“If [the truth] would save lives, for this cause, I would stand and blow the whistle rather than compromise my integrity. At least, if I died, I told the truth, which is better than living with the lies that I protected to cause harm” (Bradeen 2020).
Due to our work together in the production of a book that exposes a local cult, I found relevance in interviewing my husband, Arlen Bradeen, who was the former pastor of House of Prayer Christian Church headquarters and the former Dean of the House of Prayer Bible Seminary, here in Hinesville, Georgia. In an email interview, when asked about the situation in his life that led him to blow the whistle, Arlen writes, “When I discovered the corruption going on behind the scenes of House of Prayer Christian Church; the leader of the organization, Rony Denis, was using me to pastor the local Hinesville Church while he was running a fraudulent real estate business, tax evasion practices and swindling our veterans out of their GI bill benefits through their unaccredited Bible seminary/school” (Bradeen 2020).
Considering the values and beliefs that cause a person to blow the whistle, it is a relief to know that even with multiple threats made by House of Prayer’s leader to his life and the lies that led to the loss of his entire family who turned on him, Arlen admits that he has no regrets in exposing the predatory organization.
In the most heartbreaking part of the interview, Arlen describes the impact of whistleblowing on his life when he writes, “Yes, I was a minister in the group, and for me to go against the cult leader Rony Denis, meant immediate removal, and no pay due. And by the time I got home, my brainwashed wife of 30 years, my two adult children, and my son-in-law, who had taken my place as the new pastor, had my belongings at the front door. I fought a divorce over a year in court and finally had to file bankruptcy” (Bradeen 2020). Given the horrific and traumatic impact on his life, Arlen admits that he would choose to preserve his conscience and would rather die defending the truth, then to allow evil to continue.
I did have some interview requests that were declined due to fear for their lives and safety, which is understandable. Patty made a statement in her interview that may explain why many people fear to report this destructive organization to our local law enforcement in Hinesville when she writes, “During the time I covered various things about HOPCC [House of Prayer Christian Church], I interacted with church members and a few deputies of the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. The church often paid off-duty officers to serve as their security” (Leon 2020).
Much of this information would seem unreal had I not witnessed these atrocities for myself. The refreshing candor and unwavering courage of both Patty and Arlen have quenched my thirst for understanding of what causes people to make the huge, life-changing decision to blow the whistle when they see corruption and injustice. Their interviews, along with the reasons given by people who declined to participate, have led me to seek out more information on the “bystander effect,” or the jaw-dropping phenomenon of people who witness evil things happen and either apathetically watch while they do nothing, or they assume, like everyone else, that someone will get help, resulting in no call for help at all.