Final Report on the Activities of the Children of God to Hon. Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General of the State of New York
Report Submitted by:
Charity Frauds Bureau
Herbert J. Wallenstein
Assistant Attorney General In Charge
Date: September 30, 1974
On February 13, 1973, then Governor Rockefeller, pursuant to Executive Law, Section 63, Subdivision 8, directed the Attorney General to investigate and determine the extent of the various activities of an organization known as the Children of God as its activities affect the public peace and safety.
We interviewed 74 persons of whom 34 are parents, 14 are former members of the COG, 20 were persons who had special knowledge of activities of the group and 6 persons who are members of the group and responded to subpoenaes. We have accumulated several bulletins or "Moses Letters", Lesson Plans and other documents used by the group and its leaders for instruction and in limited situations, for public consumption. We have contacted the Attorneys General in other states to check out the validity of information we had obtained in New York.
Initially, the organization, through its attorneys, was orally requested to cooperate with the investigation and produce books and records, pertaining to finances and locations of all communes and all demographic information pertaining to members. Such requests were refused.
Accordingly, it became necessary to subpoena known members of the group at the Staten Island commune and also to obtain an order of the Supreme Court, New York County, directing Children of God, Inc. (a Texas corporation, in dissolution), to attend and testify concerning the corporate finances. The court was disregarded by the Texas group. [See Section III entitled "Money Matters" for details pertaining to the finances of the group].
On January 8, 1974, we published the Interim Report of our investigation into the activities of the Children of God. References were made to the Interim Report in Newsweek and Time Magazine as well as other national periodicals. This resulted in numerous requests for copies. Over 250 copies of the Interim Report have been distributed to interested persons not only in the United States but also in Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia.
In addition to our examination of witnesses, we communicated with the Attorneys Generals in the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, the Hawaiian Islands, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, since we had information pertaining to the existence of communes in those locations or because parents had written to us from our sister states requesting information concerning their children. Fifteen Attorneys General indicated that local law enforcement agencies did have some explicit knowledge of the Children of God. We were supplied with case histories of investigations of complaints on behalf of parents who had sought help in getting their children back from the organization. The reports supplied to us by the other Attorneys General, most of which were police investigatory reports, corroborated our findings.
This final report summarizes the investigation by the Charity Frauds Bureau.
I. Origins of the Children of God
The Children of God evolved in 1969 from two predecessor groups, "Teens for Christ" and "Revolutionaries for Jesus", both of which were dominated by the present leader, David Brandt Berg, also known as "Moses" or "David Moses". Twenty-one (21) members of the "Teens for Christ" group were arrested for violation of California Penal Code 602.9 (interference with peaceful conduct or activities of a school) in December, 1968 and February, 1969. Twenty of the members including, Jonathan Berg and Paul Berg, sons of David Berg, jumped bail set at an aggregate of $34, 500 and arrest warrants were issued, but have not been executed. [Huntingdon, California Police Dept. Report dated May 21, 1973].
Since 1969 the Children of God has expanded into a world wide network of approximately 120 communes at least five (5) of which are presently located in New York State.
In 1970, the Children of God became an adjunct of the "American Soul Clinic, Inc." and other corporate entities, controlled by Rev. Fred Jordan, former employer of David Berg.
Children of God have appeared on Jordan's Los Angeles television program, "Church in the Home", for the purpose of soliciting funds from the viewing public. In return, Children of God were permitted to occupy Jordan's properties located in Los Angeles and Coachella, California and Thurber, Texas.
Promotional material was then broadly disseminated which included an attractive picture of Jordan's Coachella Ranch and stated, in part:
"Children of God Ranch sponsored by American Soul Clinic, Inc."
"All new disciples will be required to take three months basic training before being accepted for leadership training. Any converts desiring to serve full time in this ministry must then enroll for three more months of leadership training. At the close of six months each disciple will submit an application for licensing to the Gospel Ministry. The sponsoring organization is the American Soul Clinic Inc., with headquarters at 607 East Fifth Street, in Los Angeles, California."
Ministerial licenses issued to 101 Children of God members by 'The American Soul Clinic, Inc.", held out the individual to be a minister in the "ministry" of the Children of God. Many of these licenses resulted in draft deferments.
While associated with Jordan, the following techniques* were used to attract and hold "converts", all with the knowledge of Jordan:
- Members appeared at draft boards quoting scripture, to avoid military services;
- A "complete badgering of the mind [of an individual] until they had completely and entirely broken the subject....and persuaded [him] to become part of this group";
- A new "convert" was required to write out his past history and encouraged to emphasize and oftentimes exaggerate to use of drugs, criminal involvement and other self-incriminating acts. Such information was later used to convince a parent that his offspring was better off with the group. It also gave the group a firmer hold on the convert.
- A new "convert" was taught complete subserviance to the group and that all government "was of satan", thus making them enemies of established society and ultimately enemies of established religion.
- Those having disgruntled parents and those involved in trouble with law enforcement agencies were shipped to other colonies.
In about October, 1971, Jordan and Berg split over a controversy involving administrative control and finances and the COG was compelled to leave all of Jordan's property.
[Page 4 footnote: * These techniques were also later used by COG after the break with Jordan.
II. Structure and Organization
The organizational structure of the Children of God is a pyramid with David Berg (who also calls himself "Moses" and "King David") at the apex. Directly below is his wife Jane Berg (also known as "Mother Eve") and his four children who with their spouses are designated as "bishops". On the same level are a few select individuals who have given large financial contributions. Below the "bishops" in descending order of rank are regional commanders or elders, colony leaders, tribe leaders, assistant tribe leaders, disciples and new members called "babes".
Listed are the top leaders related to David Berg each bearing the title of "bishop". The use of bible names is quite evidently for purposes of anonymity.
||Relationship to David Berg
|Linda Berg Treadwell
||"Deborah" or "Queen Debbie"
||"Joshua" or "Big Josh"
|Paul Berg (now deceased)
Berg maintains strict control over COG members, not only through his immediate family but, by means of his writings known as "Moses Letters". These are divided into several categories and disseminated accordingly. Some are permitted only to top leaders, some for general members, some for new converts and still others for public consumption.
Testimony taken clearly shows that some "Moses Letters", originally only written for leaders are later altered for public consumption, including some which Berg had earlier denominated "Top Secret" and which dealt with sexual and other content. Examples of Moses Letters are set forth in various sections of this report under appropriate headings.
As recently as May, 1973, specific instructions on "Mo Letter Reprinting List" were sent to each commune from the English Headquarters. Those which can be reprinted and sold for public consumption must be "revised version". Each Mo Letter is coded according to purpose.
III. Money Matters
Although testimony of ex-members and parents indicated that members are required to give personal belongings such as car, tape recorder, T.V. sets, bank accounts and cash to leaders of local communes who, in turn, purportedly transfer the same to Berg and his family, attempts inquire into the finances of the main organization were met with defiance.
On May 6, 1974, we obtained an order of the Supreme Court, New York County directing COG, Inc. the Texas corporation (in dissolution) to attend and testify about corporate finances and to turn over books and records for examination by our staff. Although served with copies of the Court Order in accord with provisions of Article 10-A, Social Services Law, the group failed to appear or present any records.
Previous attempts in the fall of 1973 to obtain amicable cooperation from the then attorneys for COG were met with adamant refusal to give any information pertaining to finances or to reveal where books and records were maintained, other than to advise that they were not kept in New York.
Subpoenas served upon local commune leaders resulted almost immediate disappearance of two of the persons served. Except for those members who had no pertinent financial information other than the day-to-day operation of local communes, no truly knowledgeable members were examined and hence no direct information was obtained except to note that weekly reports of finances were made to Dallas headquarters.
It is interesting to note that in Texas where COG was involved in litigation between it and various parents and others, when the defendants (parents) obtained Court orders for discovery and inspection of books and records, the case was suddenly withdrawn and terminated. In Washington, D.C., in a suit brought by a COG member against his parents when the parents obtained an order impleading COG the case was dropped by the plaintiff and marked "Dismissed with Prejudice".
