A cult-like church group which has been dabbling in right-wing politics says that it objects to being called “cult-like”.
The press office of the SPAC Nation has written to Inside Croydon, objecting to the description of their organisation as cult-like, and claiming (incorrectly, as it happens), that such a description is libellous.
Jayde Edwards, the Conservative candidate in this week’s Fairfield ward council by-election, is referred to as a pastor in the cult-like SPAC Nation. Edwards is 20 years old.
SPAC – which stands for Salvation Proclaimers Anointed Church – was founded and is run by a former property investor Tobi Adegboyega.
Adegboyega lives in a rented mansion in the Shirley Hills which is reckoned to be worth £2.5million and he drives a £150,000 Rolls-Royce, with a couple of Range Rovers parked in the house’s commodious drive.
Adegboyega previously drove around the private roads of the Pine Coombe estate in a 2018-registered Lamborghini with a personalised number plate “PA5TOR”.
Adegboyega made headlines in the national press earlier this year when neighbours in Shirley complained about loud music and parties going on late into the night from the grounds of the luxury home.
“Some of those residents are disgusted with the fact that young black people live on a luxury estate that is otherwise made up of white people aged in their 60s and above,” the self-proclaimed church pastor told a national newspaper.
“We did hold a party on Christmas Eve, as we do every year, but there was no loud music and to say so is nonsense.
“We’ve had altercations before where neighbours have sworn at us and one of our female members was called an ‘idiot backward person’.
“It’s racism plain and simple.”
The church run by “Pastor Tobi” stages weekly services attended by hundreds of worshippers at the Grand Sapphire Hotel, off the Purley Way.
SPAC gatherings also tend to be attended by security heavies, in case any inter-gang violence breaks out, and often feature music from balaclava-wearing rappers performing drill music, a form of grime.
SPAC Nation is active across London and has attracted a large number of young people, many from the BAME communities, as it seeks to help them leave a life of gangs, drugs and knife crime. SPAC Nation claims that 55 per cent of its congregation have a criminal past.
Adegboyega and his followers achieve this by offering refuge from the gangs in safe houses at various locations around the capital. It has been reported that SPAC has 23 such safe houses for its young followers, and that Adegboyega’s Shirley mansion houses more than a dozen ex-criminals.
“A lot of these youngsters are sucked into a life of crime because they have no family,” Adegboyega has said. “We have given them a family, these homes are a safe-haven away from drugs, gangs and violence.
“There are organisations out there dealing with knife crime and gun crime, but they are a bunch of jokers,” Adegboyega said in another interview with a tabloid newspaper earlier this year. “What they are doing isn’t working.
“The community is made of the good, the bad and the ugly, and that’s what the church should be like.”
Adegboyega claims to have made himself wealthy through consulting on property deals, and SPAC Nation says that it encourages church members into entrepreneurship as a way of avoiding a life of violent crime.
Church-goers are encouraged to aspire to owning and flaunting large, expensive cars and to wearing expensive clothes and jewellery.
Adegboyega has been described in media reports as “the bling-wearing cousin of Star Wars actor John Boyega”, and he is observed to dress head-to-toe in Gucci and designer label clothes.
It is not entirely obvious where the church generates its funding from for the houses, the big cars, or the pastor’s lavish lifestyle. Or for the £100,000 which it was reported earlier this year that SPAC Nation intends to “give away” to young entrepreneurs looking to start in business.
SPAC Nation stages specific “entrepreneurs services”, which in 2018 it says it invested £30,000 into the projects of young business people.
In newspaper interviews, Adeboyega has claimed that all of SPAC Nation’s money is “self-generated”.
There are an estimated 2,000 SPAC Nation members, of which around 50 pool together money from their various business ventures.
“One of our members runs a luxury car rental company, which is why I have nice cars,” Adeboyega has said. “I don’t’ actually own them, they’re leased.
“We also have African food outlets and over the last ten years or so, I’d say that the organisation has bought about 25 to 30 properties, mainly dilapidated ones, renovated them and sold them on for profit, pouring the cash back into the organisation.
