1 Nov 2010

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

The Salt Lake Tribune - June 25, 2009

by Peggy Fletcher Stack

It's a time of intense self-scrutiny for the Family International (formerly known as the Children of God), a tiny Christian fellowship that advocates communal living, extramarital sex and an apocalyptic worldview.

Some 40 years after David Berg, a charismatic evangelical preacher, garnered thousands of hippie followers in Southern California with his messages about sharing bodies, food, children and homes, the movement is struggling to reinvent itself. The 1960s church has battled allegations of past child sexual abuse, complaints from disaffected and aging members and dissatisfaction with an outdated theology.

All new religious groups face essentially the same question if they hope to endure: How do you revise some teachings and practices for wider appeal without forsaking the faith's unique identity and unconventional doctrines?

"Many desire to see innovation, professionalization and modernization," Karen "Maria" Zerby, one of the Family's spiritual and administrative leaders, said last week in her first-ever public address. "We must determine what elements of our theology, culture and context are rooted in the past and no longer hold relevance."

Zerby, who was Berg's wife and his successor after his death in 1994, shared her plans for reshaping the Family at the annual meeting of the Center for the Study of New Religions in Salt Lake City.

This is no small task for Zerby and her co-leader, Steve Kelly (who goes by "Peter Amsterdam"). The Family now has about 15,000 members gathered in small communal centers in 90 nations -- none in Utah.

There is a core group of followers, including some second- and third-generation members, but fewer than 20 percent of the original participants remain, and many of the those are in poor health with no medical insurance or retirement plans.

The church made headlines in 2005 when Zerby's son, Ricky Rodriguez, murdered Angela Smith, his former nanny and confidante of his mother, and then shot himself. Rodriguez blamed the Family for ruining his life.

That's all behind us, said two public-affairs representatives for the church who were in Salt Lake City for the conference.

"We acknowledge that mistakes were made and that there were excesses," said Claire Borowik, who has been with the Family International for 30 years. "We've taken stringent measures to right those wrongs and apologized to former members."

Thus, she said, "we find it disheartening for people to focus so much on the past."

The Christian counterculture » David Brandt Berg, his first wife, Jane, and four teenage children arrived in Huntington Beach, Calif., in 1968 and felt immediately called to preach among the so-called "Jesus freaks" who had congregated in the seaside town.

Berg sought young converts willing to "commit themselves to a radically focused missionary life in which they abandoned worldly occupations to preach salvation, live communally and share all things in common," sociologist brothers Gordon and Gary Shepherd wrote in an essay about the Family in The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions .

The point, the Shepherds wrote, was to be "witnesses for Jesus in the end time of human history."

When Berg's followers had grown to about 100 members, he became known as "Father David" and the group "the Children of God." One of them was a young Karen Zerby, who later became his wife.

Berg communicated his counsel on spiritual and practical aspects of Christianity via letters of instruction, called "Mo letters," to his followers. But Berg's Children of God was controversial from the beginning.

It practiced the "law of love," or nonmonogamous sex, as well as using sex to attract new members in a system known as "flirty-fishing."

"The demand for total commitment to an unconventional missionary lifestyle that sharply condemned the corruption of the existing social institutions and established churches, while simultaneously flouting traditional sexual norms, quickly stigmatized the Children of God as a religious 'sex cult,' " the Shepherds wrote. "All of this converged with the brainwashing controversy concerning new religious movements in the 1970s."

In the aftermath of sensational media attention and hounding by critics, church leaders restructured the group, changing its name in 1978 to the Family International Inc.

Responding to child-abuse allegations, Berg and Zerby later barred sexual contact between adults and children and discontinued "flirty-fishing," conceding some members had misapplied Berg's liberal teachings about sex.

Since then, the Family has issued seven official apologies to former and current members for any grievances they had with their experiences in the group. It also has worked hard to repair its image and reach out to potential converts.

Family spokesman Lonnie Davis -- who notes that the group keeps careful records of each pamphlet distributed, DVD sold and Web page viewed -- said, "We've led 33 million souls to Jesus."

What now? » Zerby's speech in Utah was part of the Family's coming-out party, said Utah attorney Michael Homer, one of the conference sponsors.

"The Family has made a decision to begin constructing a more public profile," he said. "It plans to enhance its Internet presence and adapt its message to the cultures in which it lives. It also plans to open the membership to persons who are not full-time missionaries and do not want to necessarily commit their entire day to Family activities. This may include allowing members to live outside homes and not participate in communal living."

The group is honing its missionary appeals, focusing on humanitarian efforts and social-gospel ministries. It is working to make each community self-sufficient as well as more open, tolerant and egalitarian.

And its leaders are looking 30 to 50 years into the future, rather than expecting the return of Jesus at any moment.

That is "a monumental shift" for these believers to contemplate," but an essential one, Zerby said in her speech.

The hope, she said, is that the Family can "prosper well into the future as a thriving religious community that is relevant to today's world."


What the Family International believes

» There is one true, eternal God, who is the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, invisible spirit of love who created and rules the universe and everything in it. In the Godhead, there are three distinguishable but inseparable persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

» Everyone can have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He can speak to our hearts and give us direction, guidance and practical solutions to the challenges we face in society today.

» The Holy Bible is the inspired word of God.

» The biblical account of creation as depicted in the book of Genesis is to be accepted literally and not allegorically.

» Although God has power to heal illnesses, the decision of whether to rely on prayer alone or to seek medical assistance in addition to prayer is a personal one, and members are free to avail themselves of medical assistance.

» The New Testament's account of the lifestyle of the early church offers not only a historical narrative, but also an exemplary pattern and model, which God intended succeeding generations of believers to follow.

» Heterosexual relations, when practiced as God ordained, designed and intended between consenting adults of legal age, are a pure and natural wonder of God's creation, and permissible according to Scripture.

Source: www.thefamily.org

This article was found at:



News articles on this blog related to the Children of God and The Family International can be found on this page:


Some doctrines the Family International won't tell you they believe:

Demonology: The Family claims knowledge of many individual demons, angels and other spirits. They believe that referring to spirits by name gives their prayers extra effect.


David Berg espoused extreme sexual doctrines that approve of adultery, incest, child-adult sex, child-brides, polygamy, religious prostitution -- almost everything except bestiality and male homosexuality.