Local communes in Staten Island, Troy, Albany and Rochester apparently exist by begging for food and clothing and shelter since members do not work in "establishment" endeavors. Parents are solicited for funds for food and everyday needs by those children who still maintain contact with their parents. The financial records of these communes were no more useful as clue to the overall finances of the Bergs than any other ordinary household.
Testimony of a former director of COG, Inc. revealed that the books, initially kept in Texas, had been removed to Puerto Rico and may have been transported "elsewhere". Even he, although a substantial fund raiser and one of the largest contributors, was not privy to the financial operations of the corporation.
Because Berg and members of his family have been residing in Europe for the past several years, further efforts to obtain evidence of their net worth have been abandoned as an exercise in futility. Testimony of a large contributor that he travelled to Europe to meet Berg and was unable to do so because Berg was always "moving about" and not available, caused him to become disenchanted and to devote himself to "doing everything possible to expose these people" for the irreligious libertines they have become.
Without evidences to the contrary, the obvious inference from the testimony of ex-COG's and parents is that monies are directed to the key leaders for their personal use and enjoyment.
Our investigation disclosed that Children of God funds are obtained from several sources:
1. From members: A written agreement signed by each new member (a) "promises to give all my goods and income--present and future" and (b) to follow the "forsake all" doctrine postulated by Berg in "Acts 1&5" (an undated Moses Letter):
"This was the FINANCIAL PLAN OF THE EARLY CHURCH (v34-35). IT WORKS TODAY! This is where the money comes from—NEW DISCIPLES! This is why it is impossible for us to stop growing. We have to grow to stay financially stable. Sometimes a person with a rich estate in country club land forsakes all to join the move of God (v36-37). You must forsake all (LK 14.33)... ." (emphasis supplied)
"The consequences of holding back money from the movement are the heavy judgments of God—in this case, DEATH (v5,10). If you don't want to give all, don't join in the first place (v4)." (emphasis supplied).
Upon completion of his basic indoctrination, the new member is ordered to return to his home usually accompanied by an "elder", and to withdraw his bank account, gather his personal belongings and bring them back to the COG commune. Underlying this "visit" and part of the "forsake all" doctrine is fear. Virtually every parent testified that the his child appeared "not to be himself", "drugged", "in a trance", or in a "hypnotic state" during this visit and subsequent occasional visits to the parental home.
The total value of monies, cars, and other personal property "donated" by members in the metropolitan New York area is impossible to estimate. Individual members have given the Children of God monies and property valued well into the the thousands. Lists of but only a small fraction of "contributions" in the metropolitan area alone indicate sums well into the tens of thousands.
No ex-member was permitted to retain any of the possessions he "contributed" nor to take them out when he left. In view of the brainwashing techniques (described elsewhere) there is a real question as to whether members are exercising their free will when they "donate" their possessions to the Children of God.
2. From Parents: Children of God members, especially "babes" are instructed, in a special letterwriting class to write their parents for money and supplies needed to run the commune.
3. From Local Merchants: Special procuring teams visit locate merchants, sometimes posing as bible college students, for the purpose of obtaining food and other necessities. A Moses Letter instructs members in the techniques of "Procuring" outlining various devious means to convince shopkeepers of their "sincerity".
4. From the sale of various Moses Letters which are published only for public consumption. 80 percent of such sale proceeds are delivered to COG and presumed to be turned over to Berg. For the week ending May 23, 1974, at the Staten Island commune, alone, gross receipts were $2144.00 from Moses Letters sold on the streets.
5. From substantial contributions by businessmen: Key members of the hierarchy flattered one businessman to contribute $75,000. Many others were induced to make substantial contributions of monies and real property for use by the organization as communes and schools.
In view of the testimony which indicated that substantial sums of money were turned over to the Children of God, the paucity of Children of God financial books and records available, pursuant to COG's general policy of secrecy, one is led to the irresistible presumption that fund gathering by Children of God is largely intended for the personal gain of the leadership and for proselytizing new converts who in turn serve as additional fund gatherers and contributors. It is apparent that there is a deliberate effort to shred the finances of COG in mystery in line with the warning of Berg:
"I have often advised you...never to discuss your finances with outsiders"
—Moses Letter "General Letter on Various Business"
IV. Claim of Tax Exemption
"The Children of God, Inc.", a Texas not-for-profit corporation, now dissolved, was denied tax exemption in an IRS Letter of Determination dated June 12, 1972. Nonetheless, funds were solicited through the mail and in person, advising the public that COG had tax exempt status and that donations were deductible.
"Youth for Truth, Inc." a Texas not-for-profit corporation presently enjoys IRS tax exemption. Known COG leaders are listed as officers and directors in tax returns filed by this corporation and the addresses on the 1971 and 1972 Returns are those of COG communes.
At least one major contributor testified that he contributed to the Children of God organization and took "charitable" deductions on his income tax return for the years 1971, 1972 and 1973 in the total amount of $36,000. In 1973 however his contributions were made to "Youth for Truth, Inc." upon advice from Children of God attorneys with whom he had consulted and who advised him that there was some problem with the COG tax exemption, and that his tax exemption would be assured if he made the contribution to Youth for Truth, Inc.
These facts lead to the inescapable conclusion that "Youth for Truth, Inc." is both an alter ego and conduit of Children of God for the single purpose funnelling contributions to COG. This information has been forwarded to Internal Revenue Service, Exempt Organization Section, together with supportive material.
V. Obstruction of Justice
One of the most serious charges that can be leveled against COG is its attitude and teachings relative to disrespect for court process, orders and decrees. From the beginning, members are taught to subvert these processes through lies, chicanery and to circumvent legal process.
From Moses Letter "Public Relations" (for leaders and leadership training)
"You can ask to see the warrant — make sure who its for, and while you are stalling, someone else can inform the disciple involved, who then has a perfect right to run out the back door if he wants to."
Even after service of process, or imposition of and the furnishing of bail, the member is taught, and does, disregard the process and jump the bail.
A female member, reportedly seen within a COG commune, was the subject of a habeas corpus proceeding by her parents. The writ was served on the COG elders who maintained that the warrant for the production of the member could not be served on the girl, first denying that she was ever there and then claiming she was no longer there.
Another female COG member was directed by the court to return to her aunt's home upon her promise to remain there for a reasonable period of time. Within a few hours, she slipped out a side door and entered a waiting vehicle which returned her to a COG commune from which she has never returned.
Another former COG, when contacted by a family court judge on behalf of his parents was told by the elders that he was "hot" and was directed to another commune outside the jurisdiction of the court.
Jane Berg is wanted on an assault warrant in England for attacking a parent.
Parenthetically, two COG members subpoenaed by this office to testify never appeared and their present whereabouts are unknown.
All of the above actions are consistent with the teachings of the COG leadership whose doctrine is "render nothing unto Ceasar".
VI. Draft Evasion
Although the draft has ceased, the attempts of COG to falsely claim ministerial exemption for members typifies its attitude and defiance of the laws of the United States.
A former member of the Berg family (by marriage) testified that:
He [David Berg] would use his own ordination to ordain others without bringing them before a church board for approval, just signing his name to ordain other boys that were not entitled to ordination, so they could evade the draft."
"When they have a boy that joins the group of draft age, 1A; they'll move him from one place to another continuously... they'll notify one draft board -- then they'll send him across the country to another commune and contact the draft board there; they'll move him again."
"They have some fantastic artists, they've got very good printing equipment, copying machines and so forth. They'll make up diplomas and certificates for the Children of God Bible College [at Thurber, Texas] -- It's not an accredited bible college -- in order to get draft deferment."
Other testimony established that COG members avoided the draft by:
- The use of spurious ordination or bible college credentials.
- Constantly moving from one commune to another.
- Quoting scripture to their draft board, as a means of feigning insanity.
