Judgment of Lord Justice Ward

From XFamily - Children of God
Editor's note: After receiving a copy of the original 295-page Judgment, xFamily.org editors have determined that the Judgment text archived on xFamily.org and other sites[1][2][3][4][5] was edited to remove the full legal names of certain individuals (including Jeremy Spencer, Paul Peloquin, Michael Gilligan and Dawn Gilligan) whom Lord Justice Ward identified by full name in the Judgment itself. It also appears that other minor changes were made resulting in some text and formatting that does not match the original. The xFamily.org editors did not make these changes and only became aware of them in early October 2007. As time permits and to the extent possible, xFamily.org editors intend to correct this and restore the text so that it matches the orginal.

In 1992, the mother of a member of The Family International filed a case with the High Court in England requesting the custody of her unmarried daughter's child. The grounds presented for the removal of the custody of her grandchild were her daughter's membership in The Family and the risk of harm to the child in light of the organization's beliefs and practices.

Despite the fact that this was strictly a custody case involving a Family member and her mother, The Rt Hon. Lord Justice Sir Alan Hylton Ward devoted several years to hearing both current and former member witnesses, as well as scholars of religion, investigative experts and social workers. He also studied thousands of pages of never before revealed internal documents, and ordered social services to evaluate the condition of local Family communities in England. The court hearing lasted 75 days in which 10,000 pages of evidence were presented.

After three years of rigorous investigative work, on May 26, 1995, Mr. Ward issued his ruling in the case. On October 19, 1995, the 295-page judgment was made public. It is a ground-breaking legal document which details not only the trial for custody of a child born into The Family, but also how the writings, doctrines, practices, leadership and the group's treatment of children were placed under scrutiny. On the same date as the May 1995 judgment was published, Mr. Ward also handed down a second judgment resolving certain matters not resolved in the first judgment. Based on information provided by Kim Speller, who represented the respondent (the mother of the child referred to in the judgment as S. or ST) throughout the case, it appears the second judgment was not published and made widely available in the same way that the first one was and was instead later transcribed and published by a British legal publisher.[1]

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Mr. Ward ruled that The Family, including its top leadership, had engaged in abusive sexual practices involving minors, as well as severe corporal punishment and sequestration of children. However, in a last minute turnaround, he said The Family had abandoned these practices and that they were an acceptably safe environment for children. Conditional custody was granted to the mother, a full-time member of the group, with the requirements that the group cease all corporal punishment of children in England, improve the education of children, denounce their founder David Berg's writings, and "acknowledge that through his writings Berg was personally responsible for children in The Family having been subjected to sexually inappropriate behaviour".

As a result, The Family accommodated the custody-granting condition of admitting wrong-doing on Berg's part for endorsing adult-child sex. In his apology to the judge, Steven Kelly (Peter Amsterdam) stated:

"The judgement refers in particular to 'The Law of Love' and 'The Devil Hates Sex', and we accept that as the author of ideas upon which some members acted to the harm of minors in 'The Family,' he [Berg] must bear responsibility for that harm. Maria, and all of us in World Services leadership, also feel the burden of responsibilty [. . .] Further, in 1980 Father David's statements in his discourse entitled 'The Devil Hates Sex' opened the door for sexual behaviour between adults and minors, such sanctioning being the direct cause of later abusive behaviour by some 'Family' members at that time." —Steven Kelly

However, despite the group publicly renouncing former policies and doctrines that condoned or encouraged sex between adults and minors, as well as accepting that Berg had helped bring about much of the abuse, in their internal publications there has been no such renunciation. Evidence of this is represented by the following quotes from Family leader Karen Zerby:

This [sexual contact between adults and minors] is about the only subject where we're really going along with the System, we're playing along with them, we're acting like we believe what we did was wrong, because we have changed, and stopped doing it [. . .] We need to somehow explain to our [teenagers] that love and loving affection is not wrong. As it says in [Berg's writings], if it's not hurtful, if it's loving, then it's okay. Of course, having actual intercourse with a child wouldn't be okay as it wouldn't be loving, but a little fondling and sweet affection is not wrong in the eyes of God, and if they have experienced the same in the past they weren't 'abused.' [. . .] We need to explain to our [children] that any experience they may have had along these lines, if it was loving and if it was desired, was not wrong. We need to show them that even if in some case the experience for them wasn't so great, that by comparison to what goes on in the System, it still wasn't abuse. —Karen Zerby, Summit '93 Mama Jewels #2, pg.19, 1992

Further evidence follows, from July 2004. (Editor's Note: The "apology" by Berg mentioned below was received through prophecy after his death, and spoke of misinterpretation of his writings.)

Dad’s Teachings on the Law of Love

The issue:
155. (Mama:) Some people seem to think that just because Dad apologized for not setting clearer boundaries in regards to the Law of Love (see “An Answer to Him that Asketh Us,” ML #3016, Lifelines 22), that means that everything Dad did that was free or sexy was probably or possibly wrong. They sort of have the attitude that Dad was a “dirty old man” and should have controlled himself better.

God’s mind on the matter:
156. (Jesus:) I know that there’s a tendency to think that because David apologized for not setting clearer boundaries in regards to the Law of Love, that he might have been admitting basic mistakes in the whole concept. Or, it can give the impression that he was too extreme, and that everything he did regarding sex was unwise or inappropriate.

157. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your prophet was a pioneer. He hacked out of the wilderness some of the basic concepts and truths upon which My world is founded, and in order to do so he had to buck a tremendous amount of pressure of preconceived ideas and mindsets that have ruled the earth since Lucifer and Baal began with the first cover-ups.

158. David simply took you back to the Garden of Eden and uncovered and made known the fact that love is pure, pure, pure. It was a pioneer effort, and who else had ever done such a thing with such clarity and such pinpoint accuracy, in the face of so much opposition? No one, let Me tell you—not with the truth, clarity and preciseness of your Endtime prophet, My mouthpiece whom I used to deliver into your hands, My Endtime children, the truths that I wanted you to live by.

—Karen Zerby, from "Shooting Straight - Part 2" (GN 1087), July 2004

Press coverage


  1. Mr. Speller provided the following information regarding this document:

    I was there when he gave it having acted throughout for the

    respondent mother. I can certainly verify a second judgment. It formed part of the transcript that Jordans published for some years, but now no longer keep it. The two column judgment looks very much like the Jordans transcript, that's how they laid it out, however I have not done a

    strict comparison.

    --Speller, Kim. "Re: The judgment of Mr Justice Ward," Email to xFamily.org editors, 2010-06-22.

See also: Legal Case U.K., 1992