Members put on defensive by raids
Children of God
By PETER BEAUMONT.
You could hear the children singing inside the red brick manor house, near Lutterworth in Leicestershire, that is home to around 30 members of The Family. Inside in suits and Sunday best, Matthew, Gideon and Rachel were considering the day's press cuttings on the Buenos Aires raids.
Rachel read with anger the allegations against her co-religionists.
The house is full of children more than 20 11 of them belonging to Rachel, who joined the Children of God in 1971. Rachel, an attractive, elegant and relaxed woman, aged 42, patiently explains their set-up to the latest of almost 30 journalists to visit.
Yes, she said, they have a more liberal attitude towards sex, but it isn't all free love and croquet. No, they did not abuse their children.
This is the Children of God/The Family, the religious group that has been condemned as an evil, child-abusing sex cult and pursued by police forces around the world.
From Australia to France, from Spain to the Philippines, Canada and the United Kingdom, the cult has been the subject of repeated raids by police, resulting in a series of highly-publicised court hearings that have yet to see a conviction against them.
On each occasion the case against the cult has seemed, on the surface at least, a well-prepared and convincing one. Raids at communes in New South Wales and Victoria in May 1992 netted 140 children found living in squalid, vermin-ridden conditions.
The case, however, broke up without convictions in a welter of accusations and counter-accusations.
In Spain it was a similar story, and in France, where a series of raids earlier this year took more than 100 children into care across the country after a two-year international investigation with the co-operation of Scotland Yard. However, no charges of sexual abuse have been forthcoming.
On the surface, their argument to be a fundamentalist Christian church would appear to be a valid one, with a regimen of prayer and evangelism. Look a little deeper, however, and the contradictions pile up. For while the church claims that child sex is banned, its teachings on marriage are considerably more open.
The Family seems unable to escape the free-love Sixties counter-culture image.
But I ask Matthew is it not possible that the Argentine group, for all his protestations, may have got out of control?
"No. I feel safe in saying that. Individuals maybe but not the group as a whole. I know the British people who have been taken in Argentina, We worked as missionaries together in India. They wouldn't do that to their children. They wouldn't allow it to happen. I know."