One parent testified that her son had told her that he obtained a deferment because he "preaches the bible 100 hours a week". She subsequently informed us that her son had used "The Massachusetts Christian Youth Association Bible College" (one of the names used by COG) as a basis for his ministerial deferment.
Ex COG members have testified that they were told that if they joined the COG they would not have to worry about the draft.
VII. COG Doctrine
The central theme of all COG doctrine as expounded by "Moses Letters", lesson plans and selected biblical passages, is to alienate a new "convert" from parents, government, former religious affiliation, education and society in general.
1. Hatred of Parents
Virtually every ex-COG member testified that upon initial entry into a COG commune he was constantly exposed to the following bible verses:
If any man come unto me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and bretheren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."
"And a man's enemies shall be they of his own household."
The use of these two biblical verses and many others, taken out of context, can only be viewed as part of a deliberate pattern by COG to disrupt the familial relationship, especially when read in conjunction with the Moses Letters.
From Moses Letter, "Bible Study" (dated 1/1/71):
"I'm picking 'em off in the way that hurts them the most! I'm picking off their children for the Lord. When they get to the point they don't deserve us anymore, God may let 'em slaughter us. The parents have filled 'em so full of houses and cars and education and all that shit -- it's like making them eat their father's dung! -- And now the kids want to kill 'em for it. You can hardly blame 'em. I've felt like that myself sometimes! May God deliver me from being around these Systemites! I'd hate to think of what I might do if I'd had a tommy-gun sometimes -- I might have been tempted to mow them down! -- I would have made a hell of a Communist!
And from Moses Letter "Who are the Rebels?" (undated)
"You, my dear parents are the greatest rebels against God ... To Hell with you devilish system. May God damn your unbelieving hearts ... God is going to destroy you and save us ... for truly this a wicked and adulterous and rebellious generation which I shall destroy."
The COG public prouncements concerning parents is that they do not teach hatred of parents per se, but rather hatred of the corrupt system and values which the parents represent.
The preponderance of testimony indicates otherwise. One parent was told by an elder: "You must hate your family. Will you give up your daughter?"
Another ex-member was told that her mother was "Satan in disguise" before she was allowed home. Once home, initially, she had no feeling whatsoever for either her mother or sister as a direct result of COG indoctrination. It took her a considerable period of time to readjust.
The hatred of parents doctrine sometimes results in a physical assault by a child as testified by a father:
"... and I told her that 'I cannot let you go back, You will have to go home with us', and then she really began to get hysterical. She started to scream, shout. She started kicking and I was trying to restrain her, to keep her from shouting to calm her down. She fell backwards across the bed and rolled on the floor and in the struggle she proceeded to scratch my arm to the extent that it bled and that moment she tried to kick her mother and she put her head back and in a loud voice asked God to please strike us both death at the moment."
A direct result of the COG attitude towards parents is the deliberate and continuing conduct of secreting members from parents and law enforcement officials. According to the testimony of an ex-COG:
"they then persuaded me to hide in another loft next door...I heard my parents come up and I heard them scream and everything until the cops came -- and I stayed there until my parents left the building...I heard my mother asking Abram and Ruth where I was and Abram denied my presence at the Children of God and stated I left the Children of God and they did not know where I was."
Our files are replete with the testimony and statements of parents and ex-members of similar incidents. In view of the brainwashing techniques (described elsewhere) there is a real question as to the exercise of free will of COG members who allow themselves to be secreted from their parents.
Certain COG members and their parents are categorized as "10:36 ers" which refers to Matthew 10:36. "A man's enemies shall be they of his own household." These members may only correspond with their parents, if at all, through a mail drop. At no time does the parent know the true location of his offspring.
When a "10:36" parent visits a commune a signal is given and the commune goes into a "security situation" and the child is secreted out of the commune. Meanwhile the parent is delayed by "greeters" who tell the parent that either they never heard of the child or the child was elsewhere.
There have been instances of a "10:36" parent asking for her child by her bible name and being told that she wasn't there when in fact the child had taken a new bible name and was secreted elsewhere even as the parent was approaching the commune.
The COG explanation for the use of bible names is "this is what the early Christians did". However, testimony from at least one witness who was present at a meeting held by Berg family members and other top COG leaders, establishes that the use of bible names is primarily to avoid detection by parents and law enforcement officials.
The use of bible names also obviously serves as a new identity for a COG member, which reinforces the concept of severing all ties, both familial and societal.
A concomitant part of the disruption of the family relationship is the lying, deception and evasions by the child to his parents as contrasted with the child behavior prior to COG membership. Much of the testimony establishes a deliberate course of conduct on the part of at least some COG members to deceive their parents with respect to their true location, pursuant to the dictates of COG leadership.
The COG doctrine pertaining to parents cannot be divorced from its doctrines concerning government, established religions and society.
2. Government and Society
From Moses Letter "America the Whore" — (undated):
"It's time for the rape of America, but they're trying to respect her! She doesn't deserve respect: She's an old Whore!
"She thinks she owns the pimps, but the pimps own her! But if they sink with her, she does own them, see? But if they're smart pimps, they'll cut her off and let her die. But we already told you she's going to die! She's mad at us! -- And now we have to tell her pimps to let her go, 'cause they're just going to lose money 'cause she's going to die!
"She's an old Whore! -- She's old and ugly and diseased and proud and pompous! She's so selfish! She's cruel and destructive, and all her little European money pimps better dump her, or they'll go down with her!
Testimony and exhibits overwhelmingly established that COG members are taught that all government is evil.
3. Former Religious Affiliation
From Moses Letter "Other Sheep" (dated 6/1/72):
"By this time we were so bitter against the churches for their hypocritical do-nothing religion, their multi-million dollar Gospel entertainment business and their multi-billion dollar fancy church buildings that were robbing the rest of the world of salvation and sending millions of poor lost souls to Hell, that we were ready to declare war on the Church System!"
And from "Bible Study" (dated 9/71):
"The Lord is purging the Church through us! When we go into a church, we purged and wash away all the filth-split the whole thing-and some walk out-the chaff are blown away."
Other Moses Letters such as "David" and "The Psalm of David" equate David Berg with God. Parents of all religious faiths have testified that their children are totally alienated from their former religous background as a direct result of COG indoctrination.
4. Attitude Toward Education
From Moses Letter "Expose of Systemites" — (undated):
"Another part of the Whore's sorcery of deception (18:23) to keep the fornication going is 'Education' -- 'Education' is a compulsory religion."
Because of this antipathy towards education, COG seeks many of its converts on high school and college campuses. Oftentimes the approach is to shanghai an unsuspecting victim.
One "convert" was physically taken from her college dormitory by two COG members. Her roommate tried to rescue her and was pushed aside.
Another, withdrew from medical school, accompanied by an elder, upon being convinced that doctors do not heal, only God heals. Another dropped out of a leading school of music. Still others have dropped out of nursing school.
It is not only the loss of potential careers which is at stake here. It is the twisted COG doctrines which totally supplant prior education that constitute a potential danger, not only to society but to the individual COG member.
VIII. COG Indoctrination
Paramount to the success of the organization is to inculcating loyalty to leaders. This is done through a series of indoctrination procedures. Initial indoctrination begins with the "basic 5" classes which are called:
- "Our relationship to the world" (Giving up jobs, education, etc.)
- "Discipleship" (forsaking family, possessions and friends and be willing to obey the people that God has chosen to lead them.)
- "Acts 1-5" (No disciples, no money)--The Financial Plan of COG
- "Obedience to Leadership: (Obey COG leaders right or wrong).
- "The Revolutionary Sheet" (Rules of revolutionary behavior, personal data sheet, and written agreement to give all income to COG).
This initial period of indoctrination may last up to five days, isolated from all outside influences, and culminates in the new "convert" or "babe" signing the "Revolutionary Sheet". Here he agrees to turn over all his income, present and future, to the COG and consents to have his mail opened. Fear plays an important role in compelling a "babe" to remain with the group at this point. He is inculcated wit the real fear that God will strike him and his family dead if he left.
