Parents Frightened By Sect's Impact
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) - A group of worried parents has launched a campaign to bring home their sons and daughters, who have joined the fundamentalist Children of God.
"We're trying to separate them from whatever influence causes them to do this," says retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Rambur, one of 100 parents who have organized. "We're convinced they're victims of some form of mind manipulation or why else their sudden change of behavior, wanting to destroy our institutions, not knowing or wanting us?"
During its first convention here last weekend, the Parents Committee to Free Our Sons and Daughters make plans to circulate petitions to bring public pressure on the Bible sect.
Many of those who formed the parents committee over the weekend charge that the leaders of the Children of God have brainwashed their offspring and keep them against their will. Most members of the radical religious group are in their late teens and early 20s and forsake all worldly possession to follow Jesus. Officials of the Children of God were not available for comment on the parents committee. However, in the past sect leaders have denied charges that they hold members against their wills.
Some members of the sect were sent home last Thanksgiving in what Children of God leaders described as an effort to counter parents' charges against the group. Lewis Ingersoll, a leader of the Dallas, Tex., Children of God colony, said the Thanksgiving visits were designed to "disprove some of the malicious lies spread by the parents" that young people were coerced to remain in the sect's colonies.
Six former Children of God related their experiences to parents at the San Diego meeting and one of them, Linda Train, said that about 400 of the young people who returned to their homes last Thanksgiving did not go back to Children of God colonies.
Prior to that time, the sect's membership was estimated at 2,000. Miss Train, a 23-year-old New York City bookkeeper, said those still with the group may not he able to think for themselves. "When I was a member of the Children of God, I would feel one way but when I opened my mouth to speak, the opposite meaning would come out.
"I had eaten rotten food and hadn't bathed in two weeks, yet I told another member that I had never been happier. "When I said that, I thought to myself, 'Why am I saying that? I'm miserable.'"
At prayer meetings, she said, "It began with the leader saying 'Everybody hate their parents' and we would shout back, Amen' "