Evening Standard: We swap wives in the name of Jesus, says cult

From XFamily - Children of God

We swap wives in the name of Jesus, says cult

'Black sheep' is leader of the sect

Evening Standard/1993-09-03

By Shekhar Bhatia

BRITAIN'S controversial Family of Love admitted today they indulged in free love at their 16th century country manor house in the Midlands. Married women have sex with men who are not their husbands in the name of Jesus.

But they insisted theirs was a house of love, not lust, and that sex with or between people under 21 was not allowed.

The bizarre goings-on at the Leicestershire mansion were revealed today as Argentinian police continued to question 30 members of the Children of God cult - of which the Family of Love is an offshoot - for allegedly conspiring to kidnap and conceal children.

The British branch of the sect deny any children are being kept against their will and say they have never suffered any sexual abuse. But Mrs Valerie Jones, the mother of 18-year-old Celeste, believes they have 'brainwashed' her daughter into refusing to see her.

Scotland Yard has revealed it is investigating the cult in Britain. But the leader Gideon Scott, said: 'We have not done anything questionable and have nothing to hide from the police.'

His wife, Rachel, 41, the mother of 11 children, admitted she had sex with other members of the group with her husband's permission.

Another member, 36-year-old Tamar, who is married and has five children, said: "We have a very liberal view on sex here. We know that it may be offensive to other Christians, but we interpret what the Bible says in a different way.

"Jesus showed us that if our fellow man was hungry we should share our food with him. It is the same analogy when it comes to sex."

"If a man is lonely and needs sex in the name of love and Jesus, then I am happy to have sex with him as long as he is committed to Christ and all parties concerned are in agreement."

Her husband Elkana, a US citizen, fully supports her when she decides to share the bed of another cult member. The adults see nothing wrong in bed-hopping while children are sleeping under the same roof.

Mr Scott admitted some senior members had stayed in cult communes where children may have been involved in sex. He said: "I have never abused a child and neither have any of the adults here. We believe in bringing them up by the Bible and making them into healthy, well-balanced adults."

However, Tamar admitted that teenagers over 18 were encouraged to have sex together under a 'make it work' project, which the group promotes once the children have shown interest in each other.

Most of the members at the mansion, near Lutterworth and close to the M1, moved into the 13-bedroom building after leaving an address in Finchley Road this summer.

Other sect members are known to be in Sudbury, Suffolk, and they also meet in Leicester Square three nights a week.

The Leicestershire group have strict codes of entry. New members must show their commitment over a six-month period by reading the Bible and attending prayers. They must also pass an Aids test.

The sect was founded in California 25 years ago by David Berg, who is now living in Japan. He created the technique called 'flirty fishing' - also branded Hookers for Jesus - where women would sleep with men to encourage them to join the cult.

Mr Scott said the practice ended largely because of the Aids problem. He explained: 'We no longer have that system as we want to steer away from being dubbed some weird sex cult.'

But Valerie Jones, a mother of five, was a cult member for 15 years before leaving four years ago. She said today she had only seen Celeste four times since she went to live with her father in a commune in the Far East 15 years ago.

She said: "My Celeste was brought to Britain by the cult in March. I was allowed to see her. But when they realised I was telling her to leave they asked her not to see me any more. I was told when I tried to phone her that she did not want to talk to me."

"When I joined the cult I was naive and as a believer of Christ I thought this would be a good way of showing my love for him. Nobody then knew about their sexual practices and their indoctrination of children."

"I was made to sleep with other men and I am not sure who is the father of three of my children."

"I am very worried about Celeste. I don't want her to start having my grandchildren among those people. I want her out of there so that she can live as a normal teenager."

Celeste's grandmother, Freda Horne, said: "Celeste has been brainwashed. The Family say they are all about bringing families together. Then why don't they let Celeste be with her mother because she is her real family?"

But Celeste said: "I saw my mother when I arrived in Britain. But she has been fed a lot of lies by people who are anti-cult. They are our enemies."

"I have never been sexually abused and I have been in the Family since I was three. My father is a member and is happy for me to be here."

Cult member Ben Bagnulo, 18, said: "Nobody has ever abused or hurt me in any way. I like to go out in the world and help other teenagers with their problems through Christ."

Mr Scott refused to reveal how exactly the group could afford such a luxurious house, which is oak-panelled throughout, but some finance is raised by selling videos of the Family's work to other Christians.

'Black sheep' is leader of the sect

GIDEON SCOTT, the leader of Britain's Family of Love, is a 41-year-old former public schoolboy. He is smartly dressed in a jacket, collar and tie - a respectable family man.

But, according to colleagues, Mr Scott, whose real name is Jake Aird, was always known as the black sheep of his family.

He surprised them when, during the four years he spent as a Derbyshire fireman in the early Eighties, he became the delegate for the Fire Brigades' Union. He held the post for nine months before he decided to become a missionary.

His lifestyle has totally changed since he lived in a small terraced house not far from the fire station in Chesterfield. His current home is the sect's £750,000 Tudor manor house in Leicestershire.

Mr Scott was known for his facility at repairing and selling cars and motor cycles.

One colleague at Chesterfield said he never kept a car for longer than three or four weeks. "He even built up a motor bike and decided to become a racer. But when he tried out his bike he quit and said it was not for him, it frightened him to death."

Others recalled that, after leaving to become a missionary, he used to return to Britain to collect his family allowance.

"There was a loophole in the law to get the allowance and he used to come over and buy stereos and sell them in India," said one.

Mr Scott became involved in religion while in Chesterfield. He would tour old people's homes and sing religious songs with his wife, Rachel, and children.

But, according to the firemen, Mr Scott's most remarkable ability was his memory. He was able to pick up a book and repeat everything virtually parrot-fashion.

Over the weekend, the village of Dunton Bassett near Lutterworth was celebrating with its fair, held every four years. The Family moved into the manor house in the village six weeks ago.

Barbara Taylor, chairman of the parish council, and her husband Alan, the parish clerk, approached the cult about the impending fair.

Mr Taylor said: 'We were introduced to Jake Aird, the husband, and Rachel his wife. They immediately offered to throw the gardens of the house open and they put on a display of croquet on the lawns with all the residents dressed in Victorian costumes."

"They did not hide anything in the manor house."