It is during the initial period of indoctrination, that both physical and mental fatugue are used as weapons by the COG leadership. Testimony of a former COG leader highlights this:
"Now this is very true, and one of the main techniques that they use is a lack of sleep. Now this I have witnesses. In other words not allowing people to sleep. Just drilling them and drilling them, and you knew when the Children of God came into Atlanta to visit our ministries, which had been a hundred full time workers, we were kept up in sessions until sometimes four and five o'clock every morning, and it was unbelievable, until my people were just completely exhausted, and they went on for days, and several of our people who did not join or joined for a few days and then left said that they had lost track completely of all time, and I can fully appreciate it, because I did, and I was there too. We were kept up until four or five o'clock every morning to the point of complete physical exhaustion. You weren't really capable of understanding and making decisions. It was just sort of all happening, and they have a very good way--a very extreme art and technique that they have developed of switching teachers. One goes for two or three hours, and another one comes on the scene from nowhere and he comes in all fresh and ready to go, and the people being indoctrinated are just there. They can set up a program lasting eight or ten hours without any difficulty whatever. They don't have any problems."
The second stage of indoctrination may last from three to six months, during which time stress is placed upon intensive memorization of selected biblical verses, taken out of context. It is during the second stage that the "babe" is introduced to the Moses letters and COG lesson plans which in time, supplant the bible as the main source of instruction.
During this second stage the "babe" soon follows "Moses: and not Christ, and soon can rationalize "ripping off" the system because the system belongs to Satan and therefore if you rip off Satan you are doing God a favor. In most instances "babes" are shipped out to another location to get them away from family, friends and environment.
At this time the new "convert" becomes a very doctrinated apologist for David Berg. He soon believes that to displease the COG leadership is to displease God. In the whole indoctrination process the COG leadership and GOD becomes synonymous. During this entire period he studies selected lesson plans and Moses Letters which strongly reinforce the concepts learned during the first period of indoctrination.*
Testimony establishes that during both the first and the second periods of indoctrination the new convert is placing his mind at the disposal of his elders.
[Page 30 footnote: * Testimony of a Baptist minister and editor of a religious magazine.]
IX Mind-Manipulation (Brainwashing or Thought Control)
The COG engages in a particularly reprehensible course of conduct by tampering with the personalities of converts. They proceed in a calculated, systematic manner, albeit without even the informal consent of the victims, to change established behavior patterns.
By manipulation and constant monitoring of thought processes, by making younger members uncomfortable and exposed to psychological cruelties such as bodily deprivation of all sorts and forced memorization of biblical passages, a total assault on the psyche is accomplished. Brainwashing techniques are deliberately employed under the rationalization that it is in the service of a good cause.
The testimony of several witnesses points out that the purpose of such extended treatment is to ensure that all who can be trusted have an amenable personality – amenable to the whims of the elders.
The technique used is to first capture the curiosity and then the mind and intellect of prospective members. This process is stepped up until the subject is virtually helpless.. The technique, consists of several disciples in continuous and long sessions, interspersed with Biblical quotations wear him down both mentally and physically.
The entire process of mind manipulation is generally done in an extremely controlled atmosphere within a COG commune. There are guards posted (sometimes armed), and a visitor, especially a parent is carefully screened before he allowed to see a new "convert". In some communes, biblical tapes are played constantly and loudly. Most members, especially new "converts" are never left alone "not even to go to the bathroom" from the moment they join the COG until they leave. One former member testified that it was only after he contracted hepatitis that he was left alone and therefore able to think for himself. Free of the continued presence of an elder, he finally quit the commune by sneaking away at night. Permission must even be sought to make an outgoing phone call, especially to parents.
Another part of the technique is stirring up the motions at the expense of thinking faculties and will power. The singing of select songs, incantations of chants and repetitive reciting of "what the COG did for me" as part of a planned regiment which requires them member to subvert his individual will to that of the group..
Obedience to Leadership becomes an essential part of the manipulation of the mind and is mandated in Lesson Plans and the "consent" which most converts sign upon entry into the cult.
From Lesson Plan "Introduction to Leadership or Obeying Leadership":
"Col. 3:20, Eph. 6:1--the Bible talks about obeying your parents in the Lord (which is your leadership, those that brought you forth from the pit--1 Cor. 4:15) not your ungodly, fleshly parent (Ezk. 20:18). It says to obey them in all things, even if they are wrong.
"If a leader tells you to do something wrong, and you obey him as unto the Lord, YOU are justified before God for obeying leadership and he is held accountable to God for his mistake! Circumstances and conditions do not change God's principles (Ac. 21:4 11-17) ("We" vs. 15, 17)."
From 'The Revolutionary Sheet" which most converts must sign:
"'The DISCIPLINE OF JESUS' REVOLUTIONARIES must be absolute obedience to them that have the rule over them... '...instant obedience is imperative with the welfare and safety of souls and your followers at stake'."
An ex-member explained that the obedience demanded of all members extended even to killing:
"I was told by an older member that if my leaders told me to kill someone, I would have to kill someone, but I hesitated on that and asked them why?... He said 'Well we are not under the law and we are responsible only to our leaders, who are responsible to God for us'."
If the member does not obey, he may be subjected to solitary confinement and in extreme cases, a rather crude form of exorcism, done in the name of David Berg rather than Jesus, before being thrown out.
The anti-parent, anti-established churches, anti-government and anti-society doctrines of COG can also be viewed within the framework of a totalist environment in which everything other than the COG movement, is viewed as "the enemy" and every subject is in terms of black and white, there is no gray area.* A good example of this is contained in COG Lesson Plan "There Are No Neutrals":
"There is no such thing as neutrals. Nobody is neutral. Everybody has a bias for or against......Every neutral is a liar.. Every neutral is a deceiver. Every neutral is a betrayer and a traitor. ... The neutral is the most dangerous enemy of all.
"The most sickening of all people of God is the neutral enemy who pretends to be a friend, like most church people today and the church system. May God dam it for its subtle treacherous 'neutrality' with the world... pretending to be a friend of both God and the world at the same time. God has their number. Friendship with the world is enmity to God."
[Page 34 footnote]* For an extended discussion of though reform techniques see "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism--A Study of Brainwashing in China" -- By Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University, The Norton Library, 1969.
The totalist view expounded above cannot be divorced from the total physical control maintained over the input which goes into a "convert's mind". He reads mainly these biblical verses, Lesson Plans and Moses Letters selected for him by an elder. Most outside influences, including literature and T.V. which could sway the thought processes of the member, are excluded and pronounced as from the devil. It is this almost total exclusion of the outside world which destroys the perspective of the member. Even when outside influences are allowed they are discounted as being "systemite" and something to be disregarded.
The extreme control of this environment is achieved by physical and mental coercion and solitary confinement.
Physical Coercion and Solitary Confinement
Extracts from the testimony of a girl who was 14 years old at the time of the incidents described, * reveal :
"'You sat there and listened because if you would leave somebody would come and get you and put you right back in your seat.'" ... 'They'd grab you by the arm and sit you down...'."
"It's just physically they were preventing you from leaving, grabbing your arm or putting you back where you should be or confining you to your cabin."
"......I stood up and said I wasn't going to downgrade myself and you know drop my respect for myself and admitting sins. One of the guys there, he got mad and ripped of my flannel shirt from me because I said I wasn't going to lower my respect for myself... ."
"I was put in something they call solitary confinement... They grab you by the hands and lead you there. ....You're kept there and you are locked in... SOmebody sists in there with you and there's somebody outside and you are locked in. You don't talk to nobody, you don't speak to nobody... The person in there doesn't talk to you."
Other examples of physical constraint are blocking the escape path of a member and her parents trying to leave a COG commune by automobile; compelling a parent to sit outdoors for five hours and telling her to urinate in public to show her "faith in the Lord".
