Religious Sect Accused of Child Abuse and Pornography
CNN Headline News/1993-09-03
Watch video (3:07, 10.7MB) — 1993-09-03
Members of a religious group are accusing authorities in Argentina of persecuting them and planting pornographic videotapes in their homes. The 13 have denied any wrongdoing.
LOU WATERS, Anchor: Members of a religious groups are accusing authorities in Argentina of persecuting them and planting pornographic videotapes in their homes. Thirteen people released from custody today denied any wrong-doing. They were among 30 adults and more than 200 children detained during raids this week. Former members say the sect preached sex for salvation and practiced what it preached. CNN's Jim Dexter has our report.
JIM DEXTER, Correspondent:' [referring to video on screen] - Amateur video said to be taken by members of a religious sect that calls itself the Family of Love. The video tapes, shown by television stations in Argentina, depict nude girls, some no older than 8, dancing in provocative poses. Officials in Argentina say pornographic videos and literature were confiscated in raids on seven homes run by the sect. Court sources say some of the tapes depict sex between children and adults, one between a father and daughter. More than 100 children are now in court custody, after Argentine officials rounded up hundreds of members from 19 different nationalities during Wednesday's raid. Prosecutors say some of the children show signs of psychological damage. An Argentine police official said the children were, 'like zombies, with sad eyes and a lost look, as though they were somewhere else.' The sect is an offshoot of a California group founded in 1969, called The Children of God. The family calls itself a worldwide Christian missionary church, but former members call it a cult that subscribes to a doctrine of sex for salvation.
MARIE CHRISTINE HOWARTH, Former Sect Member: Sexual abuse in The Children of God started in the early '80s. It was not called sexual abuse because they did believe that it was God's way to show God's love to the children. D
DEXTER: Some of the sect's literature refers to the practice of holy prostitution, called flirty fishing by group members. According to former members of the sect, free sex was not only preached as a form of salvation, it was also practiced to attract new members and foot the bills. But the family denies encouraging free sex and claims the allegations of sexual abuse are a form of religious persecution.
GIDEON SCOTT, Sect Spokesman: Because of this particular incident, we've had approximately 500 of our children taken into care by the authorities after allegations of abuse, both sexual, psychological and physical. In every single one of those cases, no charges have ever been proved, and each one of those children has been returned to the loving care of their families within the communities they were snatched from.
DEXTER: Authorities are scrutinizing the videotapes to try to unravel the web of relationships and nationalities in the family. The arrested leaders of the sect's branch in Argentina face charges of racketeering, kidnapping and violating the childrens' human rights. Jim Dexter, CNN, reporting.
The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, although the text has been checked against an audio track, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it has not yet been proofread against videotape.