30 Members of Children Of God Arrested
Thursday, September 2, 1993
The Washington Post; Page A05
NEW YORK, SEPT. 1
The Children of God, a religious cult accused of promoting indiscriminate sex in the name of Jesus and which claims 12,000 members in 70 countries, was in the spotlight today after scores of its followers were arrested in Buenos Aires.
According to the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), which monitors such groups, the Children of God cult initiates its children into sex at the age of 12. CAN and former cultists say the group's adult members and its children sleep with each other indiscriminately, believing that salvation comes through sexuality.
The arrests in Argentina, where 300 children were taken into custody and 30 of their parents arrested, follow similar police actions in France, Spain and Australia.
A court official in Buenos Aires said the adults -- among them Americans, Canadians, French, Spaniards, Uruguayans, Bolivians, Paraguayans and Argentines -- face charges of racketeering, kidnapping and violations of children's rights under international pacts.
The cult, which was founded in 1968 by Californian David Berg, was banned in France in 1978 after stories began to circulate of brainwashing and sexual abuse of children. On June 10, more than 50 sect members were arrested and 140 children taken in for questioning after raids took place across France.
At one house alone, near Aix en Provence in the south, police found 40 children 3 to 15 years old. Police said the children may have been raped.
Authorities said the sect has continued to operate under various pseudonyms, including Family Love, Intimate Missionary and Families Unlimited.
Last year, 120 children were taken into custody in Australia, and in 1990, 10 group members suspected of perverting children were arrested in Spain.
The group all but abandoned the United States in the mid-1970s and has changed its name here, calling itself the Family, CAN said.
The Watchman Fellowship, a Christian counter-cult group that said it provides information on such groups, said the Children of God continue to promote free sex.
"They have promotional videotapes and it's very clear they're promoting the 'law of love,' where promiscuity is emphasized within the group," said Craig Branch, one official at the Fellowship.
"Even children should participate, and not be afraid of sex. They should look on it as a loving experience," he said, explaining the cult's philosophy.