[Page 35 footnote:]* Sexual abuse of this witness is set forth elsewhere.
There is a deliberate pattern of inculcating fear through self-serving interpretation of biblical passages. This fear results in blind obedience to leaders who are thus able to maintain control over "converts". The following excerpts from testimony clear point this out:
"..... two elders came to talk me out of leaving, whereupon they threatened me by telling stories. For instance, where a couple had left Jesus' discipleship and was struck down with leprosy and dies... They told me I would die for leaving Jesus. My family would be harmed. Jesus would hound me for the rest of my life."
"..... they kept telling me that I was making a mistake [in leaving] and Jason told me that God would not ever hear my prayers anymore, once I left. He said he knew of kids who went insane or dropped dead or were in car accidents after they left COG."
Another authority, William Sargant, author of "Battle for the Mind, A Physiology pf Conversion and Brainwashing", (Perennial Library, 1957) discloses the factors involved in brainwashing. These factors are also used by COG in its indoctrination and are similar to the brainwashing inflicted upon Korean War POWS by the Chines Communists. According to Dr. Sargant, they are:
1. Isolation or severing ties
4. Uncertainty or fear
5. Vicious language (Fear inducing language)
Ex-COG members testified to to the various aspects of the brainwashing to which they were subjected. The following are typical excerpts of such testimony:
Factor I - Isolation or Severing Ties
...He (Arnie Dietrich) told me that my parents were down in the waiting room and this was going to be my first big trial... that I was going to have to decide between them and God, and he gave me several verses to fortify me, I guess, for the big trial."
..."My parents asked several times to see me alone and they would not let me go with them. My mother wanted very much to talk with me alone and they kept telling her that, you know, they kept saying I was free to go. But I was told previously not to be alone with my mother."
"They told me that my affection for my sister was making me err and that I should get down on my knees and ask God to forgive me for putting my sister above Him and I should ask the Lord to rebuke her from my heart."
Factors 2 and 3 - Fatigue and Tension
"I was so constantly kept busy the entire time... that I didn't have time to think about anything else but what they had planned for me in their program. That was it. I mean from the time I git up in morning until I went to bed at night, which was usually very late. There was not time in between classes or eating or memorizing scriptures, reading my Bible, or making little daily things that we were supposed to write out what our trials were for the day, any problems and anything that we wanted to know were supposed to be written on a piece of paper."
Factor 4 - Uncertainty or Fear
"... This was at night. The lights were off in the house. They had all the doors and everything shut, and it kind of really set the mood for the tape [of David Berg predicting a communist takeover]. In the middle of the narrations, four people banged in the door and appeared to be holding something; it looked like a gun. They said, 'All right you damn hippy freaks get your head to the floor and don't look around or we will shoot all of you'.
They went through the house and ransacked it; was throwing things, you know. And you could hear from the backroom one of the elders screaming, and they kept shouting out where are your elders; who are responsible for you. This went on for a good fifteen minutes at which time they turned on the lights, and we found out that the four people were four of our own elders who were dressed up; and I guess trying to scare us into a realization of what the tape was all about." — This incidents caused hysterics on the part of the witness and the girl next to her.
Factors 5 - Fear Inducing (Vicious Language)
The parent of a young Jewish girl related the following incident when she was finally allowed to talk to her daughter at the commune during the child's initial indoctrination:
As [my daughter] approached the car, she said 'Mommy, I'm not going to live very long. I have to die, become a saint, and go on to live for Jesus'. Her face had a strange appearance. I said come back to town with me. I want to talk with you. She answered, 'I can't because the government is going to ban the bibles. I have to study very hard before they take me away so I can go to heaven and be with Jesus'."
Factor 6 - Seriousness
"Whereas a person might be joking, happy type of fellow or girl, they would turn into one that never joked, never laughed. They would say it was wrong. They were wasting time. They have to make good use of their time.. Why should I joke? Why should I fool around when I could memorize teachings."
Once free of COG, the brainwashed and coerced ex-member experiences drastic personality changes and fears. Illustrative of the end product of brainwashing, coupled with COG anti-social behavior is the following case history (contained in a report dated April 24, 1973 forwarded to this office by the Attorney General of Pennsylvania.
A Case History
"Dr Blackburn's daughter was member of COG for approximately eight months — from December, 1971 to July, 1972. While a senior class student at the University of Arizona, she (age 22 at that time) was approached by two members of COG and was invited to visit their commune. On December 2, 1971, she called home to inform her father that she was leaving school. Her decision to leave school to join the group came as surprise to Dr. Blackburn, but trusting the sincere intentions of his daughter to help other people, he accepted it. The next day he flew to Tucson to talk with his daughter and learn more about COG, but he was unable to find her until December 6, 1971. At this time, she was already a "babe" and living in the COG commune.
"Over the next seven months, Dr. Blackburn sent between $2500 and $3000 to his daughter at the Tucson commune, complying with her various requests.. After her release she revealed to her father that she had never seen any of the money for which she had written. Dr. Blackburn told me that his cancelled checks had been endorsed by his daughter, but stamp-marked to the account of the Children of God.
"In July of 1972, COG made the decision to dismiss Dr. Blackburn's daughter because she would not ask her parents for any more money; she would not agree to kill her parents for the revolution, and she refused to marry the person whom they had chose for her (marriage in this sense is sleeping with another person). Sometime prior to this decision, she had been transferred to the commune in Philadelphia. Before her release from COG, she was placed in solitary confinement in the cage for refusing to obey the above directives. They said that she was "of the devil" and played tapes continuously in an attempt to program her mind in the desired direction. Upon leaving solitary confinement, she was directed to take a shower and then masturbate in front of the men, or she would be condemned to Hell. She refused and was kicked out of the Philadelphia commune on July 6, 1972.
"Dr. Blackburn went to 4012 Ludlow Street to pick up his daughter and take her home. She refused to leave the colony, and it became necessary to force her into the car and constrain her with ropes and seat belts. For a period of two or three months after her release, she had to be watched at all times, lest she escape her parents and return to COG. Dr Blackburn told us that he would sleep at the bottom of the stairs, and that all doors and windows were securely locked (some of the doors were padlocked on the inside).
“The behavior of Dr. Blackburn’s daughter since her release from COG is indicative of the degree of her involvement. She lives constantly in fear of having been condemned to Hell by members of COG. She has spit in her father’s face and declared that she hated him. On one occaision, she called a realtor to place her parents’ home for sale, in order that she could send the money for COG. Dr. Blackburn told me that since his daughter has returned home, the entire family has been forced to be overly protective of any valuable items. Finally, she is currently undergoing psychiatric evaluation in an attempt to “de-program” her mind from the teachings of COG.”
That this was not an isolated case is borne out by the following common experiences of former COGs and their parents as disclosed in our inquiry.
- A sudden, unexplained decision by a new “convert” to drop out of school.
- An initial refusal to leave the COG commune by a recent “convert”, based on fear.
- A complete personality change resulted in bitter hatred for parents.
- An unexplainable and uncontrollable compulsion of a “convert” to return to COG commune despite vicious brutalization while there.
- An uncharacteristic and self-destructive compulsion to transfer all personal assets and those of parents to be contributed to COG.
- The failure of converts to receive monies requested from and forwarded from their parents.
While the mind manipulation is its incipient stage, the leaders isolate the member from contact with parents and friends, through direct control over both incoming and outgoing mail and phone calls. This is continued even after the member is “robotized.”
1. Incoming Mail
Generally COG elders intercepted mail addressed to members who either never received it or received it in censored forms, with portions deleted. Checks were cashed and the contents of packages confiscated without the addressee’s knowledge or permission.
Mail intended for “babes” or new converts was sometimes held back, during the indoctrination period and before parental contact was allowed.
