The Family's response to the June 2005 Rolling Stone article

From XFamily - Children of God

The following directive from The Family's "Rapid Media Response Team" was posted on the members-only community website FamilyYouth (a closed forum intended strictly for members within The Family), shortly after the publication of a scathing, 11-page article on The Family/Children of God cult by Rolling Stone magazine in the third week of June 2005. The message from The Family may help shed light on the group's method of dealing with perceived persecution.

The Rolling Stone article centered on the life and violent death of Ricky Rodriguez, as well as his mother, Karen Zerby, leader of The Family.

See: Rolling Stone: The Life and Death of the Chosen One

(Note: Please forward this to any fellow-SGAs who you know would like to be involved in sending a protest letter to Rolling Stone Magazine. Thanks!)

Dear SGAs,

GBY! We love you so much! We're happy to report that the hit dog howled, and Rolling Stone Magazine mentioned our Rapid Media Response in their article! (Thanks so much to all of you who participated in writing them.) The article was very biased, negative & inaccurate, basically a forum for our hostile ex-members to vent. The reporter only gave Claire one line from a one hour interview. Peter Wilkinson, the author of the article, mentions the RMR team responses he received in a negative light and basically passes them off as part of "the Family's spin machine." But praise the Lord, He causes the wrath of man to praise Him! Below you can read the excerpts of the article that mentions our Rapid Response, and followed by Claire's rebuttal to the entire article.

Please feel free to write a protest letter right away to Rolling Stone magazine, and any and all SGAs are welcome to likewise blitz Rolling Stone. Call on the keys for wisdom in how to personally respond, and please keep the regular pointers in mind for writing the media (refresher list at the end for your easy reference).

"Satan's roaring is silenced by the keys."

"Call on the keys and they will be turned to swords, cutting the Devil's monsters to pieces, and all the lies that they spew out against you."

Thanks for your prayers and your participation. We love you!

Lots of love,
Anaik for the RMR team


Excerpt from Rolling Stone article:

...Family leadership immediately began a public campaign to disparage their dead Messiah, portraying him as falling under the spell of disgruntled ex-members.

Spokeswoman Claire Borowik called Ricky "an obviously disturbed young man acting out his misplaced anger."

As this story went to press, the Family's spin machine, based in Washington, D.C., swept into overdrive. A flurry of e-mails arrived at ROLLING STONE'S offices, purportedly from members around the world, extolling the group. "I have everything that my heart could desire, and throughout the course of life, living as a missionary has taught me many priceless lessons," wrote Nyx Martinez. "I count myself luckier than other twenty-four-year olds." Lorie Richards, 29, who has lived in fifteen countries, wrote, "I have been blessed with a type of 'world education' that few have the opportunity to enjoy."

Stilted and robotic in their writing, the messages also reeked of denial. Wrote Vas Myers, from Mexico City, "I think the allegations of abuse [directed at Family leaders] are absurd and unfounded."


From: Claire Borowik for The Family International
(202) 298-0838, or
Re: In response to your article, "The Life & Death of the Chosen One"
by Peter Wilkinson
June 21, 2005

Letter to the Editor

The recent article "The Life & Death of the Chosen One" published by your magazine was by far the most biased, inaccurate & pejorative account to date of the tragic events that took place January 7th, 2005, involving Ricky Rodriguez and Angela Smith. It's apparent that the author did not make the slightest effort to affirm the veracity of his sources or to avail himself of impartial information, choosing instead to "spin" a tale of scandal, rumor and hearsay. The voices of current second generation members of the Family International, which tell a very different story, are callously dismissed as part of "the Family's spin machine." The 1,700+ young people serving in the Family as Christian missionaries, many in third world countries, had a right to be heard and afforded the same respect and credibility the author afforded to former members. Professionalism required balanced coverage of the subject matter, with all sides fairly represented.

