Judge condemns cult's founder as perverted and malign influence
By Emma Wilkins
The founder of the Children of God religious cult was a perverted
and malign influence on his gullible followers, Lord Justice Ward
said in his 314 page judgment.
The judge, who summoned witnesses from within the movement, former
members and expert witnesses in child psychology, made clear that the
child's mother and grandmother both wanted the best interests of the boy to
be paramount. "Each has never flinched or contemplated surrender in
this titanic struggle to secure the care and control of the much-loved
child in question," the judge said.
The judge praised the grandmother, 58, who wanted to take the boy to
Africa where she planned to employ a nanny and later arrange for his
education in England. "The suggestion is made on behalf of The Family that
the plaintiff is a mere tool and dupe of the anti-cult movement. I
reject that submission," he said. "She is a remarkably strong and
determined lady who, having embarked on this campaign, has carried it through
when many lesser individuals would have folded under the strain."
Lord Justice Ward was severely critical of David "Moses"
Berg, who founded the Children of God movement in 1968. "Berg was
a man without judgment or moral scruple, and a malign corrupting
influence on his susceptible followers," the judge said.
He heard evidence of Berg's perverted views on child sex. In one
pamphlet, Berg wrote that young children should be encouraged to explore
their naked bodies and play together.
They should be encouraged in nude mix bathing and nude mix play. They
should also not be prohibited from mutual sexual examination,
experimentation or interplay when playing or sleeping together, Berg wrote.
In what the judge described as pornographic literature, Berg
illustrated his articles of faith with hand-drawings of naked women.
The judge described the Law of Love, which urges free love, as a
"pernicious doctrine." He said: "In liberating the ordinary sexual
inhibitions, the Law of Love empowers those with strong sexual urges but
poor judgment to act indiscriminately and it puts pressure on the weak to
succumb to that which does in fact harm them."
The judge condemned the practice of "flirty fishing", by which
women members seduced new recruits to the cult, as nothing short of
prostitution, the judge said, with Berg and his acolytes living off the
proceeds. But he said: "I am satisfied that it has ceased and I judge there
to be no substantial risk that it will be resumed."
While the boy's mother had slept with married men in the cult, the
judge said he was confident that she was discreet. "Although she, like all
members of the movement, exults in the glory of their sexual freedom so
that she, like all others, proclaims there is nothing wrong with sex, I
accept her protestation that she will not knowingly permit her son to
be a witness to sexual activity." The judge condemned the practices of
the 1970s and 1980s, when it was commonplace for children to
witness adults having intercourse.
The judge said that the movement had now made determined and sustained
attempts to eradicate child abuse, which had been widespread in the 70s
"It was a deplorable period of their history. They have been rightly
vilified by the media and pilloried by the press," he said, but he was
convinced that the movement could accommodate change. The crucial event
in this process was the death last year of Berg, the judge said. "The
original one-man band' dictatorship has become more democratic, arriving
at decisions after consultation and by consensus."
The judge expressed some doubts about the mother's ability to renounce
Berg. "Her devotion to Berg is so total that it has drained her
intellectual reserves and she, like most of those about her ... is blinded by
love for him," he said.
However, when calling the mother before him earlier this month after a
year's absence, the judge was impressed.
"This was not the sullen young woman of last year. She showed a
readiness to admit past error that has been wholly lacking until now. More
importantly she showed a certain insight that frankly surprised me."
"I find she is conscious of the dangers that zealots within The Family
may sacrifice the rights of children on a false altar of misconceived
service. I am satisfied that she will protect him from the excesses of