Cleveland Plain Dealer: Authorities Seize 140 Cult Children

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Authorities Seize 140 Cult Children

Cleveland Plain Dealer/1992-05-16

Associated Press

Sydney, Australia - About 140 children ranging from 2 to 14 years old were taken into protective custody yesterday following raids on six houses connected to the Children of God cult.

The raids by police and community services officers in the Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales were launched after investigations into the cult raised concerns about the "children's lifestyle and emotional condition," the court orders said.

The Children of God - renamed in recent years the Family of Love - was founded in California in 1968 by an itinerant preacher named David Berg. The group has been criticized by parents of members who say it relies on brainwashing and hypnotism to woo young members.

The whereabouts of Berg, also known as Moses David and Chairman Mo, were not known. The Australian newspaper said yesterday he may be in Japan.

The cult is active in 70 countries, with 12,000 members worldwide, including an estimated 1,000 in Australia.

A lawyer representing the community services department in Victoria said the children had been denied access to the outside community, had been transferred across the country and had not been given access to their parents.

A court official said the children ranged in age from 2 to 14.