One would conjecture from reading this article that the author condones and even relishes the murder of Angela Smith as some sort of necessary evil. The position and purpose is obvious from the onset: "Angry as Ricky was, he also seemed relieved. Finally, he'd get some peace, some revenge and expose his mother, Karen Zerby." Angela Smith was a beautiful person who had the same rights as any other citizen in this country. By allowing this article to be published in your magazine, am I to understand that the magazine condones or justifies murder as a means to an end?

This article also refers to the Christian fellowship, the Family, as "one of the most secretive and destructive religious cults of the past forty years.operat[ing] in the shadows around the world." This statement is absolutely ludicrous. Members of The Family International have carried out missionary works in over 100 countries around the world, leading millions to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, as well as providing active assistance in a multitude of humanitarian aid projects in poor third world countries. Clearly, activities of this nature are hardly carried out in "the shadows." Prevalent through out this article is a vicious intent to malign and demonize Karen Zerby (administrative and spiritual leader of the Family). Court findings and internal Family publications paint a very different picture of Karen and the efforts she has made to ensure the safety and well-being of Family members, both young and old. Justice Ward made note of this role in his custody ruling: "I am now totally satisfied that The Family, I would think largely at Maria's prompting, has since 1986 made determined and sustained efforts to stamp out child sexual abuse and to prevent any inappropriate contact between adults and children whether young children or teenage children. I have no evidence that child sex abuse is presently prevalent any more within The Family than outside it." (Family Division, Case W 42 1992, London, England, October 19, 1995).

Although the Family International in the past has, as you stated, confronted allegations of sexual and physical abuse in the early 1990's, courts on 3 continents found these allegations to be false.

Over 600 Family children were examined by court appointed officials and not one of them was ever found to have been physically, emotionally, or psychologically abused in any way. That is a fact--which your article sorely lacks.

I consider that one-sided reporting of this nature foments discrimination and the demonizing of minority religious movements such as The Family, seriously endangering every precept of religious freedom and basic human rights. In order to set the record straight and in interest of fairness, I ask that you print this response.

Claire Borowik
for The Family International

The Family International, formerly known as the Children of God, is a fellowship of Christian missionaries dedicated to preaching the Gospel around the world. Members have received Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and live and work together in small communities.

Founded by David Brandt Berg (1919-1994) in Southern California during the late '60s, the Family has expanded into an international missionary fellowship located in over 100 countries around the world.


Rolling Stones e-mails to write:

General -
Will Dana (Managing Editor) -
James Kaminsky (Deputy Managing Editors) - Joe Levy (Deputy Managing Editors) -


PS: As a brief refresher on your media response note, here are a few points:

  • Address your message header specifically to the reporter and his magazine and ideally include your name in the header (ie: "from Jill" so it doesn't look like spam)
  • keep your note short and to the point--respectful
  • don't forget to include at the top of your note the important details of your full ame/age/country of location, and your profession
  • Include a brief statement (a few sentences max ideally) about yourself and your upbringing in the Family, or whatever else the Lord shows you to say.
  • feel free to also include a link to your letter online, if you feel it'd be relevant to the reporter.
  • Please e-mail a separate copy of your letter to Thanks so much.
  • Last but not least, we'd recommend that in addition to specifically asking the Lord what to put in your e-mail, and confirming with the Lord that the letter hits the target before you hit the "send" button, that you also ask a mature/dependable person in your Home to briefly look over your letter as a second opinion, to highlight anything that might be unclear or that might be taken and quoted out of context (something the media is expert at). You might ask the CS monitor in your Home, or someone else who you know will be prayerful and give you useful feedback. You could explain to them that your goal is to stick to your personal life story, to be proactive, brief, and clear, and ask them to evaluate if your letter is and does all those things.
  • Please send a cc of your letter to (or if you'd prefer, a one-liner mentioning that you wrote a letter), so we're aware of how many letters were sent in this Rapid Media Response. Thanks, we appreciate it.


If this is your first time receiving an invitation to participate in a Rapid Media Response, and you'd like to participate in future, please jot an e-mail, and include your name/age/country. Thanks!

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Counter-reaction on former member websites