Chattanooga Times: Cult crackdown

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Cult crackdown

Group alleged to have initiated children into sex

The Chattanooga Times/1993-09-03
By Ian Katz/The Associated Press


Doctors examined 268 children after police raided 10 homes used by an alleged religion and sex cult. Police said they seized explicit videos of sex between children and adults. The children, including some Americans, were in homes occupied by the Family, an offshoot of the Children of God sect founded in California in the 1960s, authorities said. Similar raids on the group have been made in other countries, including one in France earlier this month in which at least 72 children were placed under foster care.

The Family has been accused of using female members to seduce prospective male members and of encouraging children to engage in sexual practices. A spokesman for the cult at its base in England denied the group engaged in child abuse.

The raid was part of an investigation into charges brought by a U.S. citizen who had been expelled by the cult. The American, identified in press reports as Ruth McKee Frouman of Chattanooga, said she was expelled after being diagnosed with breast cancer, which the cult considered a "biblical punishment," and cult members refused to release her four children. Two of the children were eventually released to the woman's sister after her death, officials said.

Most of the adults and children detained after the raids in Buenos Aires early Wednesday were foreigners, said Federal Court Secretary Jorje Sica. Besides the United States, they were from Canada, Britain, France, Brazil, Venezuela and other countries. Police said 30 adults were also detained. Twelve of the adults were charged with conspiracy to kidnap and conceal children, Sica said. Police also confiscated promotional videos that showed "explicit and free sex between" adults and children, said Federal Prosecutor Carlos Villafuerte. The other 18 adults and the children were placed in court custody and were being examined by psychiatrists and doctors for signs of sexual abuse, Sica said. The children ranged in age from infancy to 18. Among them were six or seven American children whose parents apparently were not in Argentina, Villafuerte said.

The Children of God, founded in California in 1969, was disbanded in 1978 but reappeared under other names, including the Family. The cult is found in England, France and other countries. Gideon Scott, a spokesman for the cult at its base in Leire, 100 miles northwest of London, said 500 children had been taken from followers in raids in various countries. "Every single one has been returned to their parents," he said in a telephone interview. "There is no evidence of child abuse. In our group, we have very, very strict rules. We allow no sexual contact between those over 21 and those under 21." The Family calls itself a worldwide Christian missionary church. The U.S. and British Embassies refused to comment on the arrests or on press reports that they had asked police to investigate.