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In December 2007, The Family International published a 3-part GN series titled "The Family’s History, Policies, and Beliefs Regarding Sex." The third part of the series included a section titled "An Open Letter of Apology from Maria and Peter." On January 6, 2008, an unknown individual anonymously posted an excerpt from this section on the web site NewDayNews.com. The excerpt was later reposted and discussed on other web sites including ExFamily.org and MovingOn. In an attempt to verify the authenticity of the purported "open letter," the editors of xFamily.org contacted representatives of The Family International and asked them to confirm or deny the letter's authenticity. As the the emails between xFamily.org and The Family International indicate, representatives of The Family International refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the letter, refused to answer two additional questions about the letter and did not reply to a later message sent by the xFamily.org editors. xFamily.org later obtained enough information and documents from other sources to verify that the "Open Letter" was indeed an excerpt from an official Family publication.
An Open Letter of Apology from Maria and Peter
January 1, 2008
Dear Current and Former Second Generation Family members,
Although we have written a number of apologies in Letters published since 1993, we felt we could express these more
personally if we published an apology specifically addressed to each of you, the second generation of the Family, whether you are
still a member or have chosen another path for your life.
Peter and I, as the Family’s current leadership, want to personally apologize to you for anything negative or hurtful which
may have happened to you during your youth or time in the Family. We acknowledge that from the latter part of the ’70s to the
mid-1980s the Family wasn’t as safe an environment for children and young teens as it should have been. We sincerely apologize
that you were not better protected when you were younger. We are very sorry if you had any untoward sexual experiences. We
apologize if you were treated harshly in any manner or received excessive discipline at any time, or if any of you did not receive an
We apologize to you, our former members, if you felt stigmatized upon leaving the Family, or if you didn’t get all the help and
support you felt you needed or wished you would have had. We regret any actions by anyone that were unloving, unkind, hurtful or
We acknowledge that some of Dad’s writings misapplied the Law of Love to sexual contact between adults and minors, and
as such were the direct cause of any misconduct that occurred at that time. This was rectified in 1986, when any sexual contact
between adults and minors was banned.
We regret that this policy was not in place during the earlier years of the Family to protect minors from hurt or harm. Sadly,
because such rules were not in place, some of you experienced inappropriate sexual contact with adults, and we acknowledge that
abusive actions occurred. You should not have been exposed to such situations. It was wrong that it happened. We are deeply sorry
for this. If any harmful occurrences of any kind happened to you at any point during your time in the Family, we are truly sorry.
Dad bears the responsibility of promoting sexually liberal doctrines, while not putting in place strict rules to protect minors
from inappropriate behavior or harm. As the sole authority for deciding what was published at that time, he also bears responsibility
for any harm which occurred because of these writings. In 1988, Dad renounced any and all literature which alluded to sexual
contact with minors, and by 1994 this had been expurgated altogether from Family writings.
Clearly articulated and strict rules to protect minors from inappropriate sexual behavior are in place today and have been since
1986. In mid-1989 any such contact was made an excommunicable offense. We acknowledge that for the first year or two after this
policy was enacted, in some instances leadership were lax regarding the length of the excommunications; however, these rules soon
became very strict and remain so today.
Further measures were taken in the early ’90s, to uphold the rights of children and to ensure that they would receive the best
quality of care, education and upbringing possible. Since 1995, with the publishing of the Charter, clearly articulated rules and
regulations have been in place to govern all aspects of Family life. The rights of children within the Family are clearly defined
therein, as well as the rights and responsibilities of parents. Guidelines were put in place to ensure that any discipline of children
was appropriate. Rules regarding education, leadership authority, medical decisions, etc., are codified, placing the ultimate
authority and responsibility for all decisions pertaining to their minor children in the court of the parents. Our Charter also restated
our zero tolerance policy regarding any form of abuse of minors. The Charter has been, and continues to be, the Family’s governing
document since 1995, and is adhered to. We are confident that these guidelines have served to ensure that Family Homes provide as
safe an environment as possible for children and young people.
We wish we could change the past, but sadly that’s not possible. As the Family’s leadership of today, we ask your forgiveness.
To any Family member or former Family member who suffered hurt or harm because of the effects of Dad’s misapplication of the
Law of Love, or mistreatment of any kind, by anyone, we are truly sorry and ask for your forgiveness.
We pray that you will accept our apologies as a sincere, heartfelt attempt to express our regret for any pain or unhappiness you
experienced during your youth or time in the Family. We pray that this apology will help you find healing and closure.
Maria and Peter
Correspondence between xFamily.org editors and representatives of The Family International
In January 2008, the editors of xFamily.org contacted representatives of The Family International in an attempt to verify the authenticity of an anonymous website posting purported to be "An Open Letter of Apology from Maria and Peter" dated January 1, 2008 and addressed to "Current and Former Second Generation Family members. As the correspondence below indicates, the Family International refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the message or to answer the two other questions that were asked.
Message from xFamily.org editors to The Family International - 2008-01-18
From: xFamily org Editors <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Jan 18, 2008 at 5:38 AM
Subject: question about authenticity of anonymously posted message - "An Open Letter of Apology from Maria and Peter"
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dear representatives of The Family International,
On or about January 6, 2008, someone anonymously posted a message (see text below), purported to be "An Open Letter of Apology from Maria and Peter" dated January 1, 2008 and addressed to "Current and Former Second Generation Family members," on a website primarily frequented by former first generation members of the Children of God/The Family cult. The message in question was later reposted and/or linked on other websites including MovingOn and exFamily.org
xFamily.org was created on January 17, 2005 and is a a collaboratively edited encyclopedia about The Family/Children of God cult. Due to the secrecy that shrouds many of The Family's activities, we work together to collate and divulge information. The position of xFamily.org is neither for nor against The Family, as it is a collaborative work aimed at supporting contributions from diverse individuals. Individuals contributing to this project might have taken up a favorable or unfavorable position on The Family but through peer review we maintain objectivity.
