House of croquet and free love
The Daily Mail/1993-09-03
By James Golden
There was croquet on the lawn for villagers at the weekend as The Family threw open the doors of its new country house. Home for the seven adults and 28 children aged from seven months to 21 years is a 12-bedroom manor dating back to the 16th century.
Those there refuse to say who is providing the funding for the house they leased six weeks ago at Dunton Basset, Leicestershire. Yesterday, in the wake of the raid in Argentina, they held open house for inquirers and proclaimed the 'virtues' of their free-love philosophy. The house stands in three acres of grounds in the centre of the village. A wall in the dining room is lined with children's high chairs.
The group's leader is 41-year-old former fireman Gideon Scott, self-styled "House Shepherd" of the British branch of the Children of God, which shares the same leader, David Berg.
Mr Scott, whose wife Rachel is a psychologist, has 11 children. He said yesterday: "We have nothing to hide. We threw open the house in accordance with what Jesus has said.
"We are a normal Christian group, and there are many millions of Christians whose beliefs are as real and as full as ours. We allow free love between consenting adults, and our children can have sex if they are over 16, but not with mature adults. I don't believe in contraception, I suppose that's why I have 11 kids - and as far as I know they are all mine. If people feel good about having sex with each other, then they should be allowed it. It is a basic human need."
"Because of our liberal attitude, we are accused of child abuse but that is completely untrue. We are a Christian missionary fellowship dedicated to spreading the message of salvation. The suggestion that we are involved in Satanic rituals, child abuse, prostitution, begging and kidnapping are deplorable. We ask people to judge us on what we are doing rather than on innuendo. The whole thing which has happened in Argentina has sickened us. We believe that it is all part of an anti-cult movement's attempts to blacken us. Allegations of child abuse are nonsense."
The local rector, the Rev Clifford Bradley, has visited the house and been shown around.
He said: "I have seen their statement of beliefs and it is no different from many other fundamentalist sects.
"To my mind. there is nothing sinister about them. They are super people. When they first came here, I took it upon myself to call because I wanted to know who they were. They were quite happy to see me and I went back and had tea with them. During their open garden day at the weekend, they gave a croquet demonstration on the lawn. In fact, it was the first time for years that the place had been thrown open."
Dozens of British followers of the cult are thought to have gone to South America in the 1980s after Berg claimed that Europe was going to be hit by a nuclear holocaust.