2. Outgoing Mail
COG members were required to leave all outgoing mail unsealed, for censorship and posting by designated elders, to prevent the substance of the more secret [‘Selah’] teachings and Moses letters from being made public. Ex-members have testified that they later ascertained that letters to their parents were sometimes delayed before posting, and in some instances never mailed to delay any immediate parental contact.
“Babes” were given special letter-writing classes and urged to write home for monies and necessities needed to run the commune. They were told that this was in keeping with the doctrine of “Spoil Egypt” or “ripping off the System”.
In order to avoid parental contact, letters were sometimes mailed from locations other than where written as testified to by an ex-member:
“They told me I should write a letter to my parents and mail it out [in Manhattan] before I got on the bus to New Haven… I should write a letter telling my parents I was no longer with the Children of God… [Both the elders and the ex-COG member knew this to be untrue].
3. Phone Calls
A complete log was kept of all incoming calls at most communes listing, among other things, the attitude of the outside callers. Conversations were taped without the knowledge of the other party and often times amplified in order to prompt the member’s responses. Outgoing calls were also subjected to the same treatment.
A Baptist minister testified that a tapped phone was used on his property in the following manner:
“I would speak to these young people and they would say that it was so wonderful that at one of their meetings, an elder would get up and say that he had received a prophecy direct from God, that their parent or friend was sending them a sum of money in a letter and would name the sum of money they would be receiving and in a week’s time or so, a letter would arrive with this identical sum of money. This, likewise, baffled me until I discovered, or rather my caretaker, discovered, that the leaders of elders had tapped the pay phone in the main lodge and had a telephone running to the main room occupied by Arnie Dietrich and his wife, Faith [Berg Dietrich].”
“That all outgoing and indeed incoming calls were censored from a public telephone. These young people were not aware that when their mother or friend was conversing with them, and these young people were urged to get all the money they could from the “establishment” that Dietrich and his fellow so-called elders were aware of these conversations and needless to say, the young people looked upon it as truly miraculous. This was one way in which they exercised a tremendous amount of control over these kids.”
“…… In other words, he [Arnie Dietrich] prophesized something which, indeed, took place a week or so later and when he would bring the letter to the young people with a check for this sum of money, it was precisely the amount and from the person that he so called prophesized a week or so earlier.”
X. Is COG a Sexuality Cult?
The sexual mores practiced by members of COG, as testified to by ex-members, is directed by Berg, who practices what he preaches. Berg in various Moses letter has taken positive position on incestuous behavior, youthful intercourse and the non-sanctity of marriage and family.
From “Moses Letter Revolutionary Sex” (dated 3/27/73):
“There are also many biblical exceptions to so-called incest, or the marriages of certain near relatives. In fact, there would have been no human race if Adam and Eve’s two sons, Cain and Seth, had not married their sisters, because there was no one else to marry! … And if this shocks you, such marriages of brothers and sisters, mothers and sons and even fathers and daughters were very common in ancient times and were not even considered incestuous, much less illegal, and were not even forbidden for the 2600 years from the creation of Adam until the laws of Moses! … And yet in our modern western society even the marriage of near cousins is criminal under some governments, while even the Mosaic laws did not prohibit the same! So again we find the laws of man in conflict with the laws of God”.
“I found little girls just as fascinated by my own erections and quite as willing to feel them as I was to attempt to explore their most hidden inner recesses. So I had my first intercourse at the early age of seven…”
From Moses Letter “One Wife” (dated 10/28/72):
“God has broken up the marriages of almost our entire top leadership at some time or other, with one or two exceptions who are part from their partners most of the time anyway. I’ve certainly seen a lot of good fruit in these, since this has happened, and also it has borne good fruit amongst the kids. Is breaking up families anything new with God? – God is in the business of breaking up families – little private families! If you have not forsaken your husband or wife for the Lord at sometime or other, you have not forsaken all!
“Don’t forget this means your children also! Selfish favoritism and partiality that is selfish private property interest! If you love your flesh, and blood children more than you love God’s Family, than you haven’t really come to the realization of what God’s Family is all about! If you’re kinder to your own flesh and blood children and give them things you don’t give the others, or see that they have more comfort than the other children, then you are being partial and selfish and private! With your selfishness and lack of sacrificaility you are striking at the very foundation of God’s Family, and that kind of selfishness will destroy and undermine the unity of The Family as a whole.
“In other words, partiality towards your own wife or husband or children strikes at the very foundation of communal living – against the unity and supremacy of God’s family and its oneness and wholeness! What you’re doing when you do that is whittling away and chopping off little chips and bits of The Family to separate them in spirit, and even sometimes in actually, from the rest of The Family, just because they’re ’yours’.”
The Moses Letter entitled “Revolutionary Love Making” published as an extract from tapes made in 1970 at the Texas Soul Clinic during a “mass betrothal” presided over by Berg has been widely circulated as a manual of sexual behavior to be followed by all members of the organization. It contains illustrations of sexual acts as well as explicit instructions. This and other Moses letters in our possession abound in sexual imagery bordering on the vulgar and pornographic.
Proof that Berg practices what he preaches was obtained through the testimony of a witness who had attended a “mass betrothal” directed by Berg. Berg announced that he was “taking another wife” and thereupon, in the presence of his wife (Jane Berg), other members and their infant children, consummated the “marriage” with a young girl who had taken his fancy. Additionally, various female members are compelled to have intercourse with top leaders.
The sexual habits of David Berg have permeated the ranks if COG, from his son down. Various witnesses testified that Paul Berg followed the actions of his father and had a “prophetic” marriage prior to being divorced by the mother of his children. Berg, himself also had other other “wives” in addition to Jane, the mother of his sons and daughters.
A 14-year old runaway who spent nine days at a COG commune testified that she was raped and because of her refusal to cooperate with the elders, was held in solitary confinement on no less than three separate occasions. She resisted the rape quite strenuously, kicking and screaming while she was sexually assaulted by a COG member. When she complained of her sexual abuse to a COG leader she was told that it was done so that she, and others, could have babies and thus “increase the tribe”. This same witness, and others, have testified that many female minors at various COG communes were pregnant.
To increase loyalty to the group and in some situations to assure emancipation from pursuing parents, COG members are joined as “husband and wife” in so-called “prophetic” marriages. The term is best explained by the testimony of a Protestant minister who befriended Berg and his group by permitting them to use his properties for 2 ½ years:
“I asked [David] Berg why he persisted in ‘marrying’ young people whom he must have known were already married and had families and were not divorced”
“David Berg explained to me that they had a ‘prophecy’ and if two others in his group agreed with the ‘prophecy’ then they would become married. I explained to him that I as an ordained Baptist minister having records for the solemnization of marriages, etc., and he had not these documents, he was breaking the law and encouraging these young people in fornication and adultery. Berg made it clear to me that a prophecy of his was above the teaching of scripture.
Richard LaBrille was one of their elders who was ‘married’ to Leilah who told me that she was married and her husband was living in Miami and she had a four year old son by her first husband.”
A former top leader expanded on this doctrine from his personal experiences:
“Q. What do you know of marriages within the Children of God communes?
“A. Marriages are called in Children of God betrothals and I personally viewed approximately 12 to 15 such betrothals…the persons involved would not know beforehand who they were going to be married to. Let me try and give you an accurate example. The usual setting of a betrothal is that the whole colony and all the members within the colony are gathered. Then, there is the excitement that the colony leader tells everyone that there is going to be a betrothal. The only problem is that there might be four betrothals in that same night, but only one couple knew ahead of time that they were going to be married. The procedure is that during the process of usually what is a very informal and what I would characterize as a gross substitute for a real marriage service held. Now, what happens is that after the first couple comes forward and all the catcalls come and the colony leader presides over this, then they would state, ‘Is there anyone else that wants to be betrothed?’ At this time a brother could stand up and call out just about any girl who is single and ask her to come forward with him. I know for a fact that there is an extreme amount of pressure at these events and it’s pretty hard for the girl who might be asked not to go forward even is he does not like or love the guy. Thus there have been many betrothals where the following morning or the following week the wife or husband woke up to find that they had truly made a big mistake. Marriages or these types of betrothals sometimes are registered legally and sometimes are not depending upon the age of the individuals and whether or not the parties involved are remarrying without having a substantial legal divorce already enacted from their previous marriage of each one outside of the Children of God movement or from someone who left the Children of God movement.
