Columbus Dispatch: Woman says siblings are brainwashed cult victims

From XFamily - Children of God

Woman says siblings are brainwashed cult victims

The Columbus Dispatch/1993-10-05
By Robert Ruth
Dispatch Staff Reporter

A 19-year-old Columbus woman's attempt to rescue her brother and sister from a religious cult in Argentina has hit a snag in Buenos Aires.

Roberto Marquevich, an Argentine federal judge, gave the woman tentative permission last week to take custody of her brother, Samuel, 17, and her sister, Angelina, 16, the woman said in a phone conversation yesterday from Buenos Aires.

To complete the custody issue, the brother and sister must sign an affidavit agreeing to have the woman as their guardian. But her siblings "have been brainwashed" by other cult members, the woman said, and are reluctant to sign the affidavit.

If they do not sign the document soon, the issue will shift to the Argentine courts and might take months to be resolved, the woman said. The woman, who was a member of the cult herself until escaping 18 months ago, does not want her name revealed.

She came to Columbus last year because she has relatives in Franklin County. The brother and sister are among 268 children who were placed in protective custody after Argentine law officers on Sept. 1 raided 10 houses in Buenos Aires controlled by the Children of God. Eighteen adult members of the cult have been indicted on a variety of charges in connection with accusations that they sexually abused children in the cult.

The sect was founded in 1968 in California by David Berg, a traveling evangelist who has said he is guided by the spirits of the Pied Piper and Army Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

The Columbus woman arrived in Buenos Aires on Sept. 23. With aid from the U.S. Embassy, she quickly received permission from Marquevich to visit her brother and sister, the woman said. Her siblings are being housed in separate child welfare facilities operated jointly by the Argentine government and the Roman Catholic Church.

"They were real glad to see me," she said. "I told them about their relatives in Columbus and how good life is in the United States." The brother and sister have never been in the States.

The woman also gave her brother and sister gifts, including candy bars, a portable stereo player and compact discs. "The Children of God doesn't allow them to listen to rock 'n' roll," the woman said.

Her brother and sister agreed to leave the cult last week, the woman said, but they wavered after talking with adult and juvenile members of the cult. Fifteen adult cult members are staying with the children, who are under protective custody, the woman said. The adults have not been indicted by authorities, the woman said.

"They (Samuel and Angelina) have been brainwashed," the woman said. "They've been told I'm Satan and a serpent."

"I don't know what's going to happen next."