31 Oct 2007

JEFFS BOMBSHELL: Says he was "immoral" with sister, daughter in jailhouse tapes

The Spectrum - Utah

October 31, 2007


ST. GEORGE -- Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs told family members, in conversations recorded at Purgatory Correctional Facility, that he had been "immoral" with a sister and daughter and that he had renounced his role as prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Pre-trial documents that had been sealed by 5th District Court Judge James L. Shumate were made public late Tuesday afternoon. In them, Jeffs told his family and followers that he has renounced his role as the prophet, explaining that the Lord revealed to him that he was a “wicked man” and that he has not held the priesthood since he was 20 years old.

http://www.thespectrum.com/apps/ pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071030/ NEWS01/71030011


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November 1, 2007

Polygamist Leader Said He Was 'Immoral'


Polygamist Sect Leader Warren Jeffs Said He Was 'Immoral, Wicked,' Unsealed Documents Show



By Jennifer Dobner
The Associated Press
ABC News

AP Photo/Jud Burkett, Pool


Warren Jeffs reacts to the verdicts against him in this Sept. 25, 2007 file photo, in a St. George, Utah, court. Newly unsealed documents show that Jeffs, the leader of a polygamous sect renounced his role as a prophet while sitting in jail awaiting trial, and said he had been "immoral" with a sister and daughter decades ago. Jeffs, 51, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice. Defense attorney Richard Wright stands behind him.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Sitting in jail awaiting trial, the leader of a polygamous sect renounced his role as a prophet and said he had been "immoral" with a sister and daughter decades ago, newly unsealed documents show.

Warren Jeffs' attorneys included those statements in documents they filed in July as they sought to keep jail recordings out of his September trial in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old to her 19-year-old cousin.

Fifth District Judge James Shumate agreed that the recordings could bias jurors against Jeffs and ordered the documents sealed. He unsealed them Tuesday.

Jeffs, 51, was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice. He is to be sentenced Nov. 20 and could get up to life in prison.

Jeffs also faces criminal charges in Arizona and in Utah's federal court.

In telephone calls Jan. 24, Jeffs told family that he "had been immoral with a sister and a daughter" when he was 20, according to the documents. He goes on to renounce his role as the church prophet and says the Lord had "revealed to him that he was a wicked man."

It is not clear who Jeffs is speaking about, and Jeffs does not elaborate on the conduct. Some listeners responded by telling Jeffs he is the prophet and was being tested, according to the documents.

The court filings also recount a videotaped Jan. 25 visit to the Washington County jail by a brother, Nephi Jeffs.

Warren Jeffs said he had been fasting for three days and had been awake through the night. He began to dictate a religious message to followers but fell silent in mid-sentence and didn't speak again for 13 minutes.

Again, he renounced his position as head of the church. His brother tried to encourage him and said he should see a doctor.

Jeffs was taken to a hospital three days later and was given medication for depression. Court documents say he lost 30 pounds, was dehydrated and suffering from sleep deprivation.

In February, when his health had improved, he abandoned his statements about not being a prophet and said he had "experienced a great spiritual test," according to the documents.

Among FLDS members, who cover their bodies from neck to ankle, even small physical gestures would be considered inappropriate, said Ken Driggs, a Georgia lawyer and polygamy expert. As for Jeffs' "immoral" conduct, "I wouldn't read too much into it," Driggs said.

"What that community may regard as immoral conduct is not necessarily what the outside world would consider immoral conduct. He could be talking about thoughts, or some affectionate or physical conduct," Driggs said.

A half-brother, Ward Jeffs, said he doesn't believe Warren Jeffs was married or had children at age 20. Warren Jeffs was a teacher at a private FLDS school in Salt Lake City in 1976.

Ward Jeffs, who has left the FLDS church, said he had no knowledge of allegations of inappropriate behavior with a sister. The half-brothers are no longer close.

Defense attorney Wally Bugden said the judge released the documents without his knowledge.

"I had no idea," Bugden told The Salt Lake Tribune. "There are significant due process issues for Mr. Jeffs as it relates to future cases in Arizona and there are significant privacy issues that we believe are protected."

In his order, Shumate did not explain his reasoning for unsealing the documents, and Nancy Volmer, a spokeswoman for the state courts system, said she did not know why the judge made the decision when he did. A court hearing was planned for Nov. 6 on a request by news media and a private investigator to release them as well as others.

Jeffs has led the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since 2002, taking over from his father. Faithful members hold polygamy as a central tenet of their religion.

The mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, renounced polygamy more than a century ago, excommunicates members who engage in the practice, and disavows any connection to the FLDS church.

This article was found at:

http://www.childbrides.org/trials_ABC_Warren_I_was_immoral.html

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November 2, 2007

In Recordings From Jail, Polygamist Had Doubts

By KIRK JOHNSON



DENVER, Nov. 1 — The polygamist sect leader Warren S. Jeffs, in a series of jailhouse conversations recorded in January in Utah, renounced his role as a prophet of God and expressed remorse over “immoral actions with a sister and a daughter” when he was 20 years old, according to court documents.

Mr. Jeffs, 51, was found guilty in September of being an accomplice to rape for using his authority as the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to force a 14-year-old girl into an arranged “spiritual marriage.” He faces up to life in prison at his sentencing this month in St. George, Utah.

Details of the jailhouse statements were unsealed this week by Judge James L. Shumate, who presided over the trial of Mr. Jeffs. The documents revealed elements that the jury never heard — a fierce, behind-the-scenes battle over whether prosecutors could use Mr. Jeffs’s words against him, and a new portrait of the defendant himself as he seemed to go through a series of medical and apparently spiritual crises while awaiting trial.

In the conversations — which were taped by jail officials as Mr. Jeffs spoke with family members by telephone and to a brother on videotape — Mr. Jeffs described himself as a “wicked man” who had not legitimately held the priesthood in his church for more than three decades.

Mr. Jeffs did not elaborate on what occurred when he was 20 or how exactly he been “immoral,” according to the documents. It was unclear what he meant by sister and daughter, since those terms can have both familial and religious meanings among polygamists.

Some of the family members argued with Mr. Jeffs, saying he was “being tested” and that he was still the prophet, the documents said. By the next month, February, defense documents said, Mr. Jeffs was encouraging church members in their faith and describing his own low point as “a great spiritual test.”

Mr. Jeffs’s lawyers asserted in legal motions that their client had been suffering from depression and health problems in January when he spoke to his family. They described him as exhausted and fasting, and said that using the statements in the trial would be prejudicial and irrelevant.

In the videotaped meeting with his brother, for example, Mr. Jeffs was dictating “a message of encouragement” to his followers, according to one defense document.

“But he suddenly halted in mid-sentence and remained silent for over 13 minutes,” the defense motion said. Mr. Jeffs’s brother tried to engage him in further conversation, without luck. Toward the end of the visit, “the defendant renounced his role as the prophet,” the defense motion said.

At other points in the phone conversations with his family, Mr. Jeffs still spoke like a man with a conduit to God. The Lord himself, he said, had “revealed to him that he was a wicked man,” according to the papers.

Mr. Jeffs’s church, which has an estimated 10,000 members, mostly across the Southwest, broke off from the mainstream Mormon faith — the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — decades ago over the question of polygamy, a practice the church abandoned in 1890.

Judge Shumate ultimately ruled the jailhouse conversations inadmissible. A court spokeswoman, Nancy Volmer, said she did not know why details from the conversations had been unsealed.

Mr. Jeffs still faces criminal prosecution in Arizona on two charges of sexual conduct with a minor and one charge of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

A spokeswoman for the Mohave County attorney said no trial date would be set until the sentencing in Utah, which is scheduled for Nov. 20.


This article was found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/02/us/02jeffs.html

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CNN November 07, 2007

Polygamist Jeffs tried to hang himself in jail, documents say




Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs tried to hang himself earlier this year while he was in jail awaiting trial, according to court documents unsealed by a Utah judge on Tuesday.

Jeffs, the leader and so-called prophet of the 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is now awaiting sentencing after being convicted on two counts of being an accomplice to rape.

The documents, released by Fifth District Judge James Shumate at the request of the media, also indicate that Jeffs confessed to "immorality" with a "sister" and a daughter more than 30 years ago.

Among the documents is a competency report on Jeffs completed in April, in which social worker Eric Nielsen wrote that throughout the month of January, Jeffs refused food and drink and developed ulcers on his knees from kneeling in prayer for hours.

On January 28, the report said, he attempted to hang himself in his cell. In the days following the suicide attempt, while he was on suicide watch, Jeffs on separate occasions threw himself against the wall and banged his head on the wall.

Jail transcripts show that Jeffs' suicide attempt came three days after a visit with his brother, Nephi, in which he said, "I am not the prophet. I never was the prophet, and I have been deceived by the powers of evil ... I ask for everyone's forgiveness." Jeffs also told his brother: "Farewell forever."

The day before that, Jeffs told a follower in a phone conversation that he was "covered with immorality with a sister and a daughter when I was younger." In the FLDS, members call adult women "sister," and Jeffs' meaning was unclear.

Jeffs' defense attorneys, who argued against the release of the documents, said in a motion opposing the unsealing of the statements that Jeffs recanted them the following month. Defense attorneys claim Jeffs' medical condition influenced his state of mind when the statements were made.

