'The Family' - Preachers or Pornographers?
CNN – Larry King Live/1993-10-20
LARRY KING: Members of 'The Family' - a group that acknowledges having used sex in the past to attract new members - answer charges leveled by a former member and a cult specialist of sexual abuse and child molestation.
KING: Ask members of The Family who they are, and they'll tell you they are fundamentalist evangelicals, born-again missionaries who preach that the end is at hand. But critics, including some former members, take a more sinister view. They describe a scary, sex-obsessed, doomsday sect which abuses children and practices mind control. One practice in particular - 'flirty fishing,' or winning new members by promising sex - brought The Family an avalanche of bad press. Now the group insists it's cleaned up its act, it is saving souls for Jesus, and even performed for President George Bush at the White House. But disturbing charges persist. We'll hear shortly from the critics of The Family, but the first words go to two current members. Here in Washington is Michael Anthony, the North American representative for The Family. And in Los Angeles we have Promise Rimes, 18 years old and a Family member all of her life. Michael, if we say 'North American representative,' does that mean The Family is worldwide?
MICHAEL ANTHONY, Member 'The Family': Yes, that's correct.
KING: Who started it?
Mr. ANTHONY: The Family was started by Father David. He's our founder. He was a missionary. All of his life he was looking for ways to bring the gospel to people through different methods. His mother lived in California and invited him out to witness to the Hippies there in the late '60s, and that's how The Family got started in those days.
KING: Father David was originally a priest?
Mr. ANTHONY: He was a Christian Missionary Alliance preacher.
KING: What got Michael Anthony interested?
Mr. ANTHONY: Well, I was going to university and I was looking for something to do with my life. I really wanted to help people. And when I was searching, I tried a lot of different ideas. And The Family - the Children of God, as they were known in those days - came on campus and they showed a documentary that had been done about their work, and I admired their dedication and their sincerity. I decided to give it a try, and I found it was what I was looking for.
KING: So, the group founded in 1968- It's a quarter of a century old.
Mr. ANTHONY: That's right.
KING: Twenty-five years. And David Berg was his name, right?
Mr. ANTHONY: That's right.
KING: Was he Jewish who converted to Christianity?
Mr. ANTHONY: He has Jewish ancestry, that's right.
KING: OK, now, you say you're a group of evangelicals. How many members, by the way?
Mr. ANTHONY: Approximately 9,000 worldwide.
KING: Not a lot.
Mr. ANTHONY: Not very many, no.
KING: What caused all the furor?
Mr. ANTHONY: That's a good question. Well, the actor's agent said, 'There's no such thing as bad publicity.' And although our detractors have been very vocal in speaking about us, they have done us a favor in some ways, in that they've brought the attention of the media and other people to us and we've been able to explain what we're all about.
KING: OK, what is 'flirty fishing'?
Mr. ANTHONY: 'Flirty fishing' was a type of witnessing activity that took place in The Family about 10 years ago , and what it was was personal witnessing. It was based on two scriptures. One was, 'Greater love hath no man than this: That a man would lay down his life for his friends.' And also, Jesus said in the- told his disciples, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men' - in other words, to be witnesses. So, that was the-
KING: Well, what is 'flirty fishing'?
Mr. ANTHONY: 'Flirty' is the part where it gets controversial. And that is, our members were free to engage in personal relationships with outside people if they felt led to do so in order to show people the love of God.
KING: Sex was OK, in other words?
Mr. ANTHONY: In some cases, sex was used, yes.
KING: Now, 'flirty fishing' was- Did you have women members that flirted with non-members hoping to get them to be members?
Mr. ANTHONY: No, that wasn't really the goal of getting members, as much as just to give them the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as their savior.
KING: I see. Is what used to be called 'free sex' part of The Family's concept?
Mr. ANTHONY: No, we believe that sex is a good thing. We believe that God created sex and that it's good and not evil and it's- When used at the right place with the right people, that it's beneficial and helpful. But we don't have a belief where anybody can just do whatever they want. We take a very responsible attitude towards sex.
KING: Do you preach monogamy?
Mr. ANTHONY: Yes, we very much believe in families, family relationships, of taking good care of our children.
KING: Promise Rimes in Los Angeles, you've been a member all your life. You were born into it, then?
