Police Raid Children Of God Homes Sweep Nets 52 Arrests
Rocky Mountain News/1993-06-11
PARIS - Police said Thursday they had arrested 52 adults and taken in more than 140 children for questioning after raids across France on the outlawed Children of God sect which preaches free love for all ages.
The police swooped in on houses in 12 cities at dawn Wednesday.
At one house alone, near Aix-en-Provence in the south, they found 40 children and said they suspected some had been raped.
None of the children, whose ages ranged from 3 to 15, was enrolled in school.
The sect was founded by Californian David Berg, also known as Moses David or Chairman Mo, at the height of the hippie movement in 1968 and quickly spread around the world.
The Children of God came to France in the early 1970s but the sect was banned in 1978 after stories began to circulate of brainwashing and sexual abuse of children.
Former members of the sect say children are initiated into sex at the age of 12. Adults and children sleep with each other indiscriminately, believing that salvation comes through sexuality, they say.
French police say the sect has continued to operate under various pseudonyms, including Family Love, Intimate Missionary and Families Unlimited.
It is estimated to have attracted 12,000 people in more than 70 countries.
Berg, who is believed to be either dead or hiding in Japan, is wanted by police in the United States on several counts of kidnapping, rape and extortion.
The arrests in France are the biggest operation against the sect since 120 children were taken into care in Australia last year. Ten people suspected of perverting children were arrested in Spain in 1990.