They presented Shumate with a letter from another Jeffs attorney, arguing that the statements' release could influence an Arizona jury when Jeffs stands trial in that state.

Jeffs, 51, was convicted in September of being an accomplice to rape. He was accused of using his religious influence over his followers to coerce a 14-year-old girl into marriage to her 19-year-old cousin. He faces a sentence of up to life in prison when he is sentenced November 20.

The FLDS -- which is not affiliated with the mainstream Mormon church -- is based in the side-by-side border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Jeffs, a former school headmaster, is the son of the sect's previous president and "prophet," Rulon Jeffs, who died in 2002.

Jeffs was on the FBI's 10 most wanted fugitives list when he was arrested in August 2006 outside Las Vegas, Nevada.

Critics say that inside the FLDS, marriages are arranged for girls as young as 13, and competition for brides may be reduced by exiling male teens and young men. If male followers are excommunicated, critics claim, wives and children can be reassigned.

This article was found at:

Uniformed police distributed Church of Scientology propaganda at Australian high school

The Advertiser - Adelaide, Australia

October 29, 2007

Parent anger at religious 'advice'

XANTHE KLEINIG, EDUCATION REPORTER


UNIFORMED police distributed Church of Scientology propaganda at Whyalla High School, contrary to guidelines for religious education.

A team of police officers visiting the school showed classes a DVD on living a moral life and distributed a booklet entitled "Whyalla High School presents the way to happiness, a common-sense guide for better living", written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

One outraged parent who did not wish to be named said she had explicitly told the school her children were not to be given religious instruction.

She said it was worrying members of the police force, in uniform, were endorsing the writings of a "cult leader" in their visit to the school.

Other parents believed the booklet had come from the Education Department, she said, because of its cover reference to Whyalla High School.

But the contents were the same as that written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and featured on a website linked to Scientology, she said.

Education Department district director David Craig confirmed the situation and said neighbouring schools would be informed to ensure it did not recur.

"While staff at the school checked the contents of the book, it was only after the seminar they realised it was written by L. Ron Hubbard."

He said the booklet did not contain religious information and the officers did not speak about the book during the session.

"The school will write to parents to inform them of its distribution," he said.

The sole indicator the book was related to Scientology, he said, was the author's name written in small print in the copyright section.

Police Assistant Commissioner Graeme Barton confirmed that two officers had visited the school to give lectures on bullying and that the claims of religious instruction would be investigated.

http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,22662803-2682,00.html



Pastor accused of raping girls turns self in

KOMO TV - Seattle, Washington

October 29, 2007

by KOMO Staff


KITSAP COUNTY -- A pastor wanted for allegedly raping two young girls in his own congregation turned himself in to police Monday morning. And Kitsap County Sheriff's deputies say two more alleged victims have come forward.

Kitsap County Sheriff spokesman Scott Wilson said pastor Robbin Harper of the Church in South Colby was taken into custody just after 10 p.m. He's being held on $500,000 bail for investigation of second-degree child rape.

Wilson said Harper is accused of raping two young girls over a period of several years.

"There was a pattern of sexual abuse that would cover the gamut of sexual activities that occurred with Pastor Robbin Harper being the instigator," he said.

Police learned about the abuse after one victim, now in her early 20s, came forward last week. The woman said Harper began molesting her when she was 12 years old and continued until earlier this year.

In court papers, the victim says initially, she refused the pastor's sexual advances. But she says, he told her: "She needed to get over these feelings so she wouldn't have problems with intimacy the rest of her life."

Harper allegedly showed her pornography so "she would know how to perform these sex acts."

The court papers say he even invited her to the Days Inn and Holiday Inn in Port Orchard. Deputies say she wasn't alone.


"All of them have said this was a typical conduct on how he would start a relationship with children," Wilson said.

Wilson said the woman informed police of another alleged victim, and investigators said the girl, who was once a member of the church, said she was also raped by Harper.

"The victims in this case, all of them, were scared," Wilson said Sunday. "I believe because they lived in a close-knit society, that they were afraid to come forward for fear of retaliation in one form or another."

A third and fourth alleged victim came forward Monday, but details surrounding those women were unknown.

Wilson said the abuse took place on church grounds, in the office, at the pastor's house and even at a motel.

KOMO 4 News asked Harper's son about the allegations but he would only say, "the charges haven't been filed yet."

Harper's neighbor, Cliff Delong said he's still in disbelief.

"No never. I don't halfway believe it now," he said. "I mean, you never know. Nobody's proven anything."

Investigators said they expect more victims to come forward.

"All indications of a predator, past practice in grooming, all of that kind of thing that seems to be so common these days, are quite evident," Wilson said.



http://www.komotv.com/news/10868116.html

Proposed sale of school in Ontario irks lawyer in abuse case

Globe & Mail - Canada

MICHAEL VALPY
October 31, 2007

Grenville Christian College, the now-closed Ontario private school at the centre of cult abuse allegations, has been put up for sale and a lawyer representing some of the former students is considering applying for an injunction to halt any transaction in advance of possible lawsuits.

The school's owner, the Community of the Good Shepherd, is understood to have one offer from a potential buyer in British Columbia. But according to local realtors in Brockville, the St. Lawrence River town near where Grenville is located, the owner isn't happy with the offer.

Ottawa businessman Paul Sluyter, a former chair of the school's fundraising foundation, confirmed that Grenville was on the market but said he could provide no further details. He did say, however, that the school had not yet been sold.

In its 2006 report to the federal government on its charitable status, Grenville's board of directors listed the value of the school buildings and property at more than $13-million. The figure is considered conservative. Grenville and its chapel are stone buildings in a park-like setting on the St. Lawrence.

Toronto lawyer Loretta Merritt, a specialist in abuse cases, has told former students she represents that she is thinking of applying for what is known as a Mareva injunction to block the sale of the school prior to the resolution of any civil litigation.

A Mareva injunction is almost never granted by Ontario courts. It requires satisfying a judge that defendants in a case are deliberately trying to dispose of assets to defeat a plaintiff's claim.

A substantial number of former students have alleged they were physically, psychologically and sexually abused at the school over a 20-year period ending in 1997.

The Anglican bishop of the diocese in which the school was located initiated an inquiry on Sept. 6 into two former headmasters who are Anglican priests. Ontario Provincial Police launched a criminal investigation on Sept. 26.

On Oct. 18, the Anglicans abruptly placed their inquiry into limbo after the diocese, the school and one of the headmasters were notified that former students were considering civil action.

A church official said the investigating bishop, George Bruce, would continue collecting evidence but would not make any decisions until after civil litigation and the police investigation were resolved - something that could take years to happen.

The bishop's decision upset many former students who wanted the church to acknowledge that, through the many contacts its senior clergy had with Grenville, it provided the school with a cloak of legitimacy - even though most of Grenville's staff were members of the Massachusetts-based Community of Jesus, labelled a cult in the U.S. media.

Ex-students have said they were physically assaulted by staff. Female ex-students said they were routinely sexually humiliated by being called sluts and whores, and at least three have said they were inappropriately touched. Many students have talked to Bishop Bruce about being victims of alleged brainwashing practices.

The school's directors have engaged a Toronto legal firm specializing in civil litigation that is now interviewing former staff members.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20071031.GRENVILLE31/TPStory/TPNational/Ontario/

28 Oct 2007

The dangers of creationism in education

Council of Europe - Parliamentary Assembly

Provisional edition

The dangers of creationism in education

Resolution 1580 (2007)1

1. The aim of this report is not to question or to fight a belief – the right to freedom of belief does not permit that. The aim is to warn against certain tendencies to pass off a belief as science. It is necessary to separate belief from science. It is not a matter of antagonism. Science and belief must be able to coexist. It is not a matter of opposing belief and science, but it is necessary to prevent belief from opposing science.

2. For some people the Creation, as a matter of religious belief, gives a meaning to life. Nevertheless, the Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe.

3. Creationism, born of the denial of the evolution of species through natural selection, was for a long time an almost exclusively American phenomenon. Today creationist ideas are tending to find their way into Europe and their spread is affecting quite a few Council of Europe member states.

4. The prime target of present-day creationists, most of whom are Christian or Muslim, is education. Creationists are bent on ensuring that their ideas are included in the school science syllabus. Creationism cannot, however, lay claim to being a scientific discipline.

5. Creationists question the scientific character of certain items of knowledge and argue that the theory of evolution is only one interpretation among others. They accuse scientists of not providing enough evidence to establish the theory of evolution as scientifically valid. On the contrary, they defend their own statements as scientific. None of this stands up to objective analysis.

6. We are witnessing a growth of modes of thought which challenge established knowledge about nature, evolution, our origins and our place in the universe.

7. There is a real risk of a serious confusion being introduced into our children’s minds between what has to do with convictions, beliefs, ideals of all sorts and what has to do with science. An “all things are equal” attitude may seem appealing and tolerant, but is in fact dangerous.

8. Creationism has many contradictory aspects. The “intelligent design” idea, which is the latest, more refined version of creationism, does not deny a certain degree of evolution. However, intelligent design, presented in a more subtle way, seeks to portray its approach as scientific, and therein lies the danger.