PROMISE RIMES, Member, 'The Family': Yes, sir.
KING: Your parents are members?
Ms. RIMES: Yes. Yes, sir, they were.
KING: Call me 'Larry.' You don't have to call me 'sir.'
Ms. RIMES: OK, Larry.
KING: Promise, how many times does The Family get together? Are there regular meetings, are there services? How does it work?
Ms. RIMES: Well, we live together all day long, 24 hours a day. We're a family all day long, every single day of the week.
KING: I mean, members go out to work and then come back?
Ms. RIMES: No, sir. We preach the gospel, and we stay at home, we take care of our children-
KING: Don't work?
Ms. RIMES: No, sir, we don't hold secular jobs, most of us.
KING: What do the men do?
Ms. RIMES: They go out and preach the gospel and help others.
KING: And the women do the same if they don't have children?
Ms. RIMES: Well, we all take turns.
KING: What, for example, did you do today?
Ms. RIMES: Well, today I was taking care of children.
KING: Now, would you also go out and preach the gospel, as well?
Ms. RIMES: Yes, sir, I would.
KING: How, Michael, are they supported?
Mr. ANTHONY: Well, we live by faith. In other words, we dedicate our full lives to preaching the gospel, and we trust that God will supply our needs. Usually, people who appreciate the good work that we're doing offer us goods and services and their support to help us.
KING: So, in other words, they help you by contributions.
Mr. ANTHONY: That's correct, yes.
KING: Where do you preach?
Mr. ANTHONY: Anywhere and everywhere.
KING: Like street corners?
Mr. ANTHONY: Well, yes. As you mentioned in the introduction, we've been singing in the White House. We were at Hurricane Andrew. We were the first relief victims- relief people on duty there. We've done work with the gangs in Los Angeles. We've done work in boys' homes, in juvenile homes, any place where there's a need. We've been behind the Iron Curtain for many years.
KING: So, this sex thing, you say, is not a part of The Family? There's not open sex going on during the day where you gather?
Mr. ANTHONY: No. You would be very disappointed if you were looking for something very racy to find in our family. We're very normal people. We have a full-time job being missionaries and taking care of our children.
KING: What kinds of places do you live in?
Mr. ANTHONY: Normal large-size homes where you can have 24 or 35 people together.
KING: Your home is where, for instance?
Mr. ANTHONY: In Los Angeles.
KING: So, you know Promise?
Mr. ANTHONY: Yes, that's right.
KING: I see. But there are homes in New York in Chicago and-
Mr. ANTHONY: Yes.
KING: -in England?
Mr. ANTHONY: And here in D.C.
KING: And in Washington.
Mr. ANTHONY: Right.
KING: All right, we're going to take a break and come back. There are some critics of the concept. We'll have them join us, and we'll include your phone calls. This is Larry King Live. Tomorrow night, chef Paul Prudhomme; Frank Gifford and Donna Mills on Friday. Don't go away.
JOYANNE TREADWELL, Granddaughter of 'Family' Founder: And then, as the years went by, because he was perverted himself, he tried to think of justifications- had to OK it biblically. So, he got a revelation that God's only law was love; that when Jesus came he fulfilled the original law, the Ten Commandments, and that His only law was love, and in order to show God's love to normal people, because they can't understand spiritual love, you have to show it through sex.
KING: Welcome back to Larry King Live. We're talking about the religious sect known as The Family. One former member claims his 20 with The Family were a living nightmare of exorcisms, abhorrent sex, and brainwashing. Rick Dupuy left The Family a year-and-a-half ago, charging child abuse. His wife and several children remain members. Dupuy joins us from San Francisco. In Chicago is Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the Cult Awareness Network, which monitors unorthodox religious groups. Still with all of us are The Family's North American representative, Michael Anthony, and current member, Promise Rimes. Rick, you were a member for how long?
RICK DUPUY, Former Member, 'The Family': I was in the group for 20 years. I was in for 10 years and left for three years, and then I was back in for 10 more years.
KING: This is a long-time association. Why did you leave the first time?
Mr. DUPUY: I left the first time because at that time I was basically a little bit disillusioned with what was going on in the group, and also the group somewhat disbanded at that point. There was- Moses David fired the chain of command, the main leadership structure, and it was more or less a state of anarchy. So, I was married to my wife, had three children, and I basically just had to look for a way to support myself and my family.
