A young woman who escaped a Muslim cult is now suing the group, claiming she was physically and emotionally abused and made to work without wages for the decade that she was a follower.
Kendra Ross, 26, was just 11 years old when her mother joined the United Nation of Islam (UNOI) in 2002.
For the next 10 years, Ross says that she was sent to various cities throughout the country to work at restaurants owned and operated by the group. After a full day of work, she says she was then expected to go home and do all the cooking and cleaning in the group homes where she lived with other UNOI members. She says she never received a cent for her more than 40,000 hours of labor.
A 26-year-old woman who escaped a Muslim cult is suing the group for subjecting her to 40,000 hours of slave labor in the 10 years she was a follower. Pictured above is Royall Jenkins, the founder of the United Nation of Islam, now known as The Value Creators
In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas on Friday, Ross estimates that the religion's leaders withheld approximately more than $450,000 in wages.
She's asking that a jury award her these wages, in addition to more than $7million in emotional and punitive damages.
UNOI was founded in 1978 by Royall Jenkins, a former member of the Nation of Islam - itself an afrocentric off-shoot of mainstream Islam.
Jenkins claimed that he had been abducted by 'angels and/or scientists' who took him via spaceship to another galaxy where he was given instructions on how to govern Earth.
'UNOI doctrine focused primarily on the supremacy of Jenkins as God on Earth,' the lawsuit claims.
One of the fundamental teachings was that the 'black man' is superior to the 'white man' and that men are superior to women.
Jenkins, a former member of the Nation of Islam, founded the group in 1978, after claiming to have been abducted by 'angels and/or scientists' who took him on a spaceship to another galaxy where he was given instructions on how to govern Earth. A picture on the group's Facebook page appears to illustrate this legend
He set up his religion in an impoverished area of Kansas City, Kansas, growing the religion to include several businesses that his followers worked at for free. Soon, he had branches of the religion in several other cities including Newark, New Jersey; the Harlem neighborhood of New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Cincinnati, Ohio; Dayton, Ohio; Temple Hills, Maryland; and Mobile, Alabama.
The communities are insular, with children being educated at UNOI schools, UNOI members living in group homes and working at UNOI owned and operated businesses without pay.
'UNOI forced its members to work in various businesses it owned, including, but not limited to, restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, gas stations, a sewing factory and a construction company,' the lawsuit says.
'As detailed below, many members (including Ms. Ross) worked every day of the week with no breaks. Many members worked at UNOI bakeries, restaurants, and school for eight hour shifts during the day and were expected to do additional work (cooking, cleaning, childcare) when they returned to the home where they were staying.'
While UNOI still exists, though under a new name (The Value Creators), many of these businesses have since closed - suggesting a plummeting in membership.
Ross was introduced into the religion by her mother, shortly after the family moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1993, when she was two years old.
For the next nine years, the family were 'part-time' members of the church, 'meaning they participated in UNOI but lived outside of the organization.'
Some of the restaurants that the group ran were called Food For Life Supreme. Pictured above is a Food For Life Supreme in Harlem which has since closed
All that changed when Ross turned nine, and the family moved to Kansas City.
When they became full time members of the church, Ross's mother was ordered to take her daughter out of public school to attend one of UNOI's schools.
Additionally Ross was immediately expected to start working at a UNOI bakery and restaurant before school and then for a full eight-hour shift after school. Additionally she worked at a UNOI home providing cooking, cleaning and childcare.
In addition to defying child labor laws, Ross says she wasn't paid at all for her work or for any other job UNOI leaders assigned her for