9. The Assembly has constantly insisted that science is of fundamental importance. Science has made possible considerable improvements in living and working conditions and is a not insignificant factor in economic, technological and social development. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with divine revelation but is built on facts.

10. Creationism claims to be based on scientific rigour. In actual fact the methods employed by creationists are of three types: purely dogmatic assertions; distorted use of scientific quotations, sometimes illustrated with magnificent photographs; and backing from more or less well-known scientists, most of whom are not specialists in these matters. By these means creationists seek to appeal to non-specialists and sow doubt and confusion in their minds.

11. Evolution is not simply a matter of the evolution of humans and of populations. Denying it could have serious consequences for the development of our societies. Advances in medical research with the aim of effectively combating infectious diseases such as AIDS are impossible if every principle of evolution is denied. One cannot be fully aware of the risks involved in the significant decline in biodiversity and climate change if the mechanisms of evolution are not understood.

12. Our modern world is based on a long history, of which the development of science and technology forms an important part. However, the scientific approach is still not well understood and this is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.

13. The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements. The creationist movements possess real political power. The fact of the matter, and this has been exposed on several occasions, is that some advocates of strict creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.

14. All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a much more moderate attitude. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, as his predecessor Pope John-Paul II, today praises the role of the sciences in the evolution of humanity and recognises that the theory of evolution is “more than a hypothesis”.

15. The teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as a fundamental scientific theory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies. For that reason it must occupy a central position in the curriculum, and especially in the science syllabus, as long as, like any other theory, it is able to stand up to thorough scientific scrutiny. Evolution is present everywhere, from medical overprescription of antibiotics that encourages the emergence of resistant bacteria to agricultural overuse of pesticides that causes insect mutations on which pesticides no longer have any effect.

16. The Council of Europe has highlighted the importance of teaching about culture and religion. In the name of freedom of expression and individual belief, creationist ideas, as any other theological position, could possibly be presented as an addition to cultural and religious education, but they cannot claim scientific respectability.

17. Science provides irreplaceable training in intellectual rigour. It seeks not to explain “why things are” but to understand how they work.

18. Investigation of the creationists’ growing influence shows that the arguments between creationism and evolution go well beyond intellectual debate. If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists. It is part of the role of the Council’s parliamentarians to react before it is too late.

19. The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities:

19.1. to defend and promote scientific knowledge;

19.2. strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;

19.3. to make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;

19.4. to firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion;

19.5. to promote the teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculum.

20. The Assembly welcomes the fact that 27 Academies of Science of Council of Europe member states signed, in June 2006, a declaration on the teaching of evolution and calls on academies of science that have not yet done so to sign the declaration.

1 Assembly debate on 4 October 2007 (35th Sitting) (see Doc. 11375, report of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, rapporteur: Mrs Brasseur). Text adopted by the Assembly on 4 October 2007 (35th Sitting).

http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Documents/AdoptedText/ta07/ERES1580.htm

26 Oct 2007

Supreme Court to hear Winnipeg girl's transfusion fight

CBC News - October 25, 2007

The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of a Winnipeg teen who was given a blood transfusion against her will.

The girl, who was 14 at the time, was given a blood transfusion in April 2006 after she was admitted to hospital with internal bleeding related to a flare-up of Crohn's disease, a gastrointestinal disorder.

The girl and her parents, who are Jehovah's Witnesses, refused the transfusion, but the province's Child and Family Services department stepped in and ordered that it to proceed.

Winnipeg lawyer Allan Ludkiewicz, who represents the teen, said his key argument to the Supreme Court was not about freedom of religion.

"The main argument is that if a person is a capable, mature minor, even though under the age set by the respective province, that they should have a say in making their medical decisions, not having it made solely by somebody else," he said Thursday.

In Manitoba, minors must be 16 years or older to be considered capable of making medical decisions.

In February, Manitoba's Court of Appeal upheld a lower-court ruling that allowed the province to force the transfusion. In court for the appeal in September, the girl, who cannot be named, said she felt overwhelmed and scared by the experience.

The three Appeal Court justices recognized the transfusion infringed on the teen's religious rights, but ruled the treatment was justified on the basis of the sanctity of life and the duty to protect children.

Most Jehovah's Witnesses interpret literally a passage in the Bible that forbids them from ingesting blood — including receiving blood transfusions — as blood is considered a sacred source of life.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/manitoba/story/2007/10/25/
transfusion-scoc.html

25 Oct 2007

The offspring of 'Jesus Freaks'

San Jose Mercury News

October 25, 2007

Shocking book delves into the inner machinations of the Children of God

By Rebecca Rosen Lum - STAFF WRITER

David Berg was a small-time circuit preacher whose flocks ran thin until the late '60s, when the sexual revolution and the Jesus movement bloomed at once.

The sex-obsessed Berg wove the two into a double helix, drawing from the remnants of hippie life -- people with nothing to lose, nowhere to go, and no Christian background to serve as a compass while in the thrall of a man who purported to live by Scripture.

His Teens for Christ became the Children of God, with enclaves in California and Texas expanding into a evangelical empire across continents, yielding profit and power for the "end-time prophet" and his inner circle.

But writer Don Lattin is only so interested in what makes a self-anointed prophet run. Lattin, whose book "Jesus Freaks" hit bookstores this month, cares more about what happens to children born into authoritarian groups -- the offspring of those who voluntarily cast their lot with people like Berg.

Subtitled "A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge," the book follows the brief, tormented life of Ricky Rodriguez, Berg's designated prophet prince.

As the longtime religion writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Lattin plumbed what happens to children in cults, including the Church of Scientology, the Moonies, the Hare Krishnas and the Children of God (which would later be renamed The Family, or Family International).

Rigorous indoctrination

In each, "The kids didn't have the chance to grow up and be themselves," Lattin said in an interview just before the book's release. "There were hours and hours a day of indoctrination. In that way, the Children of God was the worst."

The accumulated years of indoctrination exploded for Rodriguez in a murder-suicide in 2005 that shook Lattin and compelled him to write "Jesus Freaks."

"I was so taken aback by what drove Ricky, raised by The Family, to kill someone else and take his own life," Lattin said. "He was the ultimate example of what can happen to kids when they're raised in an atmosphere of severe indoctrination.

"It's a really dark story, a sensational story," Lattin said. "I tried to get in the mind-sets of these people."

The Children of God melded apocalyptic Christian evangelism with mind-boggling sexual mores. Lattin stunned readers when he first detailed the unorthodox practices of the Children of God in 2001.

Berg dispatched young, attractive female followers to lure male converts through sex in a practice he called "flirty fishing." He discouraged them from using birth control.

Rodriguez, the first child conceived through "flirty fishing," was the natural son of Berg's common-law wife, Karen Zerby, also called "Maria," and a waiter she picked up in the Canary Islands. Rodriguez was called "Davidito."

"Davidito and Maria are going to be the Endtime witnesses," Berg wrote in 1978. "They are going to have such power they can call down fire from Heaven and devour their enemies."

In fact, Rodriguez did devour his enemies: He left the cult, but tormented by a life of abuse, could not make a life for himself. Driven by rage, he vilified his mother in a videotaped rant, stabbed one of his former nannies to death and shot himself in 2005.

More than 13,000 children were born to followers between 1971 and 2001; "women with six, eight, 10, 13 kids were not uncommon," Lattin said.

Mothers and caretakers pulled children from their beds at night to engage in sex acts with Berg in a regular "sharing schedule" (some kids referred to it as the "scaring schedule"). A poor performance yielded brutal punishment.

"They were made to believe their eternal salvation depended on this," Lattin said.

Deep suspicion

The group once enjoyed plenty of good press.

In the waning days of the Summer of Love, parents would say, "at least they're Christians," Lattin said.

Berg died in 1994, and Zerby took control of the organization.

Grown survivors of the group have developed a deep suspicion of outsiders and adults, Lattin said. But gradually, they sensed their stories were safe with this blues guitar-playing writer, part-time professor and married stepfather of two girls, and they let it all out.

"I've never seen so many problems among kids," he mused, munching Thai food at a favorite Berkeley haunt.

"The Children of God was a machine to spread the ideas of David Berg," he said. "The children were born to do the same thing. That was the real evil. Then, when they rebelled, as teens do, they would send them off to these re-education camps."

"Victor camps" in Macao and other places provided a punishing diet of enforced silence, hard labor and sometimes, exorcisms.

Amazingly, the material for some of the most wrenching passages in the book were provided courtesy of Berg and his inner sanctum.

"The Story of Davidito" recounts Rodriguez' sexual education, which Zerby arranged with a series of "nannies" from the time of his infancy.

"David Berg was so prolific about publishing every thought that came into his mind," Lattin said. "Essentially, he hung himself."

A child custody trial in England brought by the grandparents of one of the children also provided voluminous documentation.

'Born and raised'

No current members would talk to Lattin. They have issued prepared statements defending the group's charitable activities and distancing it from its sexually hyperactive past.

As Lattin prepared for a round of booksignings and appearances, a familiar story played out in the news: the rape trial of Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who arranged a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin in 2001.

"Same kinds of things," Lattin said. "Kids were born and raised in it. They weren't raised to be themselves. They were raised to be part of a machine."

