Bud Chiles touts his work running a nonprofit in New York City as a significant step in giving him the experience necessary to be Florida’s next governor. Chiles, the son of Lawton Chiles, one of Florida’s most prominent Democratic politicians, is running as an independent. He has never held elected office before. He previously started a corporate communications company he founded with his wife. He left that company to join HOPE Worldwide, a charity for the poor. On his website, Chiles never mentions the charity’s name. A story in the Miami New Times might explain why; Hope Worldwide is an offshoot of the International Church of Christ, which has been accused by some ex-members of being a cult.
This is how Chiles describes that period on his campaign website:
In the 1990s, I sold my business and we moved our family to New York City to work with an international charity. It was a bold move with three kids, a wife and a dog! For ten years we worked as Vice Presidents for a charity with global responsibility in Africa, the Caribbean, and the US. Tasked with helping children in our cities, we started in one community with the belief that no matter where you live, your children should not be denied medical care to protect them from disease. We started a program called Hope for Kids that was replicated in over 100 cities across America. We learned how to work with even the most resource poor communities, and create real results. Our work earned us the Johnson & Johnson Growing Healthy Families award and the National Health Watch award, and was also recognized by President Clinton.
But Jenny Hunter, a former ICOC member who left the church and now helps counsel others trying to “escape,” told the New Times, “This cult has destroyed so many people’s lives — financially, emotionally, and spiritually. … People have committed suicide.”
“I certainly am not aware of any coercion among the volunteers I worked with,” Chiles replied to the paper in an email.