South China Morning Post: Children of a lesser god

From XFamily - Children of God

Children of a lesser god

Controversial 'free love' cult, The Family, may have quit Macau, but the discovery of explicit child pornography at their former home has helped rekindle some old fears.

South China Morning Post/1994-12-04

By Allan Glen

Explicit child pornography has been discovered inside a Macau village house last rented by members of the controversial religious sect known as The Family.

Although it is unclear whether the material was left behind by the sect, led in Macau by father of nine Jonathan Berg, the glossy magazines were found along with religious material.

The Sunday Morning Post visited the sect's former Hac Sa home last week after reports in Britain of the death of Jonathan's father, 75-year-old cult founder David Berg.

David Berg gained instant notoriety when he formed the sect, originally known as The Children of God, in California in the 1960s and encouraged his followers to have sex with fellow members. But soon the cult became linked with child sex and prostitution.

The landlady of the house the cult used as its Macau base said no one had lived there since American-born Jonathan Berg, his family and other sect members left the enclave in June. They are believed to be in Taiwan.

One woman who was a cult member for four years still lives in Hac Sa with her husband and seven children. She admitted hearing the child sex rumours, but said neither she nor her children were involved.

Mrs Yip, who would not give her full name, said flirty fishing, in which members were openly encouraged to have sex with as many people as possible to lure new followers, was common practice in Macau during the 1980s but had stopped before she joined.

"Jonathan had strange ideas about sex and other aspects of Christianity," she said.

"In the end I couldn't take any more of the things they believed in and had to get out. But I certainly didn't see any child sex taking place."

In an interview with the Sunday Morning Post in September 1993, Jonathan Berg said his Family were just good people. He shrugged off allegations of mixing child sex and religion as persecution.

A spokesman for Macau police said he was unaware of any allegations of paedophilia involving The Family.

But Berg was never able to shake off the controversy that began in the early 1970s when, shortly before the New York attorney-general investigated the cult, his father moved many of his followers abroad and the religious movement spread its sexual message to Europe, Asia and Australia.

The group set up camp in Hong Kong in the late 1970s before basing itself in Macau, where at one time there were up to 70 members.

One American neighbour, who lived next to the cult members for five years, said Hac Sa villagers were very suspicious of the group and Berg, who was renowned for having two wives.

She said Berg's marital status was the talk of the village. He married his first wife Esther in Europe before moving the whole family to Hong Kong in 1976. Two years later he fell in love with Ruth, his office manager in Hong Kong. The group then moved to Macau in 1979.

This was just a year after the most damning evidence of wrong-doing among cult members came from Berg's sister, Linda, who publicly accused her father of sexually abusing her from the age of eight.

The group changed its name to the Family of God and then The Family in the 1980s, but the stigma remained and by this time David Berg had gone to ground.

Although it was long thought he was living in Japan, his whereabouts remained a closely guarded secret among senior cult members. His death was reported two weeks ago in a statement released in London.

The Family claims to have 6,000 adult and 3,000 child members in 50 countries.

One member of the Macau commune is believed to be Patrick David Wong, who was acquitted of murdering Cathay Pacific hostess Brenda Wong Tze-kwan last April.

Wong was converted to the ways of the Children of God while in prison by his girlfriend, Shirley, now his wife, who is also believed to be a member of the religious sect.