“They flat out lied,” said one local business owner, who refused to be named because he said he didn’t want to alienate his customer base. “At the very least they were very deceptive.”
Another local business, whose owner also declined to be named for the same reason, complained it was false advertising, saying no religious affiliation was disclosed in the event’s advertisements.
“It definitely wasn’t made clear initially that it was a religious organization or that it was a religious event,” he said.
Businesses in Juneau have donated more than $25,000 in retail value to Juneau Fest, which is being sponsored locally by Sam Dalin, a volunteer chaplain for the police and fire departments and the pastor and co-founder of his church, River of Glory Church.
The free electronics, sporting goods, toys and household items were to be given out as free gifts and prizes for members of the community attending the event, the business owners were told by a couple tasked with soliciting the donations.
But what the owners did not know until later is that the event was supposed to be a revival.
Fliers had been passed out around town advertising the event as “The Great Awakening” as part of the Great Awakening Tour by the founder of the River at Tampa Bay Church, Rodney Howard-Browne, who is a longtime friend of Dalin’s.
That led many to believe the group was attempting to lure people to the event under the guise of free Xboxes and iPads, including the local church coalition, which chastised the group for being deceptive.
“We disagree with what feels like deceptive, manipulative techniques to bring people into a relationship with Jesus,” Rev. Tari Stage-Harvey, the coordinator of the Cooperative Church Council, said in a phone interview Friday. “That is kind of the bottom line.”
Stage-Harvey added, “There’s nothing wrong with a revival, and go for it, but there’s a lot wrong with tricking people into it.”
By the time business owners were being solicited for donations, the “Great Awakening” fliers had disappeared. The businesses were only shown a new flier that made promises of free giveaways and two nights of honoring the police and fire departments. There was no mention of any religious affiliation.