Church at Carson City (Shermanites)

A controversial religious group with roots in Carson City, Michigan, known for its secretive operations and alleged abuses.

Origins and Beliefs

The Church at Carson City, nestled in the heart of central Michigan, distinguishes itself from the surrounding religious institutions with its unique practices and isolated way of life. Founded in the early 1970s, this group quickly set itself apart through the distinct appearance of its members—men with long beards and women in long dresses—and a pronounced preference for seclusion from the wider community.

The inception of the Church at Carson City traces back to gatherings in a modest trailer along Fish Creek, where early members congregated to study the Bible under the guidance of Lee Sherman, a figure whose charisma and biblical interpretations drew people from various parts of Michigan. Bill Hubler, a young car salesman at the time, was among those captivated by Sherman’s teachings. Moved by a profound belief in Sherman’s understanding of the Bible, Hubler relinquished most of his possessions to join this nascent community, signaling the beginning of a religious movement that would evolve into the Church at Carson City.

Practices and Governance

The church espouses a rigid interpretation of the Bible, demanding unwavering obedience to its leaders and their biblical exegesis. Its governance extends into the minute details of members’ lives, dictating not just spiritual matters but also personal behaviors and interactions. This control manifests in various aspects of life, including dress codes, social interactions, and even personal health, with members often having to confess their transgressions in public ceremonies designed to enforce humility and adherence to the church’s teachings.

Allegations of Abuse

Beneath the veneer of devout religious practice, troubling accusations have surfaced. Former members describe a culture of intimidation and suppression, where physical punishment of children, subjugation of women, and a vehement discouragement of outside engagement—including the use of the internet, television, and participation in secular holidays—are commonplace. More alarmingly, there have been numerous accusations of sexual abuse within the community, with allegations that church leaders, including Sherman and others, have been involved in or aware of such abuses without taking appropriate action.

These accusations gained public attention following acts of vandalism on Halloween, which led to the arrest of a former member. This incident opened the floodgates to a series of public criticisms from ex-members, shedding light on the church’s internal practices and the alleged abuses. Claims of sexual misconduct have been particularly disturbing, with specific members accused of molesting children over extended periods. Despite these serious allegations, there has been a notable lack of legal action, partly due to the church’s insular nature and the reluctance of victims and their families to come forward, compounded by the statute of limitations on many of these alleged crimes.

Community and Economic Activities

The Church at Carson City is more than a religious group; it’s a self-sustaining community. The congregation owns and operates several businesses in and around Carson City, including a quilt shop, a dentist office, a bed and breakfast, and a used car lot. These enterprises serve not only as financial support for the church but also as employment for its members, further entrenching the community’s insular nature.

Response to Allegations

The church’s leadership has largely remained silent or defensive in the face of these accusations. Lawyer Bill Amadeo, representing the church, has defended its handling of past abuse cases, asserting that any actions taken were in accordance with the wishes of the affected families and the legal standards of the time. However, this stance has done little to quell the concerns of the broader community and the former members who continue to come forward with their stories.


Donnelly, F. X. (2019, January 14). Former members question Mich. Church’s mission. The Detroit News.

Kolker, K. (2018, November 22). Ex-members: Carson City “cult” hid sex crimes.

Russell, R. (2018a, November 21). Allegations of decades-long abuse surface following vandalism arrest. FOX 17 West Michigan News (WXMI).

Russell, R. (2018b, November 22). More sexual abuse claims surface against Montcalm Co. church following vandalism. FOX 17 West Michigan News (WXMI).

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