'FREECOG' Movement in California
'Jesus Communes' Opposed by Parents
By Rodney Angove
Sacramento, Calif. (AP) - Parents from across the United States have organized to "rescue our children from the Jesus communes," says a Californian who is their national coordinator. Ted Patrick, a former community relations officer for California Gov. Ronald Reagan, says the group he coordinates is called "the Parents Committee to Free Our Sons and Daughters from the Children of God - FREECOG."
About 500 parents are seeking to locate youths in communes such as those run by the Children of God - COG - "and get them back on the right track, " Patrick said.
But commune leaders hold different views about "the right track," and they resent what they consider is undue parental Interference. One commune has filed a $1.1 million libel and slander action against Patrick and three FREECOG parents.
Patrick himself has been charged with second-degree kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, conspiracy and third-degree assault. The charges were brought in New York last month by a member of the New Testament Missionary Fellowship, who claimed he was forced into a car while walking to a prayer meeting. Patrick said the fellowship member was "rescued."
The tug-of-war between the parents and the communes has transcended theological considerations and touches on questions of family, freedom and rights to property. Perhaps the best known in the movement is the Children of God - COG - which leaders say once had 135 communes in the United States.
In the past two years, Patrick said, he has gathered statements from about 400 youths who have turned their backs on the communes. Last year, he said, he quit his state job to devote full time to FREECOG.
Patrick said the youths almost always told him "they had been programmed to do anything their leaders ordered. " He contends their testimony, on recorded tapes, supports the parental complaint that communes completely dominate their children - brain, body and bank account.
Parents say their children are difficult to locate and are difficult to visit privately. One father said he "literally kidnapped " his son away. Parents complain that their children sign over cars and savings, and often write home for more money.
"Give me 15 minutes with any kid in any commune and I'll show you that he's taught to worship his leaders, not God," said Patrick, adding that most maintain they have been "hypnotized " and "brainwashed. COG leader Micah Farmer calls the hypnotism charge "ridiculous. "
A sweet-voiced 22- year-old called Shiloh, who speaks for the COG commune in Crockett, Tex., calls it "totally false." "If true, we wouldn't be in operation. We've had the FBI infiltrate our colonies, and they return with nothing but good to say, " Micah declared.
An Investigator for the California Department of Justice, Steve Crawford, said, "We've heard a lot of accusations, but no proof of anything illegal." He said donations to cult leaders are apparently voluntary, hence legal.
Commune leaders deny the youths cannot go home. Micah believes parents are protesting "because what we're doing takes a 100 percent commitment to Christ. A youth accepts it. Some parents find it hard to accept. It's a selfish love for the child. A kind of possessiveness. They find it hard to take second place to God."