The current leaders of the cult, Karen Zerby and Steve Kelly, initiated after Berg's death a new sexual doctrine that requires all members, including to children, to imagine themselves having sex with Jesus when they pray to him, and to use sexually explicit language in their prayers.


The author of the Biblical Book of Revelation describes a city called New Jerusalem. David Berg believed and taught that this "Space City" (or Heaven) existed within a pyramid that measured 1500 miles long, wide and tall and was either travelling through space towards earth or was located inside the moon.


David Berg was a racist who condemned Jews, damned them to hell, praised Hitler, and claimed the Holocaust a fake manufactured by Jewish conspirators.


Update on Saturday, June 27, 2009 by  Perry Bulwer

I wrote a comment on this article and posted it on the Tribune website. I have copied that comment below, as well as comments by Peter Frouman which were also posted to that article.

UPDATE July 8, 2009 by Perry Bulwer: The following comments from myself and Peter Frouman were removed from the Salt Lake Tribune website soon after they were posted there. I had no idea the Tribune would take that action when I copied those comments here.

Perry Bulwer:

No one should believe a word those cult leaders say. Think about this: why would they have issued 7 official apologies to the people they have harmed? Because their apologies are not genuine, but merely public relations propaganda. Even in this article they continue to say passively that "mistakes were made", and place the blame for those mistakes on cult members, by saying "some members had misapplied Berg's liberal teachings about sex".

It was David Berg and Karen Zerby who initiated and practised lust, adultery, incest, polygamy, child molestation, pedophilia, rape, torture, thought-control, and numerous other physical, psychological and spiritual abuses. To this day, leaders of that cult refuse to place the blame where it belongs, on their pedophile founder David Berg, his enablers and current top leaders Karen Zerby (Maria) and Steve Kelly, and on their perverted and abusive theology.

This cult has tried many times before to remake its public image. They tried changing their name, which didn't work, because a skunk by any other name is still a skunk. No matter what this cult tries to do to remake its image, it is still the same corrupt tree, rotten to the core, producing rotten fruit.

Do not be deceived by this cult, or by its "new religions" apologists in academia who white-wash the facts about this abusive "church". Everything about this cult is deceptive and designed to hide the facts from outsiders. They believe it is entirely ethical for them to deceive outsiders, including the use of fraud and misrepresentation, in order to protect their "work".

The Children of God/Family International is now trying to white-wash their past, but their own words condemn them. How can anyone trust a group and its leaders who continue to teach their children, both girls and boys, to imagine themselves having sex with Jesus when they pray? Would you take seriously anyone who claimed that the heavenly city of Revelations is inside the moon? Do not believe Kare

Peter Frouman:

The child molesters who run The Family International and speak publicly on its behalf should know that the world and the survivors of their horrific crimes against children are never going to forget what they have done and that people like me are never going to stop trying to make them face justice for their crimes and ensure that children are protected from them. They have gone out of their way to make The Family International one of the safest places in the world for child molesters but done virtually nothing to protect children in the organization from abuse. If they truly cared about protecting children from potential harm, they would immediately expel those in their organization who have raped children instead of allowing child rapists to act as leaders and spokespersons. As a survivor of physical and sexual abuse in The Family, I am horrified, disgusted and appalled that the Center for the Study of New Religions would invite child molesters to speak at their conference without extending a similar invitation to those who believe that raping children is wrong and that children have the right to be protected from such people.

It is not enough to merely say you have an "absolute zero-tolerance policy towards abuse of children," you have to actually have one. Even a cursory examination of its written policies and publications on child sexual abuse makes it clear that The Family International does not have a "zero-tolerance policy" on child sexual abuse but is in fact very tolerant of child sexual abuse and that its top leaders (who themselves raped children) have gone out of their way to create an environment where child rapists can feel safe in knowing they will never have to face the consequences of their actions.

If The Family International actually had an "absolute zero-tolerance policy towards abuse of children," one would naturally expect such a policy to require the permanent expulsion of every single child rapist from their organization, the immediate reporting of every single credible allegation of child sexual abuse to law enforcement and child welfare authorities and public warnings to the affected communities about child rapists expelled by the organization. Instead, The Family International's high-tolerance policy towards child sexual abuse has absolutely none of the basic components that would be necessary for anyone to honestly label their policy as "zero-tolerance."

The following factors combined make The Family International a very safe place for child molesters and a dangerous place for children.

1. The Family International was founded by a child molester.

David Berg raped and sexually abused numerous children, including several of his immediate relatives, during his lifetime. At his direction, Family members made child pornography videos for his sexual gratification and he published numerous texts promoting pedophilia and encouraging Family members to sexually abuse their own children and the children of other members. Even though he's dead, he is still revered in The Family.

Family publications routinely contain what are purported to be messages or "prophecies" from both Jesus Christ and David Berg. Outside The Family International, child molesters like David Berg are universally despised and generally regarded as beneath contempt yet in The Family International they are revered and honored.

2. The Family International is run by child molesters.

The two top leaders of The Family International, Karen Zerby (aka Maria) and Steven Douglas Kelly (aka Peter Amsterdam), have raped and otherwise sexually abused a number of children. Under their leadership and direction, an entire generation of children were openly and routinely sexually abused.

3. There are numerous child molesters in The Family International with direct access to children and, in some cases, in positions of leadership.

In October/December 2007, The Family International published GNs 1234-1236 in which it was made clear The Family International would not "excommunicate" those who raped children before July 1989 (the date it now claims to have enacted a policy specifying that raping children would be an "excommunicable offense"). In cases where it is known with certainty that someone raped a child before July 1989, they believe it would be "unfair" to "excommunicate" the rapist. In the same publication series, it was also made clear that "excommunication" for raping children and/or other types of abuse is not always (or hasn't always been) permanent which explains why people who they supposedly "excommunicated" for raping children and/or other forms of abuse were allowed to rejoin a few days (in some cases after only one day), weeks or months later. While no one knows the exact number there are certainly many (perhaps thousands) of child molesters and abusers in The Family International.

It should be obvious that children are at increased risk in an environment in which those who raped children have access (in many cases, these child rapists live in the the same communal home as the child) to them and authority (children in The Family are taught and required to obey and respect adult members and refer to them as Aunt or Uncle) over them.

