A controversial church leader from New Jersey, who was sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to stealing the church’s funds, died from coronavirus earlier this month, the church said in a letter.
Jermaine Grant, of Burlington Township, who led the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ church in Harlem, was 44.
He was known to his devout followers as the Holy God Sent Comforter and Chief High Priest Tazadaqyah, but some members who have left the church described him as a cult leader who gained complete influence of his follower’s lives through manipulation and belittlement.
At the time of his death, Grant was awaiting to begin serving his sentence.
“(Grant) was a devoted and committed father and spiritual and religious leader, who dedicated his life to his family, the ICGJC, and helping those in need,” his attorney, Gerald B. Lefcourt, said in a statement.
The Daily News first reported his death.
Raised in the Bronx, Grant dropped out of school at the age of 14 and was drawn to the extremist Hebrew Israelite movement, which asserts that African Americans are God’s true chosen people and are the real descendants of the Hebrews of the Bible, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Grant quickly rose through the ranks of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ. After a reported trip to Israel and Egypt in the early 2000s, Grant returned and told members he was the only appointed teacher of the bible on earth, though former members dispute if the trip actually happened. The leader at the time deemed Grant as “being the Holy Spirit in the flesh,” allowing him to take the reigns of the church, according to Nicholas Johnson, who left the church in 2019 after 20 years.
“(It) was easy for him to get control after that,” Johnson said.
Grant soon casted great influence over the movement across the country.
In 2008, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) described Grant as “the man with the most power over the extremist Hebrew Israelite movement.” He preached that black Jesus would return to earth to enslave and kill white people, according to the Law Center, which is why the organization has classified the church as a black nationalist hate group.
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Editors note. This post written by Joe Atmonavage and published at NJ.com. Titled changed by Pulpit & Pen
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