KING: What took you back?
Mr. DUPUY: I was re-recruited back into the group by Moses David's daughter, Faithy. I was a regional sales director for Holiday Inns Incorporated in Mexico City at the time, and they came through on a mission to win back various of us.
KING: I see. And when you went back, where did you live?
Mr. DUPUY: Initially, I rejoined the group in San Juan, Puerto Rico. And we had a radio program, Musica Con Vida [sp?]. It was a Spanish version of a program that was evangelical- an evangelical program.
KING: OK. Rick, all of this so far sounds mild and OK. What was wrong?
Mr. DUPUY: Well, it's a difficult thing to deal with a chunk that big of 20 years of your life, and nothing in this world is black-and-white and that easy to look at. But basically, what was my wake-up call was I was in Japan where I had been summoned by the group to start a video ministry or an audiovisual production unit, and to do that I was obligated to separate from my wife and leave my children. And during that time in Japan, I went through an incredible ordeal. Finally-
KING: Of what?
Mr. DUPUY: Of being in a situation where I was emotionally stripped from everything that told me who I was as a human being, from all my emotional relationships. I was told who I should sleep with, who I should have relations with. At various times, when I bonded with a female, two of these times the woman involved was pregnant. The relationships were arbitrarily cut. And after going through four relationships like that, I was in a pretty bad state.
KING: The group was- The leadership of The Family was forcing you to have a relationship with women you didn't want to have with; you wanted to go back to your wife?
Mr. DUPUY: That's correct.
KING: Were they doing the same to her?
Mr. DUPUY: Yes, they were. In other words, she was being told that, of course, what she was doing was God's highest will and-
KING: So, she was sleeping with men back in San Juan?
Mr. DUPUY: Well, she was back in- She was in Mexico at the time.
KING: All right, and she still remains a member, right?
Mr. DUPUY: That's right, she still remains a member. And what was the real wake-up call for me was that after being there for four years, at one point I felt I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and I merely made a request that I leave the group for two months for a leave of absence. I trained people to do what I was doing, and I felt I'd fulfilled my responsibilities. At that point, I was subjected to two months of one of the most incredible ordeals of brainwashing, of exorcisms, of hard labor. My personal effects were burned. I was laid on the floor in a ritual exorcism where the spirit of my mother was cast out of me-
KING: Why didn't you just leave?
Mr. DUPUY: Because, after having been in that situation for four years, I was under an immense amount of fear and guilt that God would strike me dead if I were to walk out.
KING: Would you say this group was sexually obsessed?
Mr. DUPUY: I would say that the leader, Moses David, was very much sexually obsessed, and that sex has always been one of the foremost doctrines of the group.
KING: We're going to have- By the way, Promise, do you agree that sex is a big part of The Family?
Ms. RIMES: No, I don't. You know, they call us the sex group, but I'd really like to know where it's happening, because I'm not getting any of it.
KING: You have had no sexual relationships inside the family house?
Ms. RIMES: No, I have not.
KING: Have you seen other open sex going on?
Ms. RIMES: No, I have not. I'm 18 years old, I've been in The Family. I've never once seen or experienced any kind of child abuse or sexual relations.
KING: Michael, have you-
Mr. DUPUY: OK, I'd like to say something-
KING: Hold on one second, Rick. Have you witnessed anything that Rick has described?
Mr. ANTHONY: Well, Rick's history is being rewritten as we speak. Actually, Rick left the group on very favorable terms. We paid his airfare back to the United States, we gave him $5,000 to get resettled, he wrote us a very supportive letter, encouraged his son to carry on in the movement after he left. The change came after he became involved with these anti-cult movements, who then helped him to kind of deny his responsibility and pass it on to us.
KING: Cynthia, were you involved with Rick?
CYNTHIA KISSER, Executive Director, Cult Awareness Network: No, I've never met Rick. This is the first time that I've ever heard him that I can recall.
KING: What is the Cult Awareness Network?