Those who have studied other cults are lavishing praise on the book and its author.

Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Tim Reiterman ("Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev. Jim Jones and His People," Dutton, 1982) praised Lattin's focus on Berg's lasting impact on the second generation.

"One of the insights it gives you quite well is a sense of how people can be drawn into a group, regular people who had needs that made them vulnerable to a charismatic leader," he said. "They were ready to accept things they wouldn't have been ready to accept the day they walked in."

So how do people who begin as idealists descend into unthinkable abuse? The same "way a frog will if you put it in cold water, then gradually heat the water to a boil," Lattin said.

"You try to understand the psychological dynamics of it," he said, shaking his head. "People were convinced to do some pretty reprehensible things. When you backtrack, you can see how it happened incrementally."

http://www.mercurynews.com/ books/ci_7276622


RELATED ARTICLES IN THIS BLOG:


http://www.exfamily.org/index.htm

http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Main_Page


A RESPONSE TO JAMES D. CHANCELLOR'S LIFE IN THE FAMILY: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD


Secret letter claims Family International leader caused deadliest air crash in history


Who is the Real Anti-Christian: the Atheist or the Fundamentalist Christian?


Family International a.k.a. Children of God: Once dismissed as 'sex cult,' tiny church launches image makeover


Denied an education in The Family International abuse survivor explains how she wrote her first novel


Novelist describes how she survived childhood of abuse and neglect growing up in The Family International, aka, Children of God


Author's debut novel draws on personal experiences growing up in abusive Children of God cult, a.k.a. The Family International


UK survivor confirms mother's fears about abusive cult The Family International that tried to recruit her teen daughter


Folie a deux: the insane prophets of the Seventh-day Adventists and The Family International


Gaddafi, The Family International and the Antichrist


Fugitive leaders of The Family International found hiding in Mexico after former members sought psychological help


Judge who convicted man for child sex blames his childhood in The Family International for skewed view on sexuality


This Is What Wolves In Sheep's Clothing Look Like


The Catholic Church and The Family International: popes and prophets who protect pedophiles


What do Pat Robertson and The Family International cult have in common?


Kings and Queens of Cults


Child sacrifice: a review of the documentary All God's Children - the ultimate sacrifice


Miss World 2009 contestant, Miss Indonesia, is a member of evangelical cult with history of child abuse


On eve of Miss World pageant South African paper exposes Miss Indonesia's cult connections


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The Making of a Twisted Sexual Theology: Q+A on "Jesus Freaks"


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The offspring of 'Jesus Freaks'


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23 Oct 2007

Catholic priest denies rape charges

Tanzania Standard Newspapers - Daily News

October 24, 2007

PETI SIYAME in Sumbawanga


A ROMAN Catholic priest has denied raping and impregnating a 15-year-old primary school pupil in Sumbawanga district. He was granted 1m/- bail with two sureties.

Prosecuting Inspector of Police Mgai Chassa told Senior Resident Magistrate, Ms Happiness Ndesamburo that Father Rock Vyakuyu (45) committed the offence on February 13, this year at Sopa, where he was the Parish priest.

Mr Chassa alleged that the priest had developed a lengthy intimate relationship with the young girl who was a member of the church choir. She has since been terminated from her studies.

Chassa told the court that the matter was reported to the Sumbawanga Police Station but law enforcers could not arrest Father Vyakuyu because he had left the country to visit friends in Italy where he stayed for nearly six months.

The Bishop of Sumbawanga Diocese, His Imminence Damian Kyaruzi, has already demoted Father Vyakuyu to Mwazye assistant parish priest. It was not immediately clear whether the move was related to charges facing the priest.

Investigations were not yet complete and Ms Ndesamburo adjourned the case until November 19 this year, for another mention. The priest faces up to 30 years in jail if convicted.



http://www.dailynews-tsn.com/page.php?id=9210

More Accusations Emerge Against Convicted Sex Offender Priest

WBBM NewsRadio - Chicago
October 23, 2007

Bernie Tafoya and John Cody Reporting

Two young men from Arizona have filed a sexual abuse lawsuit charging a Jesuit priest molested them when they were children, and charging the Jesuit order knew he'd molested other boys and never did anything about it.

One of the attorneys filing the suit is a nephew of the priest named as defendant.

California attorney Kevin McGuire says he had no idea his uncle, Father Donald J. McGuire was molesting boys, but says he's glad he has the opportunity to seek redress.

Father McGuire currently lives in Oak Lawn where he's appealing a 7 year sentence for molesting two Wisconsin boys.

An Arizona man named Jim, father of the two plaintiffs: John Does 117 and 118 says his wife converted to Catholicism largely due to the influence of Father McGuire who's described as extremely charismatic.

He said they home schooled and tried to raise their boys in a moral atmosphere, away from drugs and sex and riff-raff influences of the world.

According to Barbara Blaine of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Fr. Donald McGuire’s newest admitted alleged victims came from a family McGuire had befriended in Arizona and Chicago.

Blaine says the 19 and 28 year old brothers never reported anything about the alleged sex abuse until four weeks ago. Blaine says the young men's father made a comment about how he thought Fr. McGuire, a family friend, was not guilty of allegations that had been made against him elsewhere, and the oldest told his dad, "I wouldn't be too sure about that.". That led to questions from the dad and the 28-year old, a decorated former Marine, admitted he had been molested by Fr. McGuire starting when he was eight or nine years old.

The father later asked his 19-year old son and the son, too, admitted he had been abused by the priest.

Fr. Donald McGuire is 77-years old and has already been convicted of molesting two boys in Wisconsin. He out on bond awaiting the start of his seven-year prison sentence.

Blaine, of SNAP, criticizes the Jesuit religious order for allowing the priest to continue to be a priest even after allegations going back to the 1960s.

She also criticizes Jesuit leaders for not saying whether they've taken steps to laicize (lay-ih-size) Fr. McGuire, in other words, have the Catholic Church officially take away his ability to act in any way as a priest.


http://www.wbbm780.com/New-Accusations-Emerge-Against-Convicted-Priest/1123105

US wants extradition of prominent Ger hassid accused of sodomy

The Jerusalem Post

October 23, 2007

By MATTHEW WAGNER

The Brooklyn District Attorney's office has requested the extradition of Avrohom Mondrowitz, a resident of Jerusalem and a prominent member of the Ger Hassidic sect, on child molestation charges dating back over two decades involving four boys aged 11 to 16.


The extradition request was made in January, according to Brooklyn District Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Schmetterer. "We know that the US Department of Justice and the State Department have begun the extradition process," said Schmetterer. "It is also our understanding that the Israeli Justice Ministry has been contacted as well."

The Justice Ministry declined to comment.

Mondrowitz, who was contacted by telephone by The Jerusalem Post, hung up as soon as the reporter identified himself.

However, a prominent member of the Ger community in Jerusalem defended Mondrowitz.

"There are people who are trying to disparage Mondrowitz's name," said the source.

"Mondrowitz is a very intelligent, talented man and so are all of his children. His father is highly respected in the community. I can't believe these stories are true.

The source said Mondrowitz was in the computer business.

Mondrowitz worked for a short period at the Jerusalem College of Technology as a fund-raiser and at the Jerusalem College of Engineering as a lecturer.

The Post has also learned that Dep.-Cmdr. Avi Aviv of the National Fraud Squad's Cyber Crimes Division is conducting an investigation against Mondrowitz.

Mondrowitz, who was born in Tel Aviv in 1947 and later moved with his family to Chicago, arrived in Brooklyn in the late 1970s and presented himself to Orthodox educational institutions as a rabbi and clinical psychologist.

He provided psychological treatment to children from the mixed Jewish-Italian Borough Park neighborhood where he lived. He also opened a yeshiva for children with behavioral problems.

Four children, all from Italian families and all neighbors of Mondrowitz, complained of sexual abuse perpetrated by Mondrowitz. Jewish victims also eventually testified against him, but only after the statute of limitations had expired.

In 1985, a New York State court charged Mondrowitz with eight counts of child abuse in the first degree, endangering the welfare of a child and five counts of sodomy in the first degree.

Mondrowitz and his family fled to Jerusalem after a warrant was issued for his arrest.

At the time of the indictment, sodomy of boys was not an extraditable crime, since it was not defined as rape under Israeli law. In 1988, the Knesset changed that law, apparently opening the way for Mondrowitz's extradition.

The Brooklyn DA's office said Mondrowitz could not be extradited until this year, when the Knesset approved a law removing the impediments to retroactively applying the 1988 law.

But Michael Lesher, an attorney representing six men who say they were molested by Mondrowitz in the early 1980s but who were not included in the original indictment, said the extradition was delayed due to officials, especially Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes, dragging their feet.

Lesher claims that Hynes balked due to heavy pressure to drop the case from the Orthodox community in Brooklyn, which supported Mondrowitz despite the fact that Israel's Edah Haredit Rabbinic Court issued a ruling in 1988 in which unnamed "insidious acts" committed by Mondrowitz were mentioned, and warning him to stay away from children.

