'The Family' Religious Sect Has Ties To San Diego
The Dr. Phil show gave an in-depth look at a Christian sex cult with close ties to San Diego. Former members of the Children of God still live here, and still operate two local religious non-profits. We sat down with two former members who appeared on the Dr. Phil show.
The Children of God religious sect was born out of the free love Jesus movement of the late 1960s. It now goes by the name The Family.
The group became notorious as a Christian sex cult, when founder David Berg started preaching open sexuality – even among children. Many ex-members now say child abuse was widespread in the group during the 1970s and 1980s.
Former member Jim LaMattery left the group in 1975, around the time Berg started preaching his law of love. He now lives in San Diego.
LaMattery appeared on the Dr. Phil show with his daughter Kristi and his nephew John, who both say they were abused as children by other members of The Family.
"I'm excited the story is getting national attention," LaMattery said. "I hope my daughter will seek counseling that Dr. Phil has promised to provide to her.
"I was very happy with the expose that Dr. Phil did on The Family, happy with the spotlight," John LaMattery said. "We need all the help we can get. There's not many people waving the red flag saying these people are in our community – let's go out and ask them the hard questions."
Members of The Family religious sect still operate two San Diego County non-profits: a religious publishing company called Activated Ministries in Escondido, and a missionary group called the Family Care Foundation in Dulzura in the East County.
Activated Ministries has teamed up with The Family in recent weeks to solicit donations online for Hurricane Katrina relief and youth ministries.
"This is concerting to us, because I know what they youth counseling is all about," John LaMattery said. "I was brought up in this group, and it's very alarming to know they're out in the community."
"They come off as the good little Christian missionary group," Jim La Mattery added. "They were in the Houston Astrodome singing songs and it looks like they're doing good work, but when you backtrack and find out they're still worshiping a pedophile founder."
For its part, The Family has acknowledged that some child abuse took place in the past. A spokesperson says the group banned all sexual contact with children in 1986, and apologized to the victims. Leaders also deny that child abuse was widespread.
News 8 asked The Family to respond to the Dr. Phil show. In an e-mailed statement, spokesperson Claire Borowick called Dr. Phil's portrayal of her church biased and malicious.
Borowick also pointed out that a number of investigations around the world have failed to result in convictions of any Family members.