4. There are no serious consequences for raping a child in The Family International.

The Family claims that its policy of permanently or temporarily "excommunicating" those found to have raped children after July 1989 is a "stringent" policy that adequately protects children. In fact, this policy does virtually nothing to protect children and likely increases the risk they will be sexually abused because it makes it clear to child molesters in The Family International that they have absolutely nothing at all to fear if caught raping a child. They will simply be asked to leave the organization and the rape will never be reported to law enforcement and child protection agencies. Indeed, as far as I know in the entire 40-year history of The Family, no Family member has ever reported the rape of a child by another Family member to a law enforcement or child protection agency. Numerous cases have demonstrated that the first instinct of Family parents whose children have been raped by other Family members is not protect their child or make sure that the rapist is held accountable and punished but rather to protect the rapist and The Family. For example, in a case in Illinois the father of a child who was sexually abused by another Family member over a period of 9 years (starting at age 5) appeared in court not, as would be expected from any normal parent outside The Family, to support his daughter or to demand the maximum sentence but rather to support the rapist and ask for the lightest possible sentence.

In other cases, the parents, siblings and other relatives of child rape survivors raised in The Family have appeared in court to denounce the survivors as mentally unstable liars. Besides counting on the support of the relatives of their victims, child molesters in The Family International can also count on the support of other Family members to do whatever is necessary, including committing perjury or just remaining silent, to protect both The Family and the rapist.

Update on Monday, June 29, 2009 by  Perry Bulwer

The Family International cult issued a press release announcing their presentation of a paper at the annual conference of the cult apologist organization CENSUR. The conference was held from June 11 to 13, 2009. The Family's press release is dated June 13, 2009, the last day and probably after Zerby had already presented. It mentions the title of the paper, but does not provide access to the paper itself, neither on their own website or on the CENSUR website. In fact, the page on the CENSUR website that sets out the conference programme -- the speakers and titles of their papers -- does not mention the Family International at all as being one of the presenters. Here's that page:


It seems to me that the cult leaders, along with their academic apologists, desired to keep the Family presentation at the conference a secret. Gee, I wonder why, and why would CENSUR be complicit in that secrecy? Here's the cult's press release, followed by another comment by me:

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, June 13, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Karen Zerby and Steve Kelly, spiritual and administrative leaders of the Family International, presented a paper at the 2009 Conference of the Center for Studies on New Religious Movements, hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah from June 11th to June 13th, 2009. The paper, entitled: "The Future of the Family International: Establishing a Culture of Innovation and Progress," outlined organizational changes and evangelistic goals.

The Family International (formerly known as the Children of God) is a non-traditional Christian movement founded by David Brandt Berg (1919-1994) in Southern California during the late 1960s. Active in over 90 countries, the movement engages in evangelistic and humanitarian endeavors.

The Family International has undergone much change and progress throughout its 40-year history. In their paper, Zerby and Kelly (known to Family members as Maria and Peter) comment, "Our primary objective in redirecting the vision and impetus of the Family is to enable it to prosper well into the future as a thriving religious community that is relevant to today's world, while preserving its uniqueness and unconventional doctrines. . . We trust that the Family's missionary zeal, coupled with its commitment to our unique brand of Christianity, will empower the Family to successfully transition into the future."

Claire Borowik


First, if anyone has or finds a copy of that apparently secret paper presented by criminal cult leaders please pass it on to me so I can analyze this latest public relations propaganda. If they are truly sincere about making real changes in the Family, they should not fear their biggest critics, but seek their input on how to make the group safer for its members and the general public. But they are not sincere, and are not planning real changes, which is why they seek approval from non-critical accomodationists and apologists.

Second, note the phrases "while preserving its uniqueness and unconventional doctrines" and "commitment to our unique brand of Christianity". What makes the Family cult unique and their doctrines unconvential are the evil rantings of an alchoholic pedophile, the false prophet and con man extraordinaire, David Berg, who claimed he was God's final endtime mouthpiece before the return of Jesus in 1993. What makes them unique is their revered founder, David Berg, who was a sexually deviant shepherd who raped lambs and manipulated, beat, and fleeced his followers.

Third, their statement that they engage in "humanitarian endeavors" is a big lie and an insult to all humanists everywhere. Sure they can show pretty PR pictures that purport to show them engaged in various activities, but it is all for show and PR. All of their prosyletizing, recruiting, fund-raising, is done deceptively with misrepresentations as to who they really are and what they do.

This attempt at an image make-over is just the latest in a long line of similar misrepresentations. There is nothing new here. For many years now this cult has courted mainstream acceptance, while continuing to abuse its members and deceive and defraud outsiders. And where do these criminals court that mainstream acceptance? Why, at a conference that includes some of their best academic enablers, such as G. Gordon Melton, who Family leaders paid $10,000 so he would change his previously highly critical writings on the Family to writings that glossed over their crimes and painted a favourable picture of that cult.

 Erinn: I believe TF has taken steps to clean up their present act and become a more bonafide and accepted group for now and going into the future, though they seem to still sorely lack on the educational care of their children as well as financial care for their own futures. But I completely disagree that they have taken stringent steps to apologise and redeem themselves for their past. All I have seen are genuine justifications, excuses, and blame placing on either the children who were mistreated by them, or members who are no longer in the group anyway, and have not seen one genuine repentance by anyone in any position within the group. I have never received an apology from anyone in the group who had power in the decisions made in my life, but rather have read several lies and false claims in their publications to the press and media. I have never had anyone reach out to me and try to recompense me for the years of life I gave to the group in sacrifice of my own future. I don't care now for their help, but I absolutely hate to see them continue lying in this way. I haven't talked to one single second generation member who has left and said "Yes, I received an official apology from so and so for the abuses they carried out against me, and I received adequate financial help to get me started in my new life and to make up for past educational lack.' Most all of us have had to start our lives over by ourselves, with no support or help from the group that swore they loved us forever...paper agape is all it is. My only concern now is that they clean up their act for the future generations that will be raised in that group, but I wish they would stop lying about their so-called good efforts to make up for the past...I haven't seen it yet.