"Hynes was elected in 1989 with strong Orthodox support," Lesher said in an e-mailed message. "He appointed a virtually all-Orthodox Jewish Advisory Council after being elected, and he reversed the policy of his predecessor, Elizabeth Holtzman, and did not press for Mondrowitz's return to face trial.

In September 1993, Hynes instructed the federal government to close its file on Mondrowitz and said he would not pursue the case while Mondrowitz remained in Israel.


Lesher said he was "elated" to see the district attorney finally moving to extradite Mondrowitz. "All my clients hope that Mondrowitz will at last be brought to justice."

In response to Lesher's claims, Schmetterer said extradition was impossible until the Knesset acted this year.

But in past news reports on delays, Hynes's office was quoted as providing a different explanation. Sources were cited saying that despite the changes in Israeli law, the extradition request could not be made retroactively.

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/ Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ ShowFull&cid=1192380626856

22 Oct 2007

Life in a polygamous marriage

Chicago Tribune - October 14, 2007

By Jennifer Garza | McClatchy Newspapers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Growing up, Irene Spencer believed the best way to get into heaven was to marry a man who had a lot of wives.That's what Spencer's mother had done. But her mother, tired of the poverty that forced her to rummage through garbage to feed her children, abandoned her polygamous marriage. Spencer saw her flight as a failure.

So at 16, Spencer married her sister's husband, a man she barely knew but was determined to wed. With a religious fervor, the teenager set out to "prove to my ancestors that I could do this."

And for nearly 25 years, she did. She endured poverty, physical hardships, jealousy among her husband's nine other wives and death threats from a rival polygamous group. She bore 13 children. It was a life, Spencer said, that left her lonely and exhausted.

Spencer, 70, now lives in Woodbridge, Calif., just a few minutes north of Lodi, with her daughter Donna Goldberg.

Eighteen years ago, Spencer wrote -- in longhand -- her life story as a way for her 120 grandchildren to understand their complicated heritage. They don't have a family tree, she said, they have a family forest.

Her daughter persuaded her to publish the manuscript. After years of rejection by editors, "Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife," was published in August. The 383-page book has reached the New York Times best-seller list and received strong reviews -- "her writing is lively and full of engaging dialogue, and her life is nothing short of astonishing," said Publisher's Weekly.

All of this has taken Spencer by surprise. She just wanted to answer any questions her children may have. "When I'm dead and gone I want them to know what their grandmother was like and how she was brainwashed," Spencer said.

Is she bitter toward her former husband, who often neglected her?

Spencer ponders the question and takes a few moments to answer. "I feel from the bottom of my heart that he was a victim of circumstance just like I was," she says, matter of factly. "I can't blame him anymore than I blame myself. I believe you come out of something bitter or better. I chose better."

Spencer is from a fourth-generation polygamous family, a Mormon splinter group, whose life was ruled by what members referred to as "The Principle." The sect believed that a man who had two wives was worthy of being a god, one with seven or more was more or less guaranteed it. They believed Jesus had two wives. A woman could not be a god on her own -- her job was to marry a man with many wives and bear him many children.

The group considered themselves fundamentalist Mormons but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not.

"Those groups which continue the practice in Utah and elsewhere have no association with the LDS faith," said church officials in a statement to The Sacramento Bee. The church, which banned polygamy in 1890, has not taken a stand on Spencer's book.

With the HBO show "Big Love," and the recent trial of polygamist Warren Jeffs (who was found guilty of forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin), polygamy is once again in the news.

Today, no one knows for sure how many people are living polygamist lifestyles in the United States, but estimates range from between 30,000 to 50,000 people, according to Kathryn Daynes, associate professor of history at Brigham Young University, who has studied and written about polygamy.

"There are groups we know about, but there are also independent groups and no one knows how many of them there are," says Daynes. "Their lives are under the radar. Many of these men will work in construction, where people judge you on your work, not on your lifestyle."

Spencer spent much of her childhood hiding. By the time she was in kindergarten, she learned not to talk to outsiders and not to tell anyone about all her brothers and sisters. By the time she was a teenager, Spencer thought it would be an honor to be in a plural marriage.

Spencer married her half-sister's husband, Verlan LeBaron, against her mother's wishes. Soon, she realized how lonely and difficult her life would be.

Her husband, who later became president of the cult group The Church of the Firstborn, ignored her most of the time. The sect believed sex is only to procreate, and he spent much of his time pursuing other wives and working. Shortly after their marriage in 1953, the family fled to Mexico after a government raid on their group. There, the family lived in poverty.

"We lived for the first 12 years without electricity," said Spencer. The growing family later fled to Nicaragua after her husband's relative, Ervil LeBaron, targeted the rival group for death.

"The poverty, living in fear, that was the worst," Spencer said.

Often, there was tension among the wives. Several lived in the same house but sometimes they would go all day without saying a word to each other. Spencer cried about her situation but says she never argued with any of her husband's other wives.

"We got along, because we did it for God," says Spencer. "I felt God required me to live a good life, so I toed the line." She was miserable. Still, she stayed. Why?

"I was afraid that I'd be damned to hell and I only had a ninth- grade education," says Spencer. She says she didn't want to go on welfare because she feared her children would be taken from her. She had no job skills, no education. She didn't get her driver's license until she was 40.

Finally, after her husband took his 10th wife (a friend of his daughter's) Spencer had enough. Her husband had 58 children by his different wives.

"I finally realized that all those years I was threatened with hell, but I was already living it," said Spencer.

Spencer escaped to her sister's home and later brought many of her children with her. Feeling guilty, she later returned to her husband for one year. During that time, LeBaron was killed in a car accident in Mexico in 1981.

"Finally, that time of my life was over," Spencer said.

In 1987, she married Hector J. Spencer and has been happily and monogamously married for nearly 20 years.

"I'm married to the kindest and most gentle, loving man you can imagine," Spencer said. She is now a born-again Christian and attends Bethel Open Bible Church in Lodi.

She may have left the polygamous lifestyle but some of her children have not. Out of her 12 living children, three of them are living in polygamy. "I tell them, 'it doesn't work,'" said Spencer. "But it's difficult to leave, I know."

Goldberg, her oldest daughter, was the first of the children to decide the polygamous lifestyle was not for her.

"I saw no end to the number of wives my father would get; he even married two of my close friends," said Goldberg. "I saw how worn out my mother was ... when I left, she said, 'Go.'"

Goldberg admires her mother, who as the second wife had no legal rights.

"Who collects Social Security? The first wife," said Goldberg. "I don't know how, but my mother survived it all and still has her sanity intact. I think she's amazing."

Spencer said there is so much more that she didn't write about in her book. So she is writing another. Six hours a day, again in longhand. This one is called "From Harem to Heaven." Her daughter has created a Web site about her mother's work, www.IreneSpencerBooks.com.

Spencer may be writing about her history but says she's not dwelling on the past.

"I live in the present moment," said Spencer. "I look at beauty around me and just enjoy it."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-101407-polygamy,1,7900187.story?ctrack=2&cset=true

21 Oct 2007

Exclusive Bretheren children abused

*the following is a common practice amongst most “high control” groups…

The Age.com.Au
Michael Bachelard
October 17, 2007

FORMER Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson has accused the Exclusive Brethren church of brainwashing and abusing children by denying them access to their non-Brethren parents.

Mr Nicholson also accused it of failing to comply with court orders, of stacking Family Court rooms with supporters to intimidate opponents, of using their almost unlimited legal funds to “conduct appeals no matter how hopeless”, and of “unacceptable” comments about being above the law.

A Brethren spokesman rejected all the comments, saying church members sought to “uphold the law at all times”.

The Exclusive Brethren, which has contributed millions of dollars to conservative political campaigns, including the re-election of Prime Minister John Howard in 2004, practices a policy of separation from the world, which includes keeping children from parents who are out of the fellowship.

Non-Brethren parents have for decades fought bruising Family Court battles to try to get access to their children.

Mr Nicholson, who retired in 2004 after 16 years as head of the Family Court, revealed last year that he had been visited by two delegations of Exclusive Brethren elders trying to persuade him to help them keep families apart.

Brethren children often tell their non-Brethren parent as part of custody disputes that they are evil and that they do not want to spend time with them.

“You’d have to be highly suspicious that, if not coached, that the children had in effect been brainwashed into believing that they shouldn’t see the other parent,” he said in an interview with the ABC’s Four Corners, which did not go to air. “To treat children in that way is abusive of them, and it’s psychologically very damaging to the child. It’s in effect telling the child that their parent is worthless … and that really is quite unacceptable.”

Mr Nicholson said church members were “reluctant to comply with court orders”, which “had to be enforced with vigour”.

A church spokesman rejected the comments, saying the Brethren encouraged members to abide by custody rulings. There were “numerous cases where joint custody arrangements are working smoothly”.

In 2003, world leader Bruce D. Hales told a Brethren gathering that “I can’t exactly expect to get mercy in the judicial system” and the Brethren church was “the highest court” that had “the power to overrule other judgements”.

Mr Nicholson said it was “obviously not acceptable in a democratic society for people to treat themselves as above the law”, although it was not an uncommon view among strictly religious people.

The Brethren said Mr Hales’ comment was a “theological reference … that moral and spiritual matters are dealt with by the church, despite these issues not always being considered in a court of law”.