In simple gist, what I am saying is that secret marriages could happen very easily under the framework of the way that the Children of God handle this matter. Also, they have no qualms whatsoever about remarrying and labeling anyone who leaves the movement as an unbelieving husband or wife which gives them the freedom to do whatever they want.
“Q. Are these marriages, as performed within the Children of God communes, presided over or solemnized by a Children of God member or leader?
“A. Yes, they are. Some of them on occasions would be similar to what we would normally consider as a legitimate marriage with legitimate vows, etc. Usually, these kind are given if the parents happen to be visiting for this occasion and then it would be done more or less in a formal fashion. In these cases, there would not be more than one betrothal happening. Bu in the case of the usual betrothals, it is more or less like a situation or the guys just choosing somebody in the movement they just want to go to bed with for the night.
“Q. Do you know whether this member [who officiated] was licensed to perform marriages?
“A. Sometimes yes and sometimes no.
“Q. Are all internal marriages, whether performed by a licensed minister or not, duly registered with the local authorities? Do you know.
“A. I do not believe that they all are.
“Q. And those that are so registered must have been performed by a licensed – by a person licensed to perform marriage ceremonies in order to be registered with the registrar, correct?
“A. Yes, that is more or less correct. But the Children of God would, if necessary, pay five or ten dollars to have some preacher perform the legal ceremony if they thought it had to be done to satisfy the law of that particular state or country.”
One married former member testified that when he expressed a desire to quit the COG and his wife desired to remain, he overheard a leader tell his wife that she shouldn’t worry if he left the Children of God as the Lord would provide her with a “revolutionary husband”.
All of the testimony with respect to Children of God “prophetic” marriages are entirely consistent with “Moses Letters” on the subject.
From Moses Letter “The Gypsies” — (dated 3/29/71):
“I hope you’re getting your marriage taken care of, as I’ve suggested. The more the marryer – so marry’er! Amen?” …..
“Be fruitful and multiply—that’s one of the first principles of this outfit in more ways than one. We believe in multiplication—that’s part of the game-in more ways than one!” …..
“You don’t want some little female to have you, and to have to get down on your knees to her! Well, she’s willing to get flat on her back for you, so why should you object to getting on your knees for her! Sock it to ‘em boys.”
XI. Sarah Berg
A further insight into the moral standards of the Berg Family may be gleaned from the testimony of Sarah Berg, David Berg's former daughter-in-law.
When she was about 15 years old, her mother, a missionary, permitted her to travel on several trips with the Berg group. Paul Berg suddenly demanded that she marry him. When she refused, she was subjected to the following "prophecies" by both Paul and David Berg.
"My daughter, this is my will for you. I have chosen this match that is made in heaven. I have ordained it. Don't be afraid to slip into my plan, my will. --- Why are you questioning God, are you trying to bring God's wrath on you? Don't you believe these prophecies? If you don't cooperate or do what God has told you to do, He is going to strike you dead. Obey God, He has ways of making you".
Frightened, she was forced to have intercourse with Paul in the presence of David Berg. Similar incidents occurred thereafter, until her spirit was broken. She was then compelled to obtain her mother's permission to marry Paul because she was terrified and believed, mistakenly, that she was pregnant.
A year later, after the birth of her first child, Nathan, David Berg wanted to have intercourse with her stating: I see you with Paul's son. Why can't you have my son?"
She continued living with the group almost as a virtual prisoner, after a miscarriage.
Just two weeks prior to the birth of her second child (her third pregnancy) some COG members wanted to know how to have intercourse with pregnant girls. David Berg ruled that someone would have to demonstrate. Paul Berg volunteered but Sarah refused to cooperate. Her husband then beat her across the stomach with a "two by four".
She sought medical assistance and gave birth in a "systems doctor's" office over the objections of the family who follow Berg's admonition that the cult is to have nothing to do with "system doctors".
As punishment her son was taken away from her and she and the new child were kept prisoner in a trailer. On the second night she slipped past the guard who had walked away without permission. She walked six miles carrying her new-born daughter and escaped.
She later returned, with others to the COG Thurber commune to get her infant son, she was refused by Paul Berg and John Treadwell to obtain the child.
She obtained a final decree of divorce in 1973. After he husband's death, she wrote the attorneys for the COG asking their help in locating her missing son, (then age 2 1/2). She was advised that they "had determined through appropriate inquiry that at the time she and her husband separated, her son was left in the custody of her husband;" and that COG was unaware of her son's whereabouts.
Testimony elicted from other witnesses established that her son is under the care and custody of a COG member known as "David Z" or "David Zebulon". Information in our files leads us to believe that he and the child may be in British Columbia.
Sarah Berg has been unable to locate her infant son from the time she escaped from the COG commune to the present.
XII. COG Deceptions
COG must of necessity deceive the public, the news media, organized churches and most particularly new members. Our investigation disclosed the main areas of deception are:
1. To the Public
The COG tries maintain a public image of respectability. In accord wit the various directions contained in various Moses Letters, COG leaders hold themselves out as bible students and teachers. Its members place ads in local newspapers asking for food, clothing and shelter from the public as they can do “the Lord’s work”.
It makes use of false identification cards holding the bearer to be a student of the “Children of God Bible College”, when no such bible college exists.
A former member testified that in England he tore off a blank “I.D. card” from perforated sheets provided by the colony, and falsely filled in the blanks thus holding him out to be a bible student. He was also given false credentials to expedite passage through immigration, alleging that he was on a “educational tour” where in fact he traveled to various COG colonies for the purpose of making COG video tapes.
The COG maintains both a “trade school” and ‘Montessori school” in Texas, neither of which have applied for nor obtained a license from the Texas Educational Agency.
Although COG claims to “rehabilitate” young people, it actually alienates them from society, friends, family, government and education. Their “trade schools” exist only for the purpose of training members for vocational skills necessary for COG survival, including training in the use of citizen band and ham radios used as a means of communication between communes.
2. To the News Media
In the “Chronolog” T.V. program broadcast nationally on June 23, 1972, Jonathan Berg maintained that his father, David Berg, was “in retirement” and only passively involved with COG activities. Virtually every knowledgeable witness testified that this was not true and that David Berg directs every facet of COG activities.
David Berg, in the Moses Letter, “Public Relations”, dated 11/24/71, instructs members not to give any stories to any newspaper which does not “cooperate” with them; but to “cooperate” with favorable newspapers by giving them some of the more innocuous COG literature.
“Public Relations” also contains a long litany of evasive COG responses to be given to the press when questioned specifically about practices concerning parents, security, censorship of mail and other questionable COG policies.
3. To the Catholic Church
Testimony of Catholic parents and for members of every religious persuasion establishes that prior to mid-1972 COG doctrine was strongly anti-Catholic church; claiming that it “worshipped false idols”.
A Moses Letter – “The Almond Tree” (for leadership training only) dated 3/18/72 – refers to “the god of the Catholic Church who is the devil and the Anti-Christ!” (emphasis in original).
One witness testified that Berg and his group were expelled from the Expo ’69 Fair in Montreal because they attempted to convince the nine year old Catholic daughter of an Expo official to leave home and school and throw in her lot with them.
Two witnesses testified that in 1969 COG members in Quebec draped a casket in black and disrupted a high mass in a Catholic Church.
The COG policy with respect to the Catholic Church took an abrupt turn in 1972. One ex-COG leader testified that he overheard Faithy and Jonathan Berg* making plans to obtain a papal blessing since this would be good for its public image in predominantly Catholic countries and would aid it in gaining acceptance in such places.
