“Fellowship” Off Limits to Sailors
Leader Charged with Exploiting Bodies and Minds
by Joan Carol Ross
Officers from the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board on Feb. 11 voted unanimously to prohibit Navy Personnel from associating with the Christian Fellowship, Inc., a Waukegan, Illinois-based group founded nine years ago and led by self-appointed minister Lloyd Ray Davis. The Control Board’s decision to declare the Fellowship “off limits” was based on evidence that Davis pressured group members to take illegal absences from the Navy, turn over their entire paychecks to the ministry, and engage in homosexual activities against their will.
Davis denied all charges against himself and the organization and plans to file suit against Rear Adm. James Flatley III, who was instrumental in declaring the Fellowship off limits to Navy personnel. Davis claims Flatley’s actions violate the constitutional right to freedom of worship. According to several articles in the Lake County, Illinois News-Sun (2/6, 7, 8, 11, 12), ex-Fellowship members claimed that Davis, 46, used manipulative ploys – including emotional blackmail and distorted religious arguments – to recruit members, and subsequently seduced them for his sexual pleasure and financial gain.
David Clark, an “exit counselor” who deprogrammed three members, described the Fellowship as a religious cult designed to break down members’ personalities “in order to control their mind.” Ex-members agreed that Davis had lured them into a situation where their minds and bodies could be exploited and where they had no self-control. The Fellowship’s reported lifestyle deprived members of adequate sleep and proper nourishment, with a diet consisting mainly of soup, orange juice and peanut butter sandwiches. Members had their personal mail inspected, and were forced to abide by a strict code including “no dating.” There was virtually no privacy; members were not even permitted to use the bathroom alone. After returning home from long work days, members were required to listen to four- and five-hour sermons from Davis followed by sexual sessions in his room. One ex-member – who was pressured into a sexual relationship with Davis and hated it – said he twice tried to commit suicide while in the group.
Any protests or doubts about monetary policies, living arrangements or fellowship procedures were met with emotional tirades and harassment by Davis. In this rigidly controlled environment, members found it difficult to leave. One ex-member said, “It was impossible to buck the system. You were too exhausted. Besides, they watched you every minute and you had no money, so where could you go?”
Members were advised that their parents, home, or anything outside the Fellowship was evil, and one man recalled Davis saying, “IF YOU LEAVE THE MINISTRY, God will kill you.” In the past year Davis has expanded the Fellowship by establishing centers in Norfolk, Va., Orlando, Fla., Rota, Spain, and Naples, Italy. Ex-members claim Davis plans to organize more centers in the future.
According to Davis, the Fellowship is financed entirely by free-will contributions and “there is no membership fee at all.” He claims to receive no salary and to own no property. However, the Internal Revenue Service has been investigating Davis and the Fellowship – which has enjoyed tax exempt status since 1978 – as a result of financial irregularities.
Davis, who calls himself a minister, acknowledged that he was never ordained in any church and has no seminary training. “Jesus chose men without education,” he said. Ex-members liken Davis to Jim Jones (the cult leader responsible for the deaths of 900 people in a mass suicide in South America). They contend that Davis, who is married and has three children, “never goes home.”
Up until 1979, Illinois courts were placing young men on probation under Davis’ supervision. The courts discontinued this practice after two complaints were made that Davis pressured youths into sexual encounters by threatening to send them to prison.