Labor spokesman Anthony Albanese wants the Howard Government to “disclose all of the financial and other support they have received from the Exclusive Brethren” for November’s election.

http://factnet.org/?p=181

20 Oct 2007

Review: Fear, sex are driving forces within Children of God cult

San Francisco Chronicle

October 19, 2007

Book Review by Mary D'Ambrosio


Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge
By Don Lattin
HARPERONE; 236 PAGES; $24.95

You couldn't beat it for tabloid fodder: Anointed prophet of a secretive evangelical mission-cum-sex cult slits the throat of an ex-nanny, and then kills himself, in protest against the cult leaders, his parents, for years of sex abuse he says he and many other children suffered. And he made a video first.

"My question is, you know, what about these [expletive] perverts? You know - aren't they the real terrorists?" suggested Richard Peter Rodriguez, 29, methodically loading bullets into the clip of his Glock 23 on a table crowded with other weaponry.

"Terrorizing little kids. Driving them to suicide. Isn't that like murdering them, basically? You [expletive] with their minds so much that they can't go on. They really can't go on."

Don Lattin, the former religion reporter for The Chronicle and one of the nation's foremost writers on alternative religion, had already written about this '60s cult, Children of God, in his Chronicle series "Children of a Lesser God," and his book about child survivors of cults, "Following Our Bliss."

But the January 2005 murder-suicide drew him back into the story.

This absorbing, disturbing book is the result. "Jesus Freaks" is an impressive feat of investigative history, bringing to light the warped worldview and abusive sexual and disciplinary practices of a deluded secret society - though Lattin perhaps finds greater meaning in the tale than most readers will. He wants us to see more than the story of another messianic wacko who led a band of impressionable followers to pain and harm. Lattin argues, rather, that these events were "deeply rooted in the Christian tradition."

The author pointedly mentions the Catholic Church's priest pedophilia scandals. And he works in a terror link, drawing a dotted line from the cult's apocalyptic Endtime philosophy to the possible psychological state of the 9/11 hijackers and other terrorists.

"Who can argue against the need to better understand psychologically unbalanced zealots who twist scripture, exploit social unrest and inspire an army of fanatics," he asks. Rodriguez's goodbye video even echoes the farewell videos Palestinian suicide bombers make for their families.

But those are heavy theoretical demands to make upon a story that, to a nonspecialist at least, comes across as a familiar tale of a preacher who used his talents of persuasion to draw a coterie of impressionable followers into his alternative reality. His bizarre practices seem to have no more complex justification than that he's dreamed them up. Behavior then wanders wildly off the grid.

Cult leader David Brandt Berg grew up in the 1920s and 1930s at the apron strings of his mother, the famous Pentecostal preacher Virginia Lee Brandt. He didn't go to college or to war like other young men his age (he secured conscientious objector status). He was "different." In a 1964 family photo, Berg, his first wife and three children seem the embodiment of square, the males in dark string ties and clipped hair. But Dad soon grows a long beard and starts his sect in San Francisco around the flower power movement of the late '60s. It seemed like just another harmless group of free-love-preaching Jesus freaks. "In the end," Lattin writes, "it wasn't a great leap from the Age of Aquarius to the Second Coming of Christ."

Berg soon invents "flirty fishing," a weirdly erotic twist on Pentecostal witnessing: Female cult members are sent out to pick up men and sleep with them, an act of both recruitment and fundraising. Cult members also freely had sex with one another. But by far the most disturbing practice is the treatment of the children born of all these casual unions: They are sexually abused and subjected to incest from a very young age, under Berg's bogus theory that God created human beings to enjoy love and sex, so it was his responsibility to introduce them to it early. The simpler truth, some interviewees say, is that Berg was obsessed with sex.

He arranged for girls as young as 5 to make suggestive videos for his enjoyment, and had them watch adults having sex. He also encouraged child sexual molestation by parents, siblings and babysitters. Girls of 12 and up were subject to Berg's "sharing schedule," a sexual rotation in which he arranged to sleep with whomever he chose.

A hermetic, on-the-run existence kept these practices alive for years, mostly abroad. Various branches of the group, a.k.a. the Family, camped out in the Spanish islands, in a borrowed Italian villa or in what sounded like fairly comfy digs in France, Australia, Argentina, the Philippines and Ukraine, pulling up stakes whenever authorities snooped. The Family at one point claimed 8,000 members, including ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Jeremy Spencer and the parents of actor River Phoenix.

Although children soon began to exhibit signs of extreme distress - Berg's eldest son committed suicide at 19, and others ran away and denounced the group as they matured - Berg and his second wife by polygamous marriage, Karen Zerby, refused to acknowledge any problems. Berg died in 1994. But one of their sons - Richard Rodriguez, dubbed the Prophet - would reopen this history.

Born on the Spanish island of Tenerife to Zerby and a local waiter who was the cult's first flirty fishing experiment, the boy was given the alias Davidito and educated to lead the group in the coming Endtime. He starred in a private Family child care manual, The Story of Davidito, which included pictures and descriptions of adults sexually fondling him.

A shy boy, he grew resentful of the role his father decreed for him, particularly after he was matched with daily sex partners, a regime Berg called "teen training." Some also report that Zerby also had sex with her son.

Rodriguez left the movement as a young adult, and married another Family refugee. But, unable to shake his rage, he vowed to hunt down his mother and kill her.

Some of the book's most poignant passages are the despairing phrases uttered by these damaged children, who often failed to find satisfactory new lives. Some fell into the sex trade. They cite, especially, an inability to function in the ordinary world. "I have no life. I can't find the happy ending," Davida, brought up as Davidito's sister, tells Lattin. She has ended up as an exotic dancer.

Don Irwin, who grew up in a camp in Thailand, explained: "If you are not with your parents, who is going to help you to go to the States and go to high school? Nobody is. You are at the mercy of whatever random clown Zerby decided to make head of that location."

Various accounts suggest that the Family renounced adult-child sexual relations and flirty fishing in 1987 because of AIDS fears. But a family Web site claims, rather preposterously, that the practice was discontinued because of "the need to spend more time in other forms of outreach." The sun had set over Aquarius a long time ago; it was the age of Reagan.

It's hard to know exactly what lessons to draw from this sordid saga. But perhaps it's one more reminder of religion's awesome power, another look at how easily it can be twisted to destructive ends.

Mary D'Ambrosio is a writer who teaches journalism at New York University.

This article appeared on page M - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/19/RV2QSBE41.DTL&type=books

Anglican bishop suspends abuse investigation

Globe & Mail - Canada
October 19, 2007

MICHAEL VALPY


Anglican officials yesterday put in limbo their inquiry into abuse allegations against two priests who were headmasters of a now-closed private school in Eastern Ontario - angering several former students who accused the church of trying to protect itself from legal action.

The announcement by the bishop of the diocese in which Grenville Christian College was located near Brockville came two days after a Toronto law firm sent notices to the diocese, the school and one of the former headmasters, saying it represented a group of former students considering civil action.

Bishop George Bruce interviewed about 40 former students of the school who claimed they variously experienced physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the school.

He informed them by e-mail yesterday that he had been advised by legal counsel to suspend his investigation until "a possible Ontario Provincial Police investigation arising from similar allegations against the individuals you had complained about as well as the possibility of a civil class-action lawsuit ... are resolved."

Church officials said he would continue collecting evidence, but hold off on any final decision so as not to prejudice any criminal prosecution or civil litigation. Archdeacon Paul Feheley, principal secretary to the Anglican primate - senior national archbishop - said this was standard procedure.

The two priests whom Bishop Bruce has been investigating are Rev. Charles Farnsworth, who was headmaster for more than a decade until his retirement in 1997, and Rev. Gordon Mintz, who was headmaster at the time the school closed in July.

In addition to allegations of abuse, former students have claimed the school was closely identified with the Anglican Church for more than 30 years while controlled for most of that time by the Massachusetts-based Community of Jesus, which has been labelled a cult in the U.S. media.

Former students said yesterday they felt betrayed by Bishop Bruce's decision.

"He met with us in a pastoral capacity and it seemed to us a commitment," said Jennifer Reid, now a Peterborough teacher. "It's really disappointing that we're still not being heard.

"They still haven't looked at the role of the church and how the church was entangled with the school. Those aren't legal issues or police issues. Those are church issues and the church is again ignoring its pastoral responsibility to people who were hurt."

Another graduate, Sheila O'Sullivan of Mississauga, said: "I had hoped that finally the Anglican Church was going to take responsibility for their clergy. But given that the diocese has been shockingly derelict in its duties regarding Grenville from the outset, it should really come as no surprise that it continues to do so."

"I'm very disgusted," said Thomas Rossini, a nurse in Michigan. "The bishop is basically covering ... the diocese's butt."

Andrew Hale-Byrne, a British civil servant who graduated from Grenville in the 1990s, said from London: "Bishop Bruce was well aware of the OPP investigation when I met with him on Sept. 28. And are we to believe that the diocese is that naive not to expect a civil lawsuit? The bishop's statement is devoid of any pastoral sentiment."

Richard Van Dusen of Toronto said: "I'm just shocked at the response. It just seems like another step to avoid the real issue of the church's involvement."

