the State Capitol.

The place of worship that Brandon was apparently referring to is Church of the Harvest. I, admittedly, don’t follow the OKC church scene all that closely, but based on its website, I guess it’s one of those LifeChurch.TV-style places where everyone puts on their nicest jeans to gather and dance to shitty live Christian rock music while washing away their Saturday night sin.

Brandon’s post at one point generated over 4,500 comments. In many of them, people openly accused the church’s leadership of enabling, allowing and conducting multiple forms of abuse, while others shared their own terrible experiences working in the church’s internship program, which apparently had a lot in common with Oklahoma’s slave labor drug rehab centers.


That’s just .01% of the comments in the thread. You may notice the last one start’s with “No sexual assault but…”

Well, that’s because some comments in the thread did allege sexual misconduct by individuals at the church. Some of those comments appear to have been deleted or hidden, and without proper vetting I’m not sure if I could share them either way for legal reasons, but you may be hearing more about that stuff very soon.

In the meantime, if you have any horror stories to share about a church internship or church experience in general, I guess leave a comment on that Facebook post. If you want to leave a negative Yelp! review, you can do that here.

Update: The victims have put together this collective statement.

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18 Responses

  1. If you think this is bad you ought to learn about the Mormon missionary program. Having lived and worked in Utah I learned some of the details about this scam. Yeah, everyone has seen them riding bikes and doing their door-to-door sales thing, and there’s the Broadway Play, but here are a few little-knowns I have learned: 1) they are paying for this “spiritual experience”, several hundred $$ a month, even if they’re sent to the middle-of-nowhere, where the cost of living is a fraction of that, 2) they volunteer without knowing where they will be sent, 3) they work a lot in 3rd world countries and sketchy neighborhoods of the US where people are vulnerable, 4) they’re expected to work from around 7 am to 9 pm, 6 days per week, 5) they work at the behest of the “Mission President” who is generally paid a 6-figure “cost-of-living stipend”, you know to avoid paying employment taxes, and can tell them to do whatever he wants and controls things like whether they are sick enough to go see a doctor, 6) their contact with their parents extremely limited (they are typically just 18-21 years old, first time away from home), 6) a large majority of the people they get baptized don’t really know what they’re getting into and thus get out or just stop showing-up within a year — but gotta get those numbers up! The real purpose seems to be to program the missionaries from wet-behind-the-ears kids into hard-core-full-gonzo members.

  2. Need to investigate Life Church if haven’t already. They have all these pastors such as hosting; 3 or 4 for children, 1 or 2 for Switch. They have the main pastors. But what do these pastors do? They get so many volunteers in to do all the work. The host team pastor gets other host team volunteers to train new members. they don’t meet them every church service, some volunteer leads the host team groups. the new host team. They get another volunteer do that. The children’s pastors, I think the position was curriculum. What curriculum, it sent to you!! They didn’t train, just like all the other pastors. they have volunteers do all the work. It seems just a title and a glorified position. Need to set up for an event. Volunteers!!! But they are sure out there greeting every service. I guess their paid greeters. Then you have the sleeping around in the volunteer groups. At a certain church, a male volunteer in the children area, would sleep with the other single volunteer moms and it was known. And seems these volunteers don’t pay attention to any of the teachings, because they haven’t changed in years!! Still shady activities! but back to the pastors, would like them to give detail on what they actually do for a week and time it takes to do it.

    1. It sort of sounds like a pyramid scheme, and because there’s a WHOLE LOT of “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” there seems to be little oversight when something goes awry or something inappropriate happens.

      1. It DOES sound like a pyramid scheme. But that’s soooo Egyptian, not Christian at all.

  3. I use to pass by the church on my way back to Stillwater. The name scared the hell out of me. Church of the Harvest? It sounds like a cult. “Welcome to church of the Harvest. We’re here to harvest your soul”.

    1. It does have a certain “Children of the Corn” ring to it, doesn’t it?

    2. How about the Covid Coral? That would work for the donald freak show Saturday as well.


    It appears that his wife has discovered that the pastor isn’t that great of a guy.

  5. Don’t worry, your reward is in Heaven. I here God pays time and a half for Sunday work.

  6. If you insist on raising your kids with church in their lives, keep a close eye on them. No church is immune to creepy abuse.

    Why doesn’t God open the earth to swallow miscreants, like he did in the Old Testament? I don’t know.

    1. Because if he did that donald wouldn’t be President.

  7. When I was a kid we went to Olivet Baptist church on the bus every week. Our parents weren’t really much interested but wanted us to have a strong foundation. What they didn’t know was one of our pastors was a creepo. During an Easter pageant while I sat next to him and watched fake Jesus hung on the cross he defiled my young innocent self. I learned that no “Christian” was above the lust of men. I know that man is gone today but that drive lives on in ugly hearts all across the religious world.

  8. I used to go to the Church of the Harvest ages ago when I was a kid, and went to their summer camp one year. It grew a lot after my family stopped going there, I believe because they didn’t agree with what tithe money was going to.

  9. These “churches” need to be taxed like any other for profit business. That’s what they are & they are a HOAX!!!

    1. For profit, non prophet. Same thing.

  10. I guess I don’t get what an internship is in this situation. Is it an alternative to homelessness? Is it addiction treatment? Is it a fast track to become a church minister without the need for a Divinity degree? What’s the gain of entering such an internship? Or is internship the new word for volunteer training?

    I’ve never been to a church that had such an internship, thank God, which is why it just doesn’t make sense to me. I feel bad for anyone who has suffered religious abuse and can relate on some level. I was a child of the 70’s church bus craze as well as from a broken home, which equaled lots of people saying terrible things to me and my sister in hopes of changing our lives with one magic sentence. That alone kept me from church for over two decades. I can’t imagine trying to separate God from the abusers on such a large scale as this. It took me long enough over a few hateful words.

  11. Thanks for writing about this. The Church of the Harvest stories are just now coming out. I attended for several years, and had previously attended their Youth America camp from 7th grade until 12th grade. This makes me so sad. So many people I know were directly impacted.

  12. “Hmmmm. If only I could invent an imaginary figure who is the Supreme Commandant of the Universe. Kind of a cross between The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Superman, and Wally Cox. And then, I could claim that I was “his” representative, and for the low low price of only [insert tithe amount here] I could promise the unsuspecting fan-boys of this “god” eternal salvation, or TRIPLE their money back!

    I bet I could sure make a lot of money doing that. Hey, and maybe get people to worship ME alongside the comic book character I created!!!! It would be like being Stan Lee, except without morals or actual scruples, or anything. Maybe I could even get a Cadillac out of the deal, or a private jet!

    I’d need to write everything down….hmmm, how about this: In the beginning….yeah, that’s a good place to start.”

    And so was born the Church of the Divine Dollar Bill, and the rest is history.

    The end. Or is it?

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