Charles Edward Borjas: 
As a former member of the Family of 35 years all I can say is that The Family has had to keep changing in order to survive as a movement. Something I never really understood. Why do they need to survive as a "movement" If the purpose of the group is to be missionaries , why can't we just be that? I asked myself the question many times.
Since I was 13 my life dream was to be a missionary and spread the Gospel.
I intended to do that in Japan, but all these other things kept popping up that hindered the spreading of the Gospel. David Berg's writings always took preeminence over what the Bible said to do.
It was a long struggle, an up and down -in and out relationship with God while I was in The Family. Since leaving I have been able to find peace of mind after going through the initial nervous breakdown of breaking away from the group, hostile reactions from some of its members, and all but total ostracizing. We want to keep some contact with The Family as we have children that are still in.
We cannot give up our children but hope and pray someday they will also come out and start working on their future.
There isn't any future inside The Family except to be a supporter of the leadership and spread their doctrines listed above by several people.
There are Family members who are sincerely helping others and have the right motive, but it is the leadership that has never had the proper motive from the beginning since David Berg abandoned his wife and took his secretary, Keren Zerby , to "wed" with his wife Jane standing right there , and then having hte audacity to say that it is God's ordained will.
Then setting himself up as the David of Ezekiel 34 and if you don't believe that you can't be in the Family, and so I'm not because I don't believe that.
We have one daughter who is successful who has been out of The Family for over ten years, and yet they continued using her picture and name on one of their Family Care Foundation sites until I complained.
The young people CAN find success in the "world" and they can do anything they want, if they will believe that God loves them no matter what they decided to do , and His love is constant and steadfast, and unchangeable.

Perry Bulwer:
The Tribune reporter asks: "How do you revise some teachings and practices for wider appeal without forsaking the faith's unique identity and unconventional doctrines?"

My answer: You can't! The Family cult cannot revise its teaching and practices without denouncing their revered founder, David Berg. But they will never do that. One of the primary conditions of membership is to believe that Berg was the final endtime prophet, and that all of his words and teachings were divinely inspired. So are Zerby and Kelly now going to claim that Berg was wrong about some things? I highly doubt it.

Karen "Maria" Zerby is quoted as saying: "We must determine what elements of our theology, culture and context are rooted in the past and no longer hold relevance."

My response: All elements of their theology and culture are rooted in the past and no longer hold relevance. But what the hell does "elements of our ... context" mean? It's just pseudo-intellectual mumbo jumbo designed to deceive gullible cult apologists at that conference who think that religious freedom means accommodating religious criminals.

As for theology rooted in the past, I find it disgusting, for example, that Zerby would choose to "come out" publicly in the U.S.A. Whatever happened to Berg's teaching about America The Whore and its imminent destruction by God for its wickedness? Are those some of the theological teachings rooted in the past that she now wants to abandon? Berg's message of America's soon coming doom and destruction was a foundational doctrine of his cult, a message that actually began with his mother's Warning Tract prophecy before Berg had any followers. His writings are filled with hate mongering and false prophecies related to America's wickedness and pending judgement. Berg lied to his followers that he was fleeing America's destruction, when he was actually fleeing from the law. But he continued the deception through letter after letter foretelling America's destruction prior to Jesus' supposed return in 1993, warning all his followers to leave the U.S. It was a powerful message for immature, innocent, naive young minds such as mine, who grew up with tv images of the vietnam war, assassinations, mass protests, Watergate, etc.

Less than a year after I joined the COG I was manipulated by leaders to leave the U.S. (I had wanted to stay in the U.S. or Canada to fight the Anti-Christ forces -- yes, I really believed that!). I was part of a group that left Seattle for Hawaii, from where "missionaries" were sent to various countries. There had been both a tv ad campaign and a billboard campaign in Seattle that contained warnings from Berg about the coming destruction of the U.S., which he claimed was heralded by the comet Kohoutek. On the day of our departure, leaders informed the local media that the COG were abandoning the U.S. Camera crews came to the cult compound and then filmed us on the road to the airport and in the airport itself, where the group of about 20 of us sang the Message of Jeramiah as we walked through the airport. That was pretty heady stuff for a just-turned 17 year-old high school drop-out with no critical thinking skills, indoctrinated by Berg's messengers. But it didn't stop there. In Japan I was arrested and threatened with deportation while distributing anti-Semitic and anti-American literature and collecting donations while on a tourist visa.

The point I'm making is that the Family cult was founded on anti-Americanism, with David Berg claiming divine insight into imminent endtime events, including the destruction of the U.S. So what has changed that Zerby feels free to appear publicly in the U.S., where her son murdered and committed suicide in a failed attempt to find and kill her, and where law enforcement officials might have an interest in questioning her? Are Bergs teachings about the U.S. rooted in the past, and are those some of the teachings Zerby is referring to that no longer hold relevance? If so, they would have to refute hundreds of Berg's letters. Furthermore, if they are changing their views on America, why? I can easily argue that the U.S. has become more "wicked" not less, and is therefore still deserving of God's punishment. But, of course, I don't believe that God nonsense anymore, and certainly not in Berg's or his successors' ability to predict the future. As an endtime prophet (more like profit) David Berg was a complete failure. There is not one thing he prophesied or predicted that came true, that could not have been foretold by any informed person. For example, his followers like to claim that Berg predicted the collapse of the U.S. dollar, but anyone following financial news from around the world could have made the same predictions.

Don't get the wrong impression with my little rant above. The anti-American issue is just one of dozens I could expound on, questioning the sincerity of Zerby's claims that they going to examine which of their doctrines or practices are no longer relevant.

To give just one more brief example, the Tribune article states: "The group is honing its missionary appeals, focusing on humanitarian efforts and social-gospel ministries."

First, don't believe a word of it. This cult, from the very beginning, has always misrepresented itself when raising funds. Whether it was the formalized begging of food and goods, called "provisioning", using frontmen wearing suits to falsely claim they did "youth work" or "community work", etc. or using photographs of a onetime event (eg. singing at an old folks home) to fraudulently claim they were helping people, or selling buttons, stickers, posters, pamphlets, tapes, and videos on the streets or door-to-door, always with the claim of "helping young people", all of their so called "missionary" and "humanitarian" work is fraudulent and has only one purpose, to proselytize, recruit and "fleece the sheep".

Finally, if this is a genuine new direction this cult is taking, which I won't believe until they denounce David Berg, then why are they even a necessary group within the blanket of Christianity. Either Berg was right and he was the final endtime prophet with a special connection to God, or he was wrong. I don't think Zerby has the guts to admit that Berg was wrong about anything. Look at her continued belief in the Heaven in the Moon doctrine. She says her followers don't have to believe, but she believes, inspite of common sense, reason, and evidence, because Berg said it.

But David Berg was full of bull-shit. No, wait. At least bull-shit has a useful purpose as a fertilizer to grow things. No, Berg was full of lies and deceit, his words and doctrines a deadly virus, that poisoned and destroyed lives.

