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
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
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
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
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
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.