Former Members of Children of God Speak Out
Press » KGTV/10News » 2007-04-28
SAN DIEGO -- It's not often that a child custody case is followed closely by the 10News Investigative Team, but a case scheduled for May 7 in San Diego County Superior Court is not your average fight for custody.
The child custody case involves one parent who belongs to a religious organization formally known as Children of God, where sexual abuse allegations are central to the litigation.
In this 10News exclusive investigation, the I-team explores why former members of the Children of God are so concerned about this case and custody cases like it.
"Anger does not begin to describe how I feel about these people and what they've done," said Ricky Rodriguez in a video he made talking about his experience with the Children of God, shortly before he committed suicide.
Rodriguez expressed rage in the video like others who formerly belonged to a religious group once known as the Children of God.
"Being born into this cult was like being born into an intellectual wasteland. The only thing you had access to was the insane rambling of these criminals," said former member Don Irwin.
Rodriguez and Irwin were among the former members of the cult who expressed concern for children currently within the organization, known today as The Family.
"This is one of the biggest crimes in history. We're talking about thousands of children sexually abused," said former member Sam Ajemian.
Ajemian wrote more about his experiences with the so-called religious cult in a book.
Ajemian was also one of the first members of the Children of God -- a religious group created by David Berg in Huntington Beach in 1968.
The group started with only a handful of teens, but by the early 1970s, the numbers quickly grew into the thousands at a time when young adults were in a spiritual and sexual revolution, and sex played a very big part in this organization.
In Rodriguez's video, he said he was caught in the middle.
Berg was Rodriguez's father. Like many of the children born into the cult, Rodriguez said he left the group as an adult and complained about sexual molestation by his mother, his father and other adult women.
He said in the video that photographs of his molestation were placed in the cult's religious publications.
Rodriguez took his own life a day after he shot the video.
"There are a lot of suicides among our friends. Every year, we have a few," said former member Sarah Martin.
Martin was born into the cult. She said she lost her own brother to suicide years after her family left the organization.
She shared with 10News a book written by the cult's leader, Berg. In it, Berg is depicted as a great knight. He also includes his dreams of sex with women. The book, created for children, contains explicit sexual cartoons and verses from the Bible, in which Berg preached the law of love to his followers.
"You're born into this cult. You run around naked, you watch your parents have sex, you start participating in sex when you are young and it's like everyone has access to you. And it's supposed to be 'love,'" said former member Amy Brill.
At 8 years old, Brill said her parents were asked by the organization to give her away. Brill eventually lived with Berg and his family. And at 13, she said she was married to Berg in a mock wedding.
"I had been molested before, but this was like a 60-year-old man doing whatever he wanted," said Brill.
Years later, Brill said her own father committed suicide as a result of his own guilt.