Charles Edward Borjas:  
Karen "Maria" Zerby is quoted as saying: "We must determine what elements of our theology, culture and context are rooted in the past and no longer hold relevance."

In my opinion, she doesn't want to confess that The Family International leadership, let alone their members, don't really know what to believe anymore. And so their whole "theology" "culture" and "context" is under scrutiny right now.
I talk to my kids still in the group, and they are surprised that I know so much about the inner workings of the group and latest moves.

Rather than over react here, with a multitude of unpleasant adjectives and expressions, I would like to approach the subject in a more practical manner.

Although I am pushing 60 years old now, and spent more than half of my life "in" The Family , I hold no bitterness , but am weary and tired of the endless changes of doctrine or "updates" where we had to change our beliefs hundreds of times again and again.

That's not Christian. The Bible 's theology is constant and steadfast. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever. One might get a little more enlightenment and revelation knowledge on a subject, and learn and grow more mature. But maturity is not changing things so much that they no longer resemble the original product.
Spiritual maturity is becoming a more responsible Christian, something David Berg knew nothing of, and in my opinion, remained childish and immature until the day he died, still not taking responsibility for all the mistakes and wrong teaching that he forced on us that hurt so many.
That is not being a responsible mature Christian or person.
Now under the leadership of Keren Zerby and and Kelly, they just want to put all the past behind them, "that's all in the past now" .
Too bad it wans't that easy. Maybe its easy for them to say that and to convince their followers that it all they need to do.
But it is very difficult for former members, especially the younger generation, to do that when they have been abandoned by their parents, have had close friends commit suicide , and have been abused on such a wide scale.
Yes it is the past, and forgiveness should be preeminent, but sad to say most of the victims are having a very hard time forgiving knowing that their abusers are still at large.
And yet the same leadership continues to make changes in their theology saying
"thus saith the Lord" presenting to the members so called "prophecies" to force them to change or else we don't want anything to do with you type of threats.
When you run into a young member or a first generation adult, just ask them to name all of those spirit helpers and demons that they are supposed to know by heart. I wrote something about that on my site. "Peace in the Valley"
Ask the MEN if they spend their devotional times with Jesus fantasizing that they are a woman in the "spirit" so that Jesus can insert His "seeds" into them, or while they are "sharing" with their mate or someone else.
Ask them about the bi-sexual childcare spirit helpers that change themselves to either male or female "according to the need" What need? Why do you need so called angels that are bi-sexual to take care of children? Why even mention their sex?
Listen please, Leadership and members of The Family International. If you are ever going to mature as a Christian group and make progress and grow into mature Christians and servant of God there is only one way.

The only way you will ever change is to completely change your leadership in another "Bloodless Coup" , just relieve them of their leadership responsibility, and choose new leadership that will renounce the erroneous teachings of David Berg, renounce his claim on ever being any kind of an "end time prophet prophesied in Ezekiel 34" Renounce his prophecy about Maria (Keren Zerby) being any kind of an endtime prophetess and his prophecy likening her to Mary in his paraphrase of the Magnificat directly applying it to her, and also renounce his claiming that the Beatle's song "Let It Be" was a prophetic song that God intended to apply to Keren Zerby as "Mother Mary"
And then do damage control to bring condolences, comfort, closure , and compensation to those and their families who have suffered under the dictum of Family rules used and bent to abuse others by errant leadership.
In other words, you need to come clean and do some serious heart searching while you are determining " what elements of our theology, culture and context are rooted in the past and no longer hold relevance."

This ia a time you should be doing just that, serious heart searching when you a re once again on the verge of changing what you believe and about to get it from "Jesus" to dictate it to the rest of The Family.
You know very well that these policies are created by leadership's inner circle and not voted upon by the members themselves.
The only voting the homes do is about their own internal affairs or to confirm higher leadership that has already been selected.
The common everyday homes and members have no say whatsoever in who is leading The Family and are not even allowed to suggest that there be a change in The Family's top leadership.
In other words, as it stands right now, Maria (Keren Zerby) and Kelly (King Peter) are dictators for life. Whatever they say goes, and no one is allowed to question the policies they establish or "there's the door"
This is the first thing that needs to change. The Family International, in order to ever be accepted by mainstream Christianity, has to become mature enough to be able to choose their own top leadership like in any democratic society.
Then you renounce David Berg's interpretation of the Bible, and learn what the Bible really says and means.....
Then and only then can you hope to start to change into the missionary organization that you need to be in order to affect the right kind of change this society needs.
But the Family Members wouldn't dare rebel and push for that. They would be immediately expelled and excommunicated and ostracized if they did.
This is the FEAR that keeps them IN The Family. A fear of leadership retaliation if they get "out of line" and start campaigning for new top leadership.
But you have to start somewhere. Or you can wait until Keren Zerby and Kelly die, but then they will only be replaced by their successors who they named well in advance, who will only continue to carry the same old policies and "radical" doctrines with very little or no change.
As it stands right now, Keren Zerby and King Peter are not looking for real change. Only a few modifications. A remodeling and repainting of the same old building. A rehashing of the same old doctrines they have been feeding you for decades.
Aren't there any brave Family members out there who want change? Or are you stuck in the ruts of your nice secure little home with your income and a little witnessing here and there with some PR volunteer work living in a neighborhood who doesn't even know who you really are because you are hiding the truth from them?
Or maybe you LIKE it like that and don't want to have to confess that your sharing doctrines are anti-Bible because you don't want to forsake those ungodly practices of sharing your wife or husband with another man or woman?
I know, it takes a lot to realize these things, and time too, but someone has to tell you that Berg's Law of Love is NOT the same Law of Love the Bible speaks about.
The REAL law of love Jesus taught had nothing to do with sex. It was a genuine and sincere laying down of your life for your brother or sister, wife or husband or children. Not laying them down for your own selfish pleasure!
It was a denying of your own desires and pleasures to ensure the safety and health and happiness of and welfare of others.
I do not say these things to criticize or condemn, but to open your eyes to what Jesus really meant and what Jesus really said.
After I left The Family I had the opportunity and freedom for the first time in many many years to read and study the Bible without The Family's slant or David Berg's slant on scripture.
I was open to the Holy Spirit and felt such freedom. The Holy Spirit began to show me the truth about the things I had wondered about for so long. And the Word set me free!
All I can say is I hope whoever is reading this is able to experience the true Love of God unconditionally and learn to have a stable and consistent relationship with God instead of the ever changing, unsure and unstable day to day spiritual roller coaster ride you are experiencing in The Family thinking that in order to get God's blessings, you have to do everything Keren Zerby tells you to do, or you will suffer the consequences.
That is not teaching God's steadfast and unconditional love and grace. Change your paradigm, get freed from those old mind sets and receive the freedom of New Life God has for you if you will only see what the Bible really has to say and not just believe in your cut and paste theology you have been spoon fed all these years.
Don't be deceived by letting false leaders always tell you what is in the Spirit and what is not. You should be spiritually mature enough to discern the difference between what is good and what is evil, so use some of that God given wisdom and discernment and get set free today! Tomorrow may be too late!
Are you really experiencing the exuberant joy and freedom of the Spirit? Or are you living in fear and worry hoping your neighbors or landlord wont discover who you really are? May God help you to get set free now!
All the Best