Ms. KISSER: Well, we don't really care about beliefs of a group, but we are particularly concerned about harmful practices. And with this group, and with many others like them, you see such an exploitation - particularly of the women and the children. There are women that have come out of that group- One, for example, I know, who has 13 children. Now, legitimate ministry would help someone get back on their feet after they've committed years to an organization, trying to help with the spread of the word, so to speak. People leave these groups. They don't get any kind of support. Many of them have had very bizarre sex. I, myself, have seen a videotape that was made by The Family that's clearly pornographic. So, I think that trying to explain away the past the way that your representative from The Family has attempted just is not squaring with the facts that most serious cult researchers know.
KING: Let me get a break. We'll come back with all of our panel, and we will be taking your phone calls, as well. This is Larry King Live in Washington. We'll be right back.
KING: We're talking about the controversial group, The Family. Michael Anthony is North American representative for The Family; Promise Rimes in Los Angeles - a lifelong member; Rick Dupuy in San Francisco - a former member; and Cynthia Kisser, executive director of the Cult Awareness Network. We will start to include your phone calls, and we begin with Tokyo, Japan. Hello.
6th CALLER: [Tokyo, Japan] Hello. I have a question for the present cult member?
KING: Michael. Go ahead.
6th CALLER: I understand that their leader, Moses Berg, is living incognito in Japan. And also, I read in the newspaper that Berg's daughter called her father a child molester cum sex maniac, and I'd like to know if they can comment on this?
KING: Is that true? Is he in Japan, first?
Mr. ANTHONY: I don't know if he's in Japan at the time-
KING: You don't know where the leader is?
Mr. ANTHONY: No, I do not. But I do know that he's not a child molester. His ex-wife, his other daughter, and other relations have all sworn affidavits that this is not a true story.
KING: Has one daughter said that, though?
Mr. ANTHONY: One daughter has said that.
KING: Do you know her?
Mr. ANTHONY: I know of her. I know the reasons why she left our group. And she and her husband were asked to leave our group because of their gross abuse of their powers, the responsibilities they had. And she has been on a personal vendetta against her father since then. It's not new that people leave churches and then throw stones at them.
KING: You don't know where your leader is - David?
Mr. ANTHONY: No.
KING: All right. Rick, what about the statement-
Ms. KISSER: Larry, I think you should also note that even Berg's granddaughter has made allegations of being sexually molested, too.
KING: Yes, we just showed a clip of that. So, you've got two people now, direct family involved, saying that they were sexually molested.
Mr. ANTHONY: Yes, the interesting thing is that when Moses David's granddaughter left the group she carried on very positive and friendly communications with her grandfather until she went to live with her aunt, who then gave her the same tune.
KING: All right. Rick, did a cult awareness group get you out of the fold?
Mr. DUPUY: Absolutely not. I was not deprogrammed, I was not exit-counseled. I came back and simply told my story to an objective psychiatrist that really had no background in this, and at the time I was even trying to defend the group. Just in telling the truth of what happened to me, the man extended a normal 50-minute psychiatric session to four hours, began to cry- Now, this was a seasoned, trained professional. And he said clinically speaking he thought it was a total miracle that somebody that had gone through the incredible abuse that I had gone through was still in any sense a sane and rational and functioning human being.
Mr. DUPUY: And I would like to comment on this stuff about Moses David not being a child molester. He is a sick man. He is a child molester of the worst kind. The child molestation and the child sex in the group was on a massive scale-
KING: Now, wait a second. You saw this going on and you continued to stay?
Mr. DUPUY: That's correct.
Mr. DUPUY: Because I was in a massive state of denial.
KING: In other words, you saw your leader having sex with children, and you saw this and denied it to yourself?
Mr. DUPUY: No-
KING: And then, only with a psychiatrist later did you reveal it to yourself?
Mr. DUPUY: No, I did not see Moses David committing sex with children. This is something-
KING: Then how do you know he did?
Mr. DUPUY: Because this is something that has been told to me by his granddaughter, by his niece, by people that have lived with this man. And I was ordered in the group to have sex with a 10-year-old by the leadership of the group.
KING: Did you?
Mr. DUPUY: Yes. There was no penetration, because this is something that went against every fiber of my being, against everything that I-
KING: Promise, do you not believe that?
Ms. RIMES: I absolutely do not believe that. I do not believe that anyone would have told him to have sex with a 10-year-old.