The editors of xFamily.org have attempted to but have been unable to verify the authenticity of this message. Thus, we write to the representatives of The Family International to request that they confirm or deny that this "open letter" is an official publication of The Family International and that it was actually written, or authorized to be written on their behalf, by the two individuals, "Maria" (aka Karen Elva Zerby, Katherine Rianna Smith, Maria David, Maria Berg, Maria Fontaine, Mama Maria, and Queen Maria) and "Peter" (aka Steven Douglas Kelly, Christopher Smith, Peter Amsterdam and King Peter) who are alleged to have done so. Other "open letters" published by the Children of God/The Family cult were published and distributed quite differently and in a way that made it easy to verify their authenticity.
These other "open letters" include the following:
also published at http://www.thefamily.org/dossier/books/family/letter.htm
If the letter is authentic, we request that you also answer the following questions:
In prior written and recorded oral statements, representatives of The Family International have repeatedly stated that the forms of child sexual abuse that involve sexual contact between an adult and a child were made an excommunicable offense in 1986. In other written and recorded oral statements, representatives of The Family International have also stated that the forms of child sexual abuse that involve sexual contact between an adult and a child were made an excommunicable offense in 1988. In this January 1, 2008 "open letter," it is stated that "[i]n mid-1989 any such contact was made an excommunicable offense." Obviously, it does not seem possible that all three versions of these statements regarding the year in which the forms of child sexual abuse that involve sexual contact between an adult and a child were made an excommunicable offense, are true and correct.
For the record, exactly when did The Family make the forms of child sexual abuse that involve sexual contact between an adult and a child an excommunicable offense?
Has or will The Family publicly retract false public statements by its spokespersons regarding the year in which the forms of child sexual abuse that
involve sexual contact between an adult and a child were made an excommunicable offense?
the xFamily.org editors
The above URL will eventually change to http://www.newdaynews.com/openhouse/archive.cgi/noframes/read/46763
-- text of message posted at http://www.newdaynews.com/openhouse/index.cgi/noframes/read/46763 --
[quoted text redacted]
Message from The Family International to xFamily.org editors - 2008-01-24
From: Public Affairs <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Jan 24, 2008 at 1:46 AM
Subject: RE: question about authenticity of anonymously posted message - "An Open Letter of Apology from Maria and Peter"
To: xFamily org Editors <email@example.com>
Dear xFamily.org editors,
We are in receipt of your e-mail, and took the time to visit your site before replying. Your site seems to be "shrouded in secrecy" as to who its editors are, who its information sources are, etc.
To be honest, considering the slanderous and libelous intent and nature of your website and activities, we are not inclined to engage in dialogue. In any case, judging from the statements on your site, a number of which have precious little basis in fact, it doesn't seem to be a normal practice on your part to corroborate the statements and materials you post.
Representatives of The Family International
Message from xFamily.org editors to The Family International - 2008-01-25
Editor's note: As of March 6, 2008, the editors of xFamily.org have not yet received a reply to the message below.
From: xFamily org Editors <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Jan 25, 2008 at 12:43 PM
Subject: Re: question about authenticity of anonymously posted message - "An Open Letter of Apology from Maria and Peter"
To: Public Affairs <email@example.com>
Dear Representatives of The Family International,
Thank you for your prompt, albeit disappointing response. Contrary to whatever opinion you may hold about the editors at xFamily.org, I would like to thank you for your candid expression of concern about the veracity of some of the claims on our website.
I and my fellow editors do take every precaution to verify a claim's accuracy before it is posted. It may interest you to know that many other allegations have so far been withheld from being posted, simply because they could not be verified. The "wiki" software used on xFamily.org allows complete transparency of the article creation and editing process. Anyone may view the full revision history for each one of the thousands of articles in our wiki. As the revision history demonstrates, it is not uncommon for the editors to correct articles later found to contain inaccuracies.
Requests for clarification of veracity and corroboration of accounts by multiple sources is standard policy among the editors of xFamily.org, and is, no doubt, a large contributor to the fact that the site is often the first consulted when your organization is researched. As the largest public online archive in existence of information, documents (including Family publications, newspaper and magazine articles, court filings and other public records) audio recordings, still images and video footage pertaining to your organization, we take very seriously our responsibility to make sure that the information we provide is of the highest possible quality.
We would welcome your correction of any specific instances of what you perceive as "slanderous and libelous" content with evidence of the contrary. I can assure you, these would do a far better job of communicating your interest in getting out the truth about your organization, than a pious pre-judgment of the character of people you have likely never met.
As for your concern about the editor's identities being "shrouded in secrecy", my name and the names of several editors are posted in several places on the website's forum (http://xchildrenofgod.xfamily.org/) Our sources are diverse and include Family members and ex-members alike. Given the ill-will towards us by many Family members (as your response demonstrates), I'm sure you can understand why sources who are current members would wish to remain anonymous.
Ours was a genuine and sincere inquiry. The unhelpful and, frankly, amateurish response we received stands in sharp contrast to the apology letter being inquired about.
Having hopefully satisfied your concerns about the editors, I would ask you again, if you would be able to confirm or deny the authenticity of the apology letter, as well as answer the other questions in our last letter. I hope this time you may be able to lay aside any pre-conceived ideas about our intentions.
on behalf of the xFamily.org editors