News articles on this blog related to the Children of God and The Family International can be found on this page, which includes more articles in the comments section:  http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.ca/p/family-international.html


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

Miss World organizers fail to legally gag Mail & Guardian over article exposing Miss Indonesia's cult connections

Enslaved by the cult of sex...for 25 years

Castleconnell area was base for child sex cult, claims victim

Violent sexual abuse, brainwashing and neglect: What it's like to grow up in a religious sect

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

Underside of cult life emerges

The offspring of 'Jesus Freaks'

The Tragic Legacy of the Children of God

Not Without My Sister [book review]

Cult Activity in Uganda?

Cult Claims To Be "Living by the law of love"

Children of God: Haunted By a Dark Past

Child-Custody Deal Favors Escapee of Notorious Cult 'The Family' aka The Children of God

Cambodian NGO exposed as a charity front for The Family International cult

Member of San Francisco pop duo, Girls, is a survivor of notorious Children of God cult, a.k.a. The Family International

Survivor of abusive Children of God cult, Chris Owens of Girls is one cool musician

Teen died agonizing death from ruptured appendix while parents, relatives and church elders did nothing but pray for 3 days

Self-proclaimed prophets: Phillip Garrido, David Berg and Joseph Smith

Another self-proclaimed prophet who terrorized and sexually abused his cult followers

Child sexual abusers commonly turn to religion to rationalize their behavior

Tony Alamo controls followers from prison, but David Berg controls The Family cult members from the grave

Irish TV exposes cults in Ireland, interviews survivor of abuse in Children of God, now The Family International


  1. Did the Moonies really brainwash millions? Time to dispel a myth

    Eileen Barker, The Guardian UK September 4, 2012

    The death of Sun Myung Moon has brought back to mind the panic that swept through the west in the 1970s and 80s. Moon was just about the last surviving charismatic leader of the "cults" that, it was widely declared, threatened to undermine our civilisation by brainwashing our youth and turning them into zombies prepared to do anything – including mass suicide and murder.

    Apart from Moon and his Unification Church, there was David Berg and his Children of God, who became renowned for their practice of "flirty fishing"; Prabhupada and his International Society for Krishna Consciousness devotees, who could be seen dancing and chanting on the streets; Bhagwan Rajneesh, later called Osho, and his sannyasins; and L Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology – and literally hundreds of other men and women selling their spiritual wares in San Francisco, New York, Montreal, Paris, Tokyo and London.

    Exactly what it was that was on offer varied enormously. But the general public was largely unaware of the differences, informed as it was by sensationalist media themselves fanned by a burgeoning number of so-called "anti-cult groups", which had started as gatherings of concerned relatives but developed into powerful lobbying groups that accumulated all the worrying stories about any one movement (and there were undoubtedly several to gather), and then generalised these into a conventional wisdom about "what all cults do" – forgetting that all these activities could just as easily be found in the traditional religions. Not, of course, that this would make deceptive practices, sexual exploitation or child abuse any less culpable.

    But why were intelligent, well-educated young people joining the movements in droves? One answer was heard more than any other. Our youth had not chosen to convert to a new religion; they had been brainwashed into leaving their universities, abandoning promising careers, and severing ties with their families in order to live in secluded communities, working long hours for their "puppet masters" and, in the case of those who came to be called "Moonies", getting married by a Korean messiah in a mass wedding along with thousands of other couples to someone they had never met before and might not even speak English. Clearly, it was claimed, these were the victims of well nigh irresistible and irreversible mind-control techniques.

    With hindsight, some of our views of these cults need correcting. Although the colourful devotees and sannyasins and the persistent Unificationists were highly visible in public places, people were not joining in anything like the numbers that were being alleged. While estimates of the number of Unificationists in Britain topped a million, there were in fact fewer than 150 in 1976.

    It is true that thousands attended one or other of the residential weekends where the "brainwashing" was said to occur, but 90% did not join as a result. Of those who did, the majority left within a couple of years. Much as the movements tried to persuade people to join their ranks, and much as they would have like to have had greater persuasive powers, they demonstrably did not have access to the irresistible or irreversible techniques they were reputedly wielding.

    continued in next comment...

  2. continued from previous comment...

    But things have changed. It is not that there are not still thousands of new religious movements to be found around the world – there are. Inform, the government-funded organisation that provides information on minority religions, has on its files over a thousand new religions that are currently active in the UK. But most people would be hard pushed to name more than a handful of these. Why?

    First, since 9/11, the public is now more concerned about Islamic terrorism than about cults. Second, although young (and older) people are still wanting answers to all sorts of questions about God, spirituality, the state of the world and their relations with others, they are less likely to turn to a new religion for their answers.

    Next, the movements themselves have changed quite radically. Those that caught the public's attention during the latter half of the past century (and are now well into a second- or even third-generation membership that is no longer so concerned with recruitment but, more frequently, with getting on in the outside world).

    Then the new ones that have since emerged tend to be more spiritual and far less institutionalised than the earlier movements. The Children of God no longer "flirty fish" [but see my comments at the end of the blog article above]; the vast majority of Krishna devotees are people of Asian origin who have found a place to carry out their traditional worship.

    Most Unificationists now live with their families and work independently of the movement. Those second-generation members that have stayed in the movement (although the majority have left) are likely to be married to someone their parents suggested, often with quite a bit of input from their children.

