Colorado Springs Gazette: Man who returned parenting award denies ties to cult

From XFamily - Children of God

Man who returned parenting award denies ties to cult

Charity stands by Longmont family

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)/1999-08-07

Associated Press

LONGMONT - A Longmont man who returned the Parent of the Year award he received in July because of his alleged links to the Children of God cult is denying any affiliation with the group.

Zach Prendergast received the 1999 Parent of the Year prize from the National Parents' Day Foundation on July 22. He declined the award after an investigation into his background uncovered his alleged ties to the cult.

In a letter to the foundation, however, Prendergast denied he and his wife, Naomi, were ever affiliated with the group founded in California in the 1960s by David Berg.

Among other things, the cult has been accused of having female members work as "happy hookers for Jesus" and has been linked to child pornography in South America and physical abuse of members' children.

"It has come to our attention that criticisms have been raised about us and our service work overseas in the past ... We are not affiliated with the Children of God group," Prendergast wrote.

Former members of the cult claimed Prendergast, 50, and his wife operated an indoctrination camp for children in Italy in the 1980s. They also alleged the three children Prendergast and his wife claim to have adopted in Asia are not adopted but his children with a second wife.

Some local charities are openly supportive of the Prendergast family, including the director of Alternatives for Youth, a nonprofit agency which has received a $25,000 grant to help Prendergast start a teen fatherhood program similar to one he orchestrated for former Gov. Roy Romer.

"Whether it's true or not, people see stuff like this and form their own opinions," said Tom Loftus, the program director. "We did a complete background check and it was all clear. He has been very good, and we've heard good things about his Responsible Fatherhood program."

In 1994, Congress designated the fourth Sunday in July as National Parents Day. The Foundation chooses award winners in conjunction with the holiday.

Some award selection committee members are affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, and the Foundation shares office space with another of Moon's businesses. Foundation president Robert Grant was head of Moon's defunct American Freedom Coalition.

Spokesman Gary Jarmin said there are no direct connections between the Foundation and the church, but he said the bulk of the group's funding comes from the Unification Church.