“I don’t get any grants from the government or any help from charities.
“We operate as a micro-economy to look after each other because as black men, we have to work three times as hard to succeed.”
As well as proselytising their faith, more recently Adeboyega and others from SPAC Nation been “spreading the word” about Boris Johnson, hard Brexit and the Conservative Party.
Adeboyega attended this year’s Tory Party conference, and Edwards was announced soon afterwards as the Conservatives’ candidate for the Fairfield council by-election.
Edwards was not subject to a democratic ballot of Croydon Tory members, but she was hand-picked by the local party’s executive in a cynical move, many suggest, by Mario Creatura, the Coulsdon councillor and Tory parliamentary candidate in Croydon Central.
With Croydon Tory membership declining, and many of those remaining getting on a bit and less willing or able to join up for Creatura’s army of leaflet-deliverers, the former Downing Street aide has looked on SPAC Nation’s youngsters as an easy, quick-fix to exploit and harness dozens of evangelically keen new party activists.
Somewhat ironically, for a church that says it wants to reduce the impact of gang culture, the past couple of weekends have seen gangs of SPAC Nation members out in the town centre, leafleting for Edwards and the Tory Party.
There have been complaints from LibDem and Labour activists of shouted abuse from some Tory leaflet deliverers, which Croydon Labour say they have reported to the police. Edwards seemed entirely unapologetic about any alleged incident.
“The only intimidation you are facing is witnessing hundreds of young people passionately campaigning for a person who is determined to make Croydon a better place,” was what the Tory council candidate, or one of her devoted followers, tweeted this morning to someone who had mentioned the complaint.
Yet while not lacking in enthusiasm, those who have encountered SPAC Nation members armed with Tory leaflets on the doorstep in Fairfield say that they do not seem very well-informed about politics, nor know much at all about Conservative policies.
“Twenty to 30 of those SPAC weirdos hit my road on Saturday,” one loyal reader said. “They knocked on doors and talked, but they knew nothing about politics and weren’t writing down a record of home-owners’ voting intentions, so they weren’t canvassing in the usual way. The Tories have not acquired any information for the General Election.
“They seemed very confident of winning the by-election, but they couldn’t explain why.”.
SPAC Nation is registered with the Charity Commission, and so ought to be subject to strict laws about charities being non-political and having no political involvement.
According to the latest set of accounts available, filed from offices registered in Bermondsey, in 2018 the SPAC Nation had income of £1,171,250, derived solely from “Tithes and Offerings”, while it had “Administrative Expenses” of £1,197,564. This trading loss will have been covered in part, at least, from the previous years £223,000 profits.
SPAC Nation’s activities have attracted the attention of the Victoria Derbyshire programme on the BBC and, more recently, Reggie Yates’ MTV documentary series, where accusations that it operates as a cult were raised. Concerns over the way it takes over the lives of young people, many of them vulnerable, and appears to demand complete devotion to the church were also discussed.
Which is why, in reporting SPAC Nation’s increasing involvement in politics, Inside Croydon has described them as “cult-like”.
Someone at SPAC Nation does not like this.
In an email from someone signing themselves as “Sephora” from the”SPAC Nation Press Office” (yep, they even have a press office. Halejula!), they wrote, “You have described the organisation SPAC Nation as ‘cult-like’.
“This is not only false but it is libel. SPAC Nation is a church and it is not a cult in any way, shape or form. I invite you to change the wording on your blog in regards to your description of SPAC Nation as an organisation to one that is more accurate.”
Our reports remain unchanged.
Indeed, we have been approached by some former members of SPAC Nation who would go further than we have done. “SPAC Nation has all the attributes of a cult,” said one.
“1,000 per cent SPAC is a cult,” said another.
But so as not to cause too much anxiety among the SPAC Nation, we propose to adjust, slightly, how we refer to the church in future.
How about: “Cu*t-like”?
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