[Page 57 footnote:]* David Berg’s son and daughter.
Soon Faithy Berg established contact with Sister Magdeleine of the Little Sisters of Jesus of Rome. A Moses Letter “Arrivederci Roma” dated September, 1972, was thereafter published, directing members to change their priopr overt attitude towards Catholicism:
“We are now beginning to invade the Catholic countries of the world and we are going to have to be pro-Catholic…They believe much the same as we do! They also believe in communes, in forsaking all, in brainwashing and memorization! ‘…I think if Sister Magdeleine of the Little Sisters of Jesus though we were Catholic enough, she would want Faith [Berg] to pick up the torch and carry on her work!’ … Go partake of their little Eucharist, go kneel with them in their chapels. ‘… They don’t know anything else… Play along with them… go through their little childish motions with them; they are serious about it and it means something to them… what if they want you to go through their motions or put on their habits? If that pleases them, then you change your outward appearance for some occasions to suit them what is it if you can act like a clown? In other words join a circus! He came in from the outside so that you can have an opportunity to minister to them. The Clown was even part of the circus! He came in from the outside. But in order to get in and make all the children laugh, he had to join the circus.’ “
In October, 1972, a COG tract was distributed under the dual title “Pope Blesses Children of God” and “Faith’s Papal audience.”
Soon after this spurious claim of “papal blessing” COG communes proliferated in predominately Catholic countries such as Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Spain and Italy. The tract was also instrumental in attracting young Roman Catholics into the COG.
Monsignor Eugene Clark, Director, Office of Communications, New York Archdiocese, has advised that he was informed that “this was not at all a personal audience and did not represent a message sent or given directly to the Children of God.”
It would appear quite evident that COG had used or attempted to use the Catholic Church all the way to the Pope to create a false image of respectability.
4. Cloaking of Identity
In order to broaden its base, COG has adopted other entities, not created with legal formality and having therefore, no true legal being. Such organizations make use of various names including “Contact Jesus”, “Cincy Christian Faith Association”, and “The Toronto Christian Truth Ministry”, among others. One of the benefits of this diffusion or identity enables it to divert responsibility for appropriating funds from individuals and to transfer such funds to another “organization”.
One former member testified that a letter and forged withdrawal slip for the sum of $1,050 was sent to his savings bank while the COG had possession of his bank book. A typewritten letter above his purported signature requested that such withdrawal be made to “The New England Christian Youth Association” for tuition, fees, room and board at the New England Christian Bible College, both non-existent. He further testified that he neither typed nor signed the letter or withdrawal slip.
Subsequently, after informing a COG elder that the amount withdrawn really belonged to his cousin, the funds were redeposited without his knowledge with his purported signature on the deposit slip. (This member, after leaving the organization, became so distraught as to require psychiatric treatment and ultimately took his life.)
It may also be noted under the “Tax Exemptions” caption that “Youth for Truth, Inc.” was adopted as a conduit for tax exemption contributions which ultimately found their way to COG.
5. To New Members
Perhaps the cruelest deception of all is perpetrated on its new “converts”. They are enticed into the COG with the false representation that they will be working 100% for Jesus. Once in, they are slowly but surely weaned from the reading of the Bible to a reading of the Moses Letters, first the more innocuous ones, and later the “heavier” ones, which contain little or no spiritual material.
From Moses Letter “Suggestions” — (dated 11/1/71):
”Babes. These of course, are your new disciples, new trainees, who have not yet reached the status of Leadership Trainee. Be particularly cautious about the materials you give them… especially Moses Letters. Some of these, of a highly critical nature, can be misused to our disadvantage.”
Excerpts from some of the “heavier” Moses Letters appear below. It should also be noted that they contain little or no spiritual material and most political and sexual commentary.
Some of David Berg’s “political” commentary is openly anti-semitic.
From Moses Letter “The Arab Wall” — dated October, 1973:
“IT’S ABOUT TIME THOSE ANTI-CHRIST ISREALI JEWS ATONED FOR THEIR SINS! We know how they were treating Arabs in Israel when we were there! If that wasn’t the most sickening, icky, hypocritical appeal by Abba Eban! To the Christians of the world we appeal. Come help us — Ick, God knows, they don’t help the Christians, particularly in their own country! Most of the Christians in Israel are Arabs, and the Jews persecute them and keep them surpressed and oppressed!”
David Berg, in Moses Letter “Revolutionary Sex” — dated 3/27/83, on bigamy and polygamy:
“Oddly enough, however. Although these self-righteous, hypocritical laws of the West strictly forbid simultaneous polygamy, or having more than one wife all at the same time, our strange Western culture, morality and legal system is quite tolerant and even encourages sequential polygamy, or having as many wives as you want one after the other, as long as you only have them one at a time, and duly comply with their system’s little rules about nicely divorcing each one before you marry the next one! This is strictly in defiance of God’s own laws regarding multiple marriages as outlined very definitely in the Mosaic Law, where, if took an additional wife you were forbidden to divorce the first one or ones! In other words, briefly stated, to show the contrariness of man’s laws against God’s Laws, Western society forbids simultaneous polygamy while it insists on sequential polygamy and obviously permitted simultaneous polygamy instead! What a contradiction between the laws of God and the laws of men, between the laws of the Lord and the laws of the church!
It is obvious from the above extract that David Berg confuses the laws of God with his own doctrines as contrasted with the laws of men and the laws of the church.
And from Moses Letter “A Shepherd Time Story” — dated 2/19/71:
“(Dedicated to all you little children and especially the Benjamin Bottle Breakers).”*
“We have the only happy sheep and happy shepherds in the whole world! We have happy folds! We laugh and sing and dance and play and fuck and bear lots of little lambs!”
During 1972 many Moses Letters including those entitled “The Great Escape” and “Jeremiah 40” predicted the imminent downfall of America and urged COG members to leave America, which many of them did. These members are now scattered in COG colonies overseas, subject to the same tight COG security and mind-manipulation described elsewhere in this report. No known effort is being made to return to the United States, those members who have become disillusioned, they are literally stranded, having no funds of their own.
Additionally testimony established the following harmful effects visited upon former members:
- Difficulty in holding on to jobs and being able to function normally in society because of the complete mental dependency upon the will of the leaders to which they were formerly subjected.
- Hesitancy in answering simple questions and difficulty in carrying on a simple conversation.
- Fear of attending an established church service.
- Fear of sleeping alone.
One parent informed this office that her son, a long-time member, had just left the COG but his emotional and mental condition was such that he was incapable of giving testimony.
The disastrous effects upon the psyches, emotions and very thought processes of both members and former members is perhaps the cruelest deception of all.
[Page 62 footnote:]* Benjamin Bottle Breakers refers to pre-school and school age children of COG members, to whom this letter is addressed.
Despite the shocking facts outlined, no direct action by the Attorney General can be undertaken at this time by reason of the constitutional protections of the First Amendment. Continuing attention, however, should be paid to its activities. Because of the complete metamorphis of COG from the religious bible oriented group to a cult subservient to the whims or desires of the Berg Family and other leaders with resulting anguish and heartache visited upon parents, publication of this report should awaken the public generally, particularly youngsters and parents, to the nature of this group as revealed in the testimony taken by the Attorney General as to what others who have gone that way before them have experienced.
The exposure of the nature of the group, presuming on its face to be religious, and therefore in the shadow of the First Amendment, with concomitant exposure as to the tribulations of others should be itself an effective deterrent. Therefore, as a public service we recommend that this report should be made available to the public as a guide in the meanwhile to those who are cajoled to join this or any similar organization.
Having found that the Children of God are continually moving throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico, as well as in various parts of the western world, it is obvious that the activities of this organization and the concomitant problems visited upon our sister states transcend the jurisdiction of the Attorney General of the State of New York. The proliferation of communes in other states makes this a problem of national import. Accordingly, copies of this report should be sent to the Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service and other appropriate federal agencies for consideration of independent action.