Perry Bulwer

Critque of Life in The Family: An Oral History of the Children of God


I wrote the following article that was published in Cultic Studies Review to fill in some of the gaps and provide a perspective, that of a former member, not found in James D. Chancellor's book on the Children of God/The Family International religious cult. At the end of the article you can read Chancellor's response to it, A Response to Perry Bulwer’s Evaluation of Life in the Family, and my reply to Chancellor's response, A Rejoinder to James Chancellor’s Response to My Article, both of which were also published in that same issue.

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A RESPONSE TO JAMES D. CHANCELLOR'S LIFE IN THE FAMILY: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD

BY PERRY BULWER, B.A., LL.B.

CULTIC STUDIES REVIEW Vol.6, No.2, 2007

http://www.culticstudiesreview.com/csr_issues/csr_toc2007.2.htm

Abstract

James D. Chancellor’s book is considered by some to be the best academic overview of The Family to date. Chancellor’s stated purpose was to provide a “clear, self-portrait of an intriguing and unique community.” However, he acknowledges that his work is not the whole story and that The Family requires a broader assessment from academics as well as former members. This article attempts to provide part of that broader assessment by challenging some of Chancellor’s conclusions and interpretation of facts, and by considering some of the more important omissions from his account of The Family’s history. Chancellor’s methodology necessarily omits from his portrait important details concerning The Family’s authoritarian leadership and the direct role of past and current leaders in the abuse of numerous children and adolescents. Furthermore, by documenting The Family’s practice of deceiving outsiders, including scholars and legal authorities, as to its true nature, this article provides direct evidence that The Family is not entirely as Chancellor and his interviewees make it out to be.

This article is divided into the following sections:

Introduction

Deceivers Yet True

Berg, the End-time Prophet

The Family's Leadership Structure

The Law of Love

The Exorcism of Merry Berg

Children in The Family

The Loving Jesus Revolution

The Family's Position on Rape

Conclusion

Endnotes and References

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INTRODUCTION

In her analysis of recent publications on The Family International (The Family), formerly the Children of God (COG), Susan Raine describes James D. Chancellor’s Life in The Family: An Oral History of the Children of God 1 as “…a comprehensive and valuable account … [that] stands as the most balanced and accessible of academic books” 2 on this organization. Similarly, in an earlier review of the book, Stephen Kent states that “…Chancellor’s significant study sits as the best academic overview of the group to date.” 3 Those assessments are easily reached when one considers the few alternatives. In reaching her conclusion on Chancellor’s book, Raine analyzes three other books, as well as several book chapters and articles. One of the books, Miriam Williams’ Heaven’s Harlots: My Fifteen Years in a Sex Cult, 4 is an autobiography. Although valuable in its own right as a document of life in The Family, Williams’ account is not easily comparable to Chancellor’s book as an academic study. The other two books are dubious, each for its own reasons.
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[1] James D. Chancellor, Life in The Family: An Oral History of the Children of God (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000).

[2] Susan Raine, “The Children of God/The Family: A Discussion of Recent Research (1998–2005),” Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 5, No. 1, 2006.

[3] Stephen Kent, “Book Reviews,” Nova Religio, 8, No. 1 (2004):108–112.

[4] Miriam Williams, Heaven’s Harlots: My Fifteen Years in a Sex Cult (New York: Eagle Brook, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1998).

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William Sims Bainbridge’s bias is evident in his book The Endtime Family: Children of God 5 when “…at times he appears to take on an advocacy role for the movement, hence forsaking impartiality,” 6 contrary to his own assertion that his book is “fair-minded and objective.” 7 Bainbridge concludes that the results of his study, wherein he compares the responses of his survey of Family members to the responses compiled by the General Social Survey, demonstrate that Family “…members are very similar to nonmembers in many respects.” 8 However, Raine “…found that his statistics point very clearly to more fundamental differences than similarities between The Family members and GSS respondents.” 9 Raine was not the first to point to the unreliability of Bainbridge’s writings on The Family. Kent and Krebs cite Bainbridge’s 1997 book, The Sociology of Religious Movements, as an example of “…questionable research … being incorporated, uncritically, into the wider academic literature on The Family's effects on its youth.” 10
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[5] William Sims Bainbridge, The End-Time Family: Children of God (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002).

[6] Raine.

[7] Bainbridge, xii.