KING: Fort Wayne, Indiana-
Mr. DUPUY: OK, this was when I was- This was when I was a leader of an important world service unit. That's the elite administrative branch of the Children of God. We were under direct orders-
KING: What was their purpose, Rick, in having you have sex with a 10-year-old? What was the purpose of The Family to have you do this?
Mr. DUPUY: I can only conjecture that the purpose was- Now, these were top- children of the top leaders in the group- KING: Yes, what was the purpose?
Mr. DUPUY: I believe it was to get me in so deep that I would be afraid to ever come out and speak against the group because I, too, would be guilty of the same stuff.
Ms. KISSER: Larry, this sex gets to the heart of what's wrong with groups like this. It's not the sex, per se. It's the fact that if you can control someone's sexuality - which many of these destructive cults do - and you can make them have no power over their own lives, you're going to be able to manipulate them. And I'm sorry to say that there is a whole generation that has grown up in this group, and I've met some of them that have come out, and they will be scarred for life for the experiences that they were put through.
KING: And you deny all of this, right, Michael?
Mr. ANTHONY: Well, we've opened our communities and let a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, sociologist see our kids, and they've all given us a clean bill of health. Over 600 of our kids have been examined by court-appointed officials, and they found no child abuse.
KING: Let me get a break and come back with more. This is Larry King Live. Tomorrow night - chef Paul Prudhomme of New Orleans. Don't go away.
TIMOTHY RICHARDS, Member, 'The Family': OK, listen, The Family- There's quite a few, you might call them legends about The Family and our sexuality and all that stuff, but it's basically unfounded, OK? As a family, we believe- We have quite liberal doctrines concerning sex. We believe that sex is of God, that it was created by Him, it's not an accident that it feels good, and He made it for our enjoyment as well as for the purpose of procreation. Now, it is definitely not part of our religion - has nothing to do with our religion.
KING: We're back. Fort Wayne, Indiana, hello.
7th CALLER: [Fort Wayne, Indiana] Hello. I am a Christian, and I have a short comment and then a question. I would just like to say that I think the member of this family is totally blind to the truth of God's word, when they use this 'flirting sex' as a means of witnessing, because the Bible definitely makes it clear that the only boundaries of sex is within a marriage only, and not as a witnessing tool. The way to be a witness is to live.
KING: Do you want to comment, Michael?
Mr. ANTHONY: Yes, I would. First of all, let's make one thing clear. We stopped 'flirty fishing' six years ago. We are not out to try to convince all Christians to believe the exact same way that we believe.
KING: Providence, Rhode Island, hello.
8th CALLER: [Providence, Rhode Island] Hello. Thank you. A question for Michael Anthony. Michael, I don't know what's going on today. People change and, as you say, six years ago the policies changed. But I was a street kid and I knew many people 20 years ago, and I was unmarried and heterosexually active at the time. I knew this gal who was with the Children of God, and I knew her before the love-letter [?] changes and I knew her after the love-letter changes. And I knew her only as a friend, despite the fact that I was invited to be more than a friend. And to this day, my heart still breaks for her. I can still see her face in my thoughts. The coercion behind her witnessing was- It's difficult for me to describe. It was a terrible-
KING: Is this the same group you're talking about - The Family?
8th CALLER: Yes.
Mr. ANTHONY: Well, what is the question he asks?
KING: What's the question, sir?
8th CALLER: Why would you say that there was no sexual activity in 'fishy flirting' [sic]?
Mr. ANTHONY: It's 'flirty fishing,' and we didn't say there wasn't any sexual activity in it. KING: You say there was, but there is no longer?
Mr. ANTHONY: We no longer practice that.
KING: All right, Cynthia, these groups are legal, are they not?
Ms. KISSER: Yes, and our-
KING: And they don't drag you off the street, right?
Ms. KISSER: Right, and our concern is not that they should not exist. They certainly have the right to exist. But I also think they have an obligation to address the abuse that people who lead these groups have been through and to try and make restitution. And that's where the problem is, with not facing up to the things in the past that have occurred, even though there's overwhelming information to support these 'X'-number of claims.
KING: Los Angeles, hello.