    Scientology is, perhaps, one of the few "bogey cults" that remains in the public eye, due partly to the number of high-level members who have recently left, and, no doubt, to the high-profile antics of Tom Cruise. Perhaps The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson's acclaimed new film on the origins of Scientology, will provide us with some further understanding of "the cult experience".


  3. Cowabunga! Religion and Comics Connect at Comic-Con

    UC Riverside graduate students to examine religious presence in comics and webcomics at renowned international conference

    By Bettye Miller, University of California Riverside Today JULY 15, 2013

    RIVERSIDE, Calif. — American popular culture is filled with religious references, and comics are no exception, three graduate students from the University of California, Riverside will demonstrate at Comic-Con International: San Diego.

    Toby Johnson, Sean Sagan and Cori Knight — all Ph.D. students in the Department of Religious Studies — will present a panel discussion, “What Are We Seeing Here? Negotiating Religious Presence and Purpose in Comics, Comix, and Webcomics,” on Sunday, July 21. The panel is scheduled at 11:30 a.m. and is part of the Comic Arts Conference, which brings the academic study of comics into conversation with comic creators, publishers, and fans. Comic-Con is a four-day conference that celebrates the contributions of comics to American art and culture.

    The trio will present papers exploring: a storyline in which the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rescue a sacred object of Islam; the role of sexualized comic books in proselytizing efforts of the Children of God/Family International church; and creation stories in the steampunk-themed webcomic “Girl Genius.”

    “Religion pervades American popular culture,” says Knight, who will discuss the way stories about the Heterodyne-created J√§germonsters are written and rewritten in the webcomic ”Girl Genius.” J√§germonsters are a group of characters created by the webcomic’s Heterodyne family and considered to be unthinking, brutal agents of destruction, generations before the time in which the comic is set.

    “Elements of religion are present in television, music, film, and literature,” Knight adds. “Why? And what does the way it is presented tell us about the back and forth between religion and pop culture? … I think it tells us what conversation is taking place.”

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  4. Comic books are another media form that can be used to present, discuss or critique religious ideas, says Toby Johnson.

    “I think it’s especially interesting to see how their presentations are directed to young audiences and serve as introductions to new ideas through these stories,” he explains. “In some cases, comics may even act as instructional texts for young readers, presenting religious material in a form more easily understood.”

    Johnson’s paper, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in Mecca?!? Superheroes in a Religious World: Reflection on a Controversy that Never Was,” explores issues arising from the use of Islam as a backdrop for the Turtles’ adventures, the theological implications of their intrusion into the Islamic worldview, and the use of religion as more than a plot device. The story he analyzes involves the theft of one of Islam’s most holy relics, and contains a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad.

    Sagan’s presentation, “And I will Make you Fishers of Men: How the Children of God/Family International church fused Gospel imperatives with sex and comic books,” focuses on the history, beliefs and theologies of the controversial Children of God — now the Family International church — during its peak in the 1970s and its use of comic tracts in both evangelism and intra-group teaching.

    The movement published comic tracts under the label True Komix. Many of those tracts, Sagan explains, featured “highly sexualized language and gendered art which was meant to detail the group’s liberated self-view of sexuality, and justify it through a scriptural interpretation of Matthew 4:19 — ‘And he said unto them, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’”

    Comics appeal to some religious groups as an exceptionally effective way of imparting information to various audiences, Sagan adds.

    “The balance of text and art captivates the reader and grounds the emotionally evocative elements of the image with the meaning of the written text. Because of their engaging nature, some religious groups and traditions find the comic medium aids them significantly in purposes of outreach, education and the maintenance of religious identity.”


  5. Sleepy Hollows Orlando Jones Developing Cult Deprogrammer Ted Patrick Pic

    by Dominic Patten Deadline.com February 5, 2015

    EXCLUSIVE: The actor is going from the supernatural on the small screen to the controversial world of cults on the big screen. Orlando Jones and his Drive-By Entertainment partner Noam Dromi have optioned the rights to cult deprogrammer Ted Patrick’s story. Jones and Dromi intend to write the screenplay as a starring vehicle for the actor who is currently finishing up his second season as Captain Frank Irving on the Fox hit Sleepy Hollow. Jones and Dromi will produce the feature with docu filmmaker Tracy Funches. .

    Prominent in the 1970s, Patrick was known as the “father of deprogramming” and seen as savior to many parents who had seemingly lost their children to cults. The Special Assistant for Community Relations for then Governor Ronald Reagan, the civil rights activist’s life was upended when his 14 year-old son was nearly converted by the Children of God cult. Subsequently, Patrick reached out to those families with relatives who had joined the group. As described in his book Let Our Children Go, Patrick even pretended to join Children of God to learn how they operated. Despite professional training, Patrick was hired by parents and family members to help deprogram their loved ones. Patrick’s methods found him standing trial several times on kidnapping charges – a part of his technique he ceased though he continued trying to deprogram cult members like those who had joined Scientology. Patrick was convicted on a number of felony charges over the years due to his methods.

    Jones formed Drive-By in 2008 with Dromi coming on board in 2011. The Sleepy Hollowactor is repped by Paradigm, 723 Productions and attorneys Nina Shaw and Gordon Bobb of Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finelstein & Lezcano.


  6. Children of God cult survivors come out of the shadows

    After decades of silence, 2 Ottawa residents recount tales of abuse, exploitation, debauchery

    By Simon Gardner, CBC News March 13, 2016

    Simon Gardner has been a journalist with CBC since 1988. He's won awards for reporting on a wide range of subjects ranging from foreign wars to police corruption. He can be reached at simon.gardner@cbc.ca.

    If you passed Ottawa residents Danielle Fortin or Jerry Golland on the street you wouldn't think there was anything unusual about them.

    Fortin, 63, grew up in Montreal. She has a matter-of-fact way of speaking, punctuated by an occasional self-deprecating laugh. She describes being "wild" in her youth, and that included taking hard-core drugs.

    These days she lives quietly in Ottawa with a mildly-disabled son.

    Golland, 69, also grew up in Montreal, raised in a secular Jewish family. A little over a year ago he retired from a teaching position with the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

    He's long been a familiar face at Ottawa nightclubs and music venues, where he specializes in performing the songs of his hero, Leonard Cohen. His manner of speaking can seem unfocused, but he chalks that up to his struggle with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

    What sets Danielle Fortin and Jerry Golland apart is a bizarre chapter in their lives: they were both members of the Children of God, one of the world's most notorious religious cults.