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20071019.GRENVILLE18/TPStory/TPNational/Ontario/

Underside of cult life emerges

The Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 19, 2007

by Lindsey Hoshaw

Almost three years after Children of God cult member Richard Rodriguez murdered Angela Smith and then committed suicide, a San Francisco journalist and a cult escapee are publishing books to spread awareness about the dark side of cult life.

Rodriguez's actions on Jan. 8, 2005, received instant publicity and drew attention to Tucson, where Smith's murder took place. The tragedy occurred after Rodriguez suffered years of abuse at the hands of his father and other cult members, including Smith.

Desperate for revenge, Rodriguez invited Smith to his apartment and stabbed her. He then drove across the California border, pulled out a handgun and shot himself.

"It's such a sensational, bizarre story," said Don Lattin, a San Francisco-based journalist whose book, "Jesus Freaks," about Rodriguez's life, came out last week. "I wanted to know how this could happen."

David Berg, Rodriguez's father and founder of Children of God, attracted thousands of followers worldwide. His practice sprung from Christian Evangelicalism but drastically distorted Biblical readings.

Berg believed that if you truly loved someone, you would share everything, including your possessions, your spouse and your body. This belief applied to children as young as two or three years old, who were scheduled for "sharing naps" during which they would have sex with each other.

Rodriguez grew up in this environment of molestation, mind control and physical abuse.

Rodriguez felt angry, depressed and helpless, according to journal entries written in August 2004 and posted online by Movingon.org, a Web site helping former cult members find acceptance.

Lattin, who has been covering alternative religious movements for 30 years and lost a friend to the Jonestown cult massacre of 1978, broke the Rodriguez story for the San Francisco Chronicle.

In seeking to understand why people join and stay committed to cults, he said that many organizations seem harmless at first glance.

"They are idealistic and often are very intelligent, and they want to save the world and change things," he said. "But when the leaders go off the deep end, they project it onto the group, and the group takes on the leader's craziness."

Lattin said he has spoken to more than a dozen "second-generation" members, children who were born into the cult, and that many are severely traumatized.

"A lot of the kids are so damaged," Lattin said. "Not just because of the sexual abuse, but because they were so isolated from the real world. Ricky (Rodriguez) was the ultimate example of this."

Some children, like now-26-year-old Juliana Buhring, have been able to remake their lives in the outside world.

Buhring grew up in a branch of Children of God after her parents joined in the 1970s.

"I've had to start building a new identity and discover who I am," she said.

"It all starts to hit you, that you've not been given the normal life chances of anyone else," she added. "You're like a child. You don't even know how to write a friggin check."

Buhring, co-author of "Not Without My Sister," spent the last two years working on the book with half-sisters Celeste and Kristina Jones.

"I wanted to set the record straight and say this is what happened, and it wasn't a small handful of people," she said.

The bestselling author said she was molested as a toddler and was severely punished for her rebellion against "the family." Discipline included beatings, starvation and solitary confinement. For two months she was kept in a small, windowless cell with Celeste after Celeste's mother alerted authorities to look for her.

"We all knew something was wrong, we just didn't have the words to describe it," Buhring said.

Finally, in her early 20s, she had the courage and ability to leave. Because she was an adult and openly challenged the cult, they were willing to let her go.

"It's like jumping off a cliff and not knowing how far you're going to fall," Buhring said.

Buhring estimates that three-fourths of her generation in the cult has left, but that many struggle with depression, drug abuse and prostitution - or end up committing suicide.

"The average citizen has no idea about this," said Michael Trauscht, a former Deputy Pima County Attorney who is now the legal officer of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Trauscht said he has helped remove more than 100 children and adolescents from cults in Arizona since 1975.

"Only if someone's family member joins (a cult) do people learn how serious or dangerous it is," Trauscht said. "Anybody can be brainwashed, no matter how rough and tough you are."

Lattin is scheduled to appear on ABC's "Nightline" and CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360°" this month, and Buhring's book will hit U.S. stores next year.

"I hope people will take the book as a cautionary tale of what can happen when you put too much faith in one person, when you let someone else tell you what's true, rather than try to think for yourself," Lattin said.

http://media.wildcat.arizona.edu/
media/storage/paper997/news/
2007/10/19/News/Underside.
Of.Cult.Life.Emerges-3043973.shtml

18 Oct 2007

The Making of a Twisted Sexual Theology: Q+A on "Jesus Freaks"

ReligionWriter.com, Part 1, October 12, 2007

The bizarre, tragic nature of his life began with his conception: Ricky Rodriguez was born as a result of “flirty fishing,” a practice of proselytizing through sex advocated by David Berg, the Jesus-quoting founder of the religious sect now known as The Family International (formerly The Children of God.)

Berg, the son of a well-known Pentecostal evangelist, brought a gospel of Jesus, free love and end-time prophecy to hippies of the 1960s and 70s. Berg’s polygamous wife Karen Zerby conceived Ricky with a potential convert in the Canary Islands; Berg became Ricky’s spiritual father, raising him to become the movement’s prophet-prince who would usher in Jesus’ Second Coming.

But something went badly awry with Berg’s religious fantasy. Ricky, raised in seclusion in Berg’s household, was subject to sexual abuse from his first year onward, often at the hands of his several nannies. In Berg’s view, God created children to enjoy sex, and adults were best suited to please them. Ricky, along with other rebellious teens in the movement, were later sent to harsh re-indoctrination camps.

Although many of the children born to Family members left the group, and some channeled their energies into trying to bring the group down through the media or the courts, the group continues today. In January, 2005, a 29-year-old Ricky — depressed, unable to adapt to live outside of the group, and, in his words, weighed down with a “need” for revenge — stabbed to death one of the former nannies who had abused him before taking his own life.

In his new book, Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge, veteran religion reporter Don Lattin tells Ricky’s poignant story while tracing the evolution of a sex-addicted leader who saw himself as God’s prophet.

ReligionWriter spoke with Lattin this week about his new book. The first half of the conversation appears today, in which Lattin describes why he was drawn to the story, and how Berg developed a sexual theology with such terrible consequences for the children around him. The second half the conversation will appear next week.

RW: This story seems so dark – why were you compelled to write it?

Lattin: The fact is, I didn’t know just how dark it was going to be before I started. Obviously, I knew about some of the disturbing aspects of The Family — I reported on them for an article I wrote in 2001, “Children of a Lesser God,” about children who had grown up in four alternative religions of the 1960s: The Family, the Church of Scientology, the Hare Krishnas and the Unification Church, or the Moonies.

Having come of age as a journalist during the cult wars of the 1970s, I have always been interested in new religious movements. The intensity of the conversion and belief and devotion makes for a compelling story, whether for good or evil. There’s an interesting question there: When does a new religious movement make the leap from being a cult or sect to a religion? The second generation gives you a window into that process, because the question is whether they will keep the faith or not. So I didn’t go looking for horror stories; I was interested in what happened to the children born into The Family.

I wrote that story in 2001 around the time Ricky was just leaving The Family. In 2005, when he snapped and went on his crusade, I was able to basically break the story. The 45-minute video tape he made the night he committed the murder and then killed himself was so chilling and inexplicable. How could someone who was raised in a group that claims to be inspired by Christian love and compassion — someone who was raised to be the leader of that group — come out being so angry and vengeful? I knew the stories of what had gone on during “flirty fishing” years, and I had heard about the re-indoctrination camps for teens, but when I saw that video, I decided I had to get to the bottom of this and find out his story.

RW: Let’s talk about the group’s leader, David Berg, who abused Ricky and many others in pursuit of sex and power. You suggest that Berg was sexually molested as a child; do you think that explains his behavior as an adult? What made him act in such an evil way?

Lattin: That’s the $64,000 question. I wouldn’t say he was sexually abused as a child, but he describes his mother as incredibly repressive. As a boy, he would masturbate or play with himself, and she went to extremes to stop him. One time, Berg said, she threatened to cut off his penis, and even brought out a razor and bowl, in front of his entire family and his friends. That is a kind of sexual abuse, though it’s the flip side. (Below left, David Berg, 1919-1994)

So he struggled to control his sexual feelings as a child, and today we would probably call David Berg a sex addict. But Berg was also very involved with his mother. Out of the three children in his family, he was the only one who stuck with the evangelical faith of his parents. As his mother and father became estranged, he basically became mother’s new husband, though they weren’t having sex; he filled the role his father had played, being the PR man and chauffeur for his mother, the famous evangelist.

Right when his own religious message was taking off in the late 60s, his mother died. He was surrounded by the sexual revolution in California, and suddenly he was free as a bird. As he gained power — well, of course power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We know now from his children and grandchildren that he abused them going way back.

RW: Can you explain Berg’s “Law of Love,” and whether that is still practiced by the group today?

Lattin: They have tried to crack down on adult-child sexual relations, but they openly acknowledge practicing the law of love, which means sexual “sharing” with people in the group who are not your spouse. I don’t think they’re doing flirty fishing like they used to, though it might happen on an ad hoc basis when they proselytize. They have calmed down, but not completely.

In some ways, Berg’s critique of the piety and hypocrisy of the mainstream American evangelical movement, or Christianity in general, was right on — there is that suspicion of the body, the idea that the spirit is good and the flesh is evil. Some of what he was writing then is what sex-positive theologians or gay theologians are writing today. He was way ahead of his time — he just went overboard with it.

