`The Family' wants cult-hunting group dissolved
By TERRIL JONES
PARIS (AP) - A religious group accused of child abuse wants the cult-hunting group that spurred on police to be dissolved, saying it was dedicated to "the destruction of religious minorities."
Armed police on June 9 raided two communities of The Family, an offshoot of the disbanded Children of God. At least 72 children were placed under foster care.
Police acted after charges by the Association for the Defense of Family and Individual, a human-rights group, that children were being sexually and emotionally abused. The raids followed a two-year investigation.
The association says The Family encouraged young children to engage in sexual practices and may have sexually abused them.
It says it only provided information and was not involved in decisions to raid Family compounds.
Allegations also have surfaced of prostitution among Family members. The Family held a news conference Tuesday to accuse the association of pushing authorities to forcibly separate children from parents.
The Family calls itself a worldwide Christian missionary church. It stems from the Children of God, founded in the 1960s in California and disbanded in 1978. That group's recruiting methods included using female members to seduce prospective young men.
Members of The Family complained Tuesday of police bullying, being pressured to sign documents in French they could not read, and being denied contact with relatives.
Police burst into a house occupied by The Family in Condrieu, near Lyon, dragging members away in handcuffs and taking crying babies from their mothers, said Madeleine Coppola, an 18-year-old American.
"Police asked me questions that had no relation to my life, and sex-related questions that were disgusting to me," she said.
Miss Coppola, who was born in a Children of God community in London, said police intimidated her into signing a document in French she could not read.
"In my entire life I have never suffered any physical, emotional or mental abuse until the day of the raid," she said.
The other raid was in Eiguille, near Aix-en-Provence.
Family member Richard Leclerc, 43, a Canadian, said no weapons were in the house and so no need existed for raids by police in combat gear.
He said some members ran the Condrieu house, where nine adults and 34 children lived in crowded conditions; others did gospel work in the streets.
Fifteen adults face charges of "inciting children to debauchery." Family members expressed confidence the charges will be dropped. They said they then will file a defamation suit against the Association for the Defense of Family and Individual, and seek its dissolution.
Hayat Cohen, an association worker in Paris, where his group has headquarters, said, "We didn't bring any charges or arrest anyone. It's a question of human rights.
"The children are isolated, they're not allowed to have friends outside the group. It's totalitarianism."