    The disturbing history of the Children of God is well documented in news reports, books and documentaries. At its height, the movement had tens of thousands of members, including such famous names as River and Joaquin Phoenix, Rose McGowan and Jeremy Spencer.

    The group was founded in 1968 in California during a time of hippies and sexual liberation.

    Female members of the COG were expected to lure in men by having sex with them. Children were sexualised and sometimes sexually abused at an early age. Thousands of members worked like slaves raising money to support the shadowy sex-driven lifestyle of the group's leader, David Berg.

    After more than 25 years of keeping the story to themselves, Golland and Fortin agreed to reveal their experiences.

    Lured into the cult

    Fortin's first exposure to the Children of God came in the mid-1970s. She was hooked on heroin, unhappy with her life and looking for meaning. She recounts going to Spain on impulse during a drug-fuelled binge.

    "And there was some people singing on the street, three or four guys singing, 'You got to be a baby to go to heaven.' And at that time my state of mind was, 'Wow! Can I be a baby and got to heaven?' And they told me yes — if I receive Jesus into my heart."

    Golland's contact with the cult came in 1971 in London, England.

    An abusive, psychologically-troubled friend had taken all his money and most of his possessions, including his passport. He was sitting by himself in a park when he heard music and saw a yellow double-decker bus with "Children of God" written in psychedelic letters on the side.

    continued below

  7. They scraped me off the street

    "I was so ingrained not to be religious, I had always mocked it all my life. And then 40 or 50 people, I heard this music coming from the park, and standing all around me (people) saying, 'Hey, come with us, come on our bus, you can come home with us.'"

    He says in different times he would have run like hell, but he was at the end of his rope.

    "Nothing attracted me to them," Golland said. "They scraped me off the street."

    He would spend the next 20 years as a member of the cult, always on the lookout for vulnerable people — people just like himself — to recruit.

    "We'd learn to spot, you know ... those eyes, that person, there is a vulnerable person. We called them sheep. He's a real sheep as opposed to someone who was more antagonistic — he was a wolf."


    Danielle Fortin's initial impression of the group was positive. She felt that for a change she was "doing something right."

    As Fortin would soon discover, the Children of God was also a top-down, rigid organization that exploited members, especially women and children.

    Almost all the young women in the cult were ordered to "flirty-fish." That meant having sex every day, often with new and different men.

    "You have to totally submit yourself to your leader, to the person in charge. No matter what they ask you, you have to obey ... and being single, you were asked to go out flirty-fishing. That means going into a bar or restaurant or hotel and meeting some people to ask for the mercy of Jesus in their heart in exchange for a donation."

    Fortin often got into trouble with the group's leaders because she was choosy. She didn't want to have sex with every guy that wanted her.

    David Berg, the cult leader, also promoted concepts he called "one wife" and "sharing." Even married female members were expected to sleep with other men in the group.

    Because of the cult's Christian fundamentalist underpinnings, members were forbidden from using any form of contraception. Not surprisingly, there were plenty of children born out of the Children of God.

    Child abuse

    Both of the former members say they were able to protect their own kids from sexual abuse but couldn't always keep them safe from physical abuse.

    Fortin remembers one of her boys, who was just 11 years old, being punished for being rebellious. For three months he was confined to a house full of adults, forced to eat by himself and forbidden from speaking.

    "It was hard for me because I was sitting at the table and he was at another table and he was crying 'Mommy, mommy.' And I could not do anything because I was too afraid of being kicked out."

    She also recalls the same son, as an infant, being spanked until he was "all bruised and black."

    ​Golland, who has five children, says physical punishment of kids was all too common.

    "We're talking four, five, six, seven years old, kids, black and blue, beaten, spare the rod, spoil the child. Berg himself always said he found a coat hanger [useful for beating kids] ... Criminal."

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  8. Pamphlets used to solicit donations

    The main task of the cult members was to solicit donations by distributing pamphlets that espoused the gospel of Berg, also known as Moses David.

    Berg also penned "Mo Letters," explicit instructional pamphlets for members. Titles included "Adventures of a Flirty-Fish" and "Lashes of Love."

    Golland says members who were good at raising money and distributing the pamphlets were called Shiners. Those with poor sales were called Shamers. If you missed your quota you could not come home for dinner, he said.

    Golland's sales performance was bad enough that he was even prevented from attending his own wedding ceremony.

    Leaving the cult

    Fortin travelled the world with the Children of God and its affiliated groups, including stops in India, Fiji, and the Philippines.

    By 1992 she was flogging videos and audio cassette tapes of Children of God musical acts to store owners in Puerto Rico. One of her sons needed heart surgery, an operation that required travelling back home to Canada.

    She remained with the Children of God in Montreal, and eventually moved to Aylmer, Que., and then Ottawa, where she continued to contribute a tithe of 10 per cent of her income to the group before gradually breaking away.

    She recalls receiving a visit at her home in Ottawa from a Children of God "brother" who scolded her for having so much food in her cupboard.

    She argued she needed it to feed her children and couldn't spare any for the group.

    "It took me quite a while to realize I was brainwashed and that I was not doing he right thing. Took me a few years of reading about people in cults and people who are abused."

    Fortin stays in contact with three other former Children of God members, one in Montreal and two in the Ottawa area. She calls the group her "network," and considers their meetings and conversations a form of therapy.

    The final straw for Golland came when one of his sons, just 12 at the time, was forced to sing in the rain until midnight in order to raise money. The adult member supervising the boy stayed warm and dry in a nearby car.

    Life after Children of God

    Golland returned to Ottawa in the early 1990s and managed to get work, first with Algonquin College and then with the Ottawa Catholic School Board as an English language teacher.

    He feels fortunate that he was able to not only survive the Children of God, but also retire on a modest pension. Other members, he says, were not so lucky.

    "[There were] a lot of suicides of former members, adults and teenagers. Drug addiction. Prison. A lot of people could not adjust."

    The Children of God still exists today under a different name, but it doesn't have the same reach, influence or notoriety. Berg reportedly called a halt to flirty-fishing because of the emergence of the AIDS epidemic.

    Golland is in the process of writing an e-book about his journey with the Children of God called Only One Man.

    He warns that what happened to him and Fortin could easily happen to others.

    "There are still lonely, alienated people ... the sheep, kids. There are still a lot of them out there."