Berg claimed to have a theological grounding; Jesus said love is the greatest commandment, and Berg took than to an extreme. At his famous sex-sharing parties with his inner circle, he was known for taking off his clothes, walking around with a bottle of wine and quoting the scripture: “To the pure, all things are pure.” As I mention in my book, of course, he left out the rest of that quotation, which reads: “but to the corrupt and unbelieving, nothing is pure.” (Titus 1:15.)

I didn’t discuss this in the book, but Berg followed a sort of antinomianism, which is the Christian idea that because you’re already saved through Christ Jesus, then you can’t sin. He wasn’t the first person to think that way.

But converts to The Family were not religiously literate — they didn’t have a grounding in the Bible, or a Christian education, so it was easy for Berg to shape his theology as he wanted it. He didn’t let the Jesus revolution get in the way of the sexual revolution.

RW: Other religious founders gave themselves special sexual status. Joseph Smith, for example, asked his closest followers to let him marry their wives. The Prophet Muhammad had more wives than the four allowed for the average believer. Do you see a pattern here? Does sexual power go hand-in-hand with religious power?

Lattin: In writing about new religious movements for the past 20-25 years, I’ve found that three things bring the leaders down: sex, money and power. Berg was not so interested in money — he lived comfortably — but he was very interested in the power and control, and also sex.

There are some parallels with Joseph Smith, who he said was one of his role models. Smith and Berg both took the wives of their top disciples, and I’ve seen this in other religious movements. You also hear about it among primates. You’d think, of course, that if you take someone’s wife, he’d get angry, and punch you in the face and leave. But what happens is, it strengthens people’s commitment, and if you promise some kind of salvation from this sexual sharing, as Berg did, then it’s a mechanism of control as well.

Coming next week: Don Lattin talks with ReligionWriter about academics who have been sympathetic to The Family; whether or not Ricky Rodriguez was a hero; and why The Family leaders have never been brought to justice.

“A Misbegotten Martyr:” Ricky Rodriguez’s Tragic Quest for Justice

Part 2, October 16, 2007

Last week, Don Lattin spoke with ReligionWriter about the evangelical influences behind the sexual theology of The Family International, a religious sect founded by leader David Berg in the late 1960s. Berg’s spiritual step-son, Ricky Rodriguez, was raised to be the group’s leader — Berg prophesied that Rodriguez would eventually sacrifice his life for the salvation of fellow sect members at the end of time.

In 2005, Ricky did lose his life — he shot himself in the head on a desert road after having stabbed to death one of the many adults who sexually molested him as a child. In the video he made (image left, from xfamily.org) before the murder and suicide, Ricky spoke about how hard it was for him to cope with his past as an adult out in the real world, and how he constantly thought about suicide. But the idea that the group’s leaders, including his own mother, who encouraged and allowed the on-going sexual abuse of Ricky and his siblings, were never punished for their actions weighed on Ricky. “Suicide is the quitter’s way out,” he said to the camera. “I’m trying to do something lasting.”

Today ReligionWriter continues the conversation about Ricky and The Family with Lattin, author of the new book Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge.

RW: These days many journalists, academics and religious leaders are hesitant to use the word “cult,” preferring instead the more neutral term “new religious movements.” But when it comes to The Family, where leader David Berg did apparently control and sexually abuse the group’s children, is it actually helpful to use the word “cult?”


Lattin: There’s a difference of opinion among religion writers if you should ever use the word in newspaper stories, unless you use it in a quote. The Children of God [as The Family was formerly known] was a sect, in the dictionary-definition sense that a sect splits off from something else. The Family was an evangelical sect, part of the Jesus Movement. I know people will take issue with my book title, but I think it’s a good argument that this group came out of the evangelical movement. Cults tends to be a group based around the charism of one leader in an authoritarian or extreme way; we can definitely see The Family was like that.

RW: What sense do you make of The Family — that Berg translated Jesus’ “love of neighbor” to mean free love and ultimately child sexual abuse?

Lattin: It is a cautionary tale of what happens when a self-defined religious prophet goes over the edge. It was not just sexual abuse, but a whole messianic complex that preachers like Berg get caught up in. They exploit people financially, using apocalyptic prophecies to scare people into giving their money away — You can abuse people with Christianity, there’s no doubt about it. Of course I’m not saying all Christians are like that – Berg’s movement was neither a healthy nor a typical expression of Christianity. But if you look at the incredible success of the Left Behind books and movies, you can still see the appeal of apocalyptic teachings. Berg started out, before his “Law of Love” and other sexual teachings, as your standard The-End-Is-Near prophet. Berg said Ricky and mom [Karen Zerby] were going to be the two witnesses of the end-times — that’s right out of the Book of Revelations.


RW: In your book you describe the academic work of sociologists studying the group, who downplayed the adult-child sexual contact and relativized it by pointing to other cultures where children are married in their early teens. Some of this sympathy towards The Family is still visible today. Do you find it alarming?

Lattin: It is alarming, because I think some academics were really compromised by The Family. Some were compromised in nefarious ways [i.e. paid for their research,] but most were compromised because they were more interested in studying The Family and keeping good relations with The Family than they were in blowing the whistle. They didn’t see it as their job to blow the whistle.

What I see in writing about new religious movements are two distinct camps of “experts:” There are the alarmists, who think everything is the next Jonestown, and there are the apologists, who never see anything wrong. A lot of academics, especially sociologists of religion, give groups leeway; it is true that in a lot of culture, kids do marry young, and adults practice polygamy. People who are so horrified by The Family’s child abuse tend to forget that the world is a big place, with a lot of moral questions about what age is proper [for sex] and how many wives are proper. But the fact is we do live in a society where certain taboos and values apply, and these religious groups are part of that society.

RW: Why haven’t children born into The Family, who suffered sexual or other abuses, been successful in prosecuting cases against The Family or individual leaders and members?

Lattin: Second-generation defectors who claim abuse have tried to get lawyers and start investigations, but they never went anywhere. It’s not like no one knew about this stuff; people had accused The Family of child abuse for years. But it mostly happened in ’70s and ’80s, so the statute of limitations had expired, and it mostly happened outside U.S., so it’s difficult to bring a suit, and of course Family members were constantly changing their names, so a lot of kids have no idea who abused them. It’s too bad the second-generation defectors didn’t take advantage recently when California lifted its statute of limitations on civil suits for child molestation. It was just a window of time, and they didn’t get it together. In any case, the abuse itself happened outside of California.

RW: After reading your book and watching Ricky’s video, it’s hard not to see him as something of a tragic hero. How do you see him?

Lattin: I wouldn’t say he was a hero. I would say he was a misbegotten martyr. It’s so touching and tragic because here’s a guy who was raised to be a martyr for the forces of righteousness in the battles of the End Times — righteousness in that case meant David Berg and Zerby and The Family. Ricky was able to free himself from The Family as a young adult, but he turned that crusade against The Family rather than against “the System,” or the outside world, as he was supposed to. Berg was a horrid master at self-fulfilling prophecy. So Ricky never really escaped his destiny, even when he went against the group. That’s one of the things that’s so compelling about his story.

RW: What is The Family like today? It seems from all their mission work abroad, it must be very international.

Lattin: There are thousands of converts worldwide, but it’s hard to say how many; The Family’s membership figures are notoriously unreliable. But it’s safe to say there probably are between 5,000 and 10,000 active members. They are spread all around the world, in small seemingly independent missionary groups in Africa, Asia, everywhere. According to Family records, 13,000 children were born into The Family between 1971 and 2001, and I think that’s a valid number. A few thousand of that second generation have stayed in — members had such huge families, it was not uncommon to have 5 or ten kids, so if even just two stay in, that adds up.

RW: In the book, you talk with current Family members, even members of the second generation, who claim to have had completely positive experiences in the Family and to have never been abused. How do you make sense of these conflicting testimonies?

Lattin: It’s not that hard to make sense of it. First, hardly anyone in The Family ever met or even saw David Berg. It wasn’t like they had an up-close and personal look at David Berg as Ricky and others in that inner circle, or “The Unit,” did. You have to differentiate between this “Unit” around Berg and Zerby with their aberrant, bizarre sexual practices, and what filtered out into the wider group. But the real horrible abuse, in terms of sexual abuse, just happened for a certain period of time. It’s not hard to find someone who was born later, say in the late 1980s or early 1990s, who didn’t have that experience. The Family did try to clean up their act, the farther away you got from Berg, the better off your were.

As far as hearing stories from those who leave the group: When you leave the group, you tend to redefine everything. Leaving a new religious movement is sort of like leaving a marriage. Someone who was once your lover and spouse is now someone you can’t stand, and yet they are the same person. As someone reporting on this, you get used to hearing wildly differing descriptions of the same movement, and, in some sense, both are true. Most of the parents in The Family were not child molesters, just misguided idealistic young people who thought they were doing something helpful for their children in freeing them from the sexual repression that Berg grew up with. So it’s not simple; it’s not black and white.

http://www.religionwriter.com/religious-violence/the-making-of-a-twisted-sexual-theology-qa-on-jesus-freaks/