Fire officials still investigating blaze that killed controversial preacher

Atlanta fire officials have yet to determine the cause of a fire that killed the Rev. Arthur Allen, the 81-year-old pastor of the House of Prayer, a fire spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The fire started between 11:30 a.m. and noon Monday, in a home in the 1100 block of Lookout Avenue in northwest Atlanta, in what appeared to be a wooden add-on to the structure, said Fire Department spokeswoman Janet Ward.

Five children were at the home at the time, but escaped injury, Ward said.

Allen’s name still hangs on the shingle outside the House of Prayer, the embattled church Allen founded. The church is within walking distance from the burned apartment.

Several men and women of various ages were milling around the residential property Tuesday. A woman standing in the driveway of the multi-level tenement-style dwelling said no media interviews would be given.

Allen came under fire in 2001 after two boys went to school with welts and bruises. Social workers took the boys from their parents and soon seized 47 other House of Prayer children and put them in foster care and group homes. Police arrested Allen and other church members. Within a week, he went from being the pastor of a tiny, nondenominational church in a poor part of Atlanta to a controversial figure in the national news. He appeared in People magazine, on Dateline NBC, and on the Sally Jesse Raphael show.

Allen served two years in prison before his release in 2005. Prior to his incarceration, he was on the run for five months before he was caught in Cobb County in August 2003.

And corporal punishment wasn’t the only controversial stand he took. Allen also advocated marriage for 14-year-old girls to protect them from becoming unwed mothers, living in sin and going on welfare.

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