9th CALLER: [Los Angeles, California] Yes, this question is for Rick. My question is, I appreciate your sincerity, and at the same time, I would like to know, being on both sides of the fence- You've been in the group, now you're out of the group, and you still have part of your family left in that group. What could be done to restore the peace and the love and the harmony that you so much desire to have with your family?
Mr. DUPUY: Unfortunately, because I am considered an enemy of the group because I have chosen to be vocal and speaking out - and speaking out is a part of my own recovery - my communication with my family has been completely severed and cut. I don't know in what country or in what place any of my children or my wife are. I had to go back to Japan and threaten legal action in order to get hold of my son, and even that was a wild goose chase that took me halfway around the world.
KING: Do you know where his family is, Michael?
Mr. ANTHONY: Rick has his son living with him right now. A year ago, he asked his wife if his son could visit for two weeks. That was the last his wife saw his son.
KING: Do you know where his wife is?
Mr. ANTHONY: His wife is a missionary in Mexico, and he knows that.
KING: She's in Mexico City?
Mr. ANTHONY: Yes, that's right.
KING: She's in Mexico City, Rick.
Mr. DUPUY: Thank you.
Mr. ANTHONY: We'd be happy to open a line of dialogue with him any time he wishes to.
Ms. KISSER: We don't know-
Ms. RIMES: Can I say something?
Ms. KISSER: We've found-
Ms. RIMES: Can I say something else?
Ms. RIMES: Is that I was living with his daughter and son, and his daughter called her father. And she is a grown woman, she has a child. And she told him that she didn't want to have anything more to do with him. That is her personal right and choice.
Mr. DUPUY: That is absolutely a lie. I never talked to my daughter-
Ms. RIMES: That is not true.
Mr. DUPUY: She was never allowed-
Ms. RIMES: I was there when she called you.
Mr. DUPUY: Susie [sp?] was never allowed to speak to me-
Ms. RIMES: I'm talking about Rosita [sp?]-
Mr. DUPUY: -and the group- We are talking in a group-
KING: Hold it, hold it- Which daughter are you talking about?
Ms. RIMES: I'm talking about Rosita.
Mr. DUPUY: Rosita was never allowed to speak to me. I never have spoken to Rosita face to face-
KING: What about on the phone?
Ms. RIMES: OK, well-
Mr. DUPUY: And I'll tell you something else. What we are talking about here is-
KING: All right, let me get another call. Halmstad, Sweden, hello. 10th CALLER: [Halmstad, Sweden] Yes, Michael? Michael Anthony?
KING: Yes, go ahead.
10th CALLER: Yes, hi. My name is Rolf Kantub [?]. I was wondering, would you accept if government kept an eye on The Family some time, just according to what's happening in Waco, Texas?
Mr. ANTHONY: We have had the government investigate us in a number of countries. In fact, there in Norway [sic], the government investigated our family after allegations were made against us, and they gave us a clean bill of health. KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments, right after this.
KING: Quickly - Manassas, Virginia, hello.
11th CALLER: [Manassas, Virginia] Hello. I'm a former prosecutor in a country in the Middle East, and I did conduct an interrogation of this group in 1985.
11th CALLER: And in their confessions, they admitted that they used sex, also, to recruit members. And in their points that their priest had they also stated that they would use sex to-
Mr. ANTHONY: That's correct.
KING: OK. We've run out of time. We're going to do more on this. I thank you all very much for coming. Paul Prudhomme - tomorrow night. By the way, on November 1st, Michael Jordan; on November 3rd, Maggie Thatcher. And Friday night, Frank Gifford and Donna Mills; Saturday night on Larry King Weekend, Joan Rivers and her daughter Melissa, and Sean Young. Standing by ready to co-anchor the world news- This is a first. The first time world news has ever been co-anchored by two people named Linden and Andrea. It's a first! Linden what's up?
LINDEN SOLES, 'WorldNews': Well, Larry, just be thankful you don't have to toss to someone named 'Beavis' or 'Butt-head.' Coming up: The two MTV cartoon characters take some of the blame for TV violence on their pointy little chins. Choose no-fat over low fat to keep your arteries clear - new advice from a consumer group. And, this saucy little teeshirt has cafeteria cooks congealing with consternation. We'll give it to you in plain language, next on WorldNews.
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