Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Yaweh ben Yahweh Cult

Miracle Worker

Father Michel, aka Hulon Mitchell Jr.
Father Michel, aka Hulon Mitchell Jr.
Mitchell resurfaced in another part of Atlanta shortly afterward, calling himself "Father Michel." Freedberg says he changed the trademark bow tie of the National of Islam for a long white robe, based on Revelation 3: 5: "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment."

Together with a "Father Jone," he took to Atlanta's airwaves, pushing a "total blessing plan" on the city's gospel stations that would bring listeners health, happiness and winning lottery numbers - for a small donation.

The Black Muslims watched this metamorphosis closely, tailing him as he drove around town in his Cadillac and Biblical attire. They thought he'd gone nuts. They also believed Mitchell's quick exit from the Nation of Islam was a tacit admission of guilt, and wanted him to return the missing funds. Nobody crossed the Muslims. Mitchell hired bodyguards and equipped his home with an alarm system and burglar bars.

His fears were founded. In May 1969, three men gunned down Father Jone in what looked like a Black Muslim hit. But Father Michel stayed put; the money was good, and he had nowhere else to go. He'd take his chances.

He printed brochures claiming he could heal people with a "blessed prayer cloth" and improve their fortunes. "The Lame Walk!" the brochures exclaimed. "Disorders Disappear!"

The propaganda cited happy customers who Mitchell's prayers had scored them a Cadillac or made their beauty salon prosper.

The religious racket worked. He moved his family into a large house and purchased two El Dorados. He opened a church, the "Modern Christian Church," and started wearing flamboyant costumes, white satin tunics and robes with zebra lining, a gold crown and a scepter. At his urging, his congregation started to call him the King. In the church's corporate charter, he named himself president and minister for life.

"God wants you to be rich!" he proclaimed to his congregation. It was a message that the pious poor wanted to hear. If wealth was God's blessing, they wanted Father Michel to tell the secret to getting it. They came Sunday after Sunday, tithing a portion of their miserable earnings, ever hopeful that the divine currency would begin to flow, that with a little more prayer and a little more belief, it would finally happen.

Mitchell's rags-to-riches message worked until the mid-'70s, when the congregation squabbled over communal property and disbanded. By the time the churchgoers decided to sue Father Michel for fraud, he was long gone, leaving his wife behind.

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