[8] Bainbridge, 169.

[9] Raine.

[10] Stephen Kent and Theresa Krebs, “When Scholars Know Sin: Alternative Religions and Their Academic Supporters,” Skeptic Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 3, (1998). Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.apologeticsindex.org/c25.html >

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A few years before the publication of his book on The Family, Bainbridge wrote the foreword to Chancellor’s book. That short foreword contains several uninformed assertions and factual errors concerning The Family that not only further undermine Bainbridge’s reliability on the subject, but also reflect badly on Chancellor’s effort to convey a realistic portrait of the group. The two most obvious errors Bainbridge made are his statements that “The Family does not try to calculate the date of the end time” and that “[m]issionaries that they are, they institutionalized nuclear family.” 11 The former assertion is simply wrong, for The Family teaches that we are now in the Biblical end time. 12 It is also misleading because, for the first 20 years or so of its existence, The Family did calculate specific dates for various end-time events, including the Second Coming, and published their predictions and prophecies extensively. For many years members fully expected Jesus to return in 1993, but when that and other specific prophecies 13 failed to occur, those prophecies were simply re-interpreted or otherwise explained away. 14 Although they no longer predict a precise date for Jesus’ return, at least not publicly, The Family continue to propagate a unique interpretation of the Biblical end time that has them playing pivotal roles in specific end-time events. That Bainbridge misleads readers on this issue, therefore, is disconcerting. Whether or not actual dates are predicted, The Family’s end-time doctrines are fundamental to their identity as an organization and to their indoctrination of children and new members. 15 Furthermore, many of the well-documented systematic abuses that occurred in The Family, such as those in the teen training centers, were directly related to the urgency and specificity of Family end-time prophecies and the belief that these are the “last days.”
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[11] Chancellor, x, xiii.

[12] Some of The Family’s end-time doctrines are available to read online at < http://www.thefamily.org/endtime/ > (accessed 31 Oct. 2006).

[13] See the discussion later in the article on the two end-time witnesses.

[14] Chancellor 84, 85.

[15] The Charter of Responsibilities and Rights, accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter >
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Bainbridge is even more mistaken when he declares that The Family “institutionalized nuclear family.” Certainly, the opposite is true. One of the most fundamental tenets of The Family’s theology is their One Wife doctrine based on a publication of that name, which remains required priority reading for new members: 16
But God’s in the business of breaking up little selfish private worldly families to make of their yielded broken pieces a larger unit—one Family! He’s in the business of destroying the relationships of many wives in order to make them One Wife—God’s Wife—The Bride of Christ. God is not averse to breaking up selfish little families for His glory, to make of the pieces a much larger unselfish unit—the Whole Family—the entire Bride—the One Wife instead of many wives! 17

One Wife is one of The Family’s foundational doctrines, out of which grew even more bizarre and controversial sexual doctrines, some of which are discussed later in this article. Far from institutionalizing the nuclear family, The Family’s leadership has never hesitated to separate husbands and wives or manipulate the parent-child relationship. If The Family places any importance at all in the nuclear family, it is only within the following context, described by Wendell W. Watters, M.D.:

…[S]o powerful is the family in human society that many revolutionary political movements have, in their initial stages, attempted to destroy its power to maintain the status quo, by appealing directly to children over the heads of their parents.
The present-day religious cults are noted for creating rifts between parents and their adolescent children. However, once a movement achieves its revolutionary goals, as in the case of Christianity and communism, it reverses this position and attempts once more to use the family as an ally in maintaining and extending its power. 18

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[16] The Charter, Appendix H. accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter >

[17] David Berg, “One Wife,” ML #249, (1972), accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b4/ml0249.shtml>

[18] Wendell Watters, M.D., Deadly Doctrine: Health, Illness and Christian God-Talk (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992), 47-49.

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If Bainbridge is an unreliable authority on The Family because of his partiality and misinformation, then J. Gordon Melton, author of the 2004 book The Children of God: “The Family,” 19 is equally unreliable. In both the 1986 edition and the revised 1992 edition of the Encyclopaedic Handbook of Cults in America, Melton wrote critically about The Family for five pages, concluding that “The sexual manipulation in the Children of God has now been so thoroughly documented that it is doubtful whether the organization can ever, in spite of whatever future reforms it might initiate, regain any respectable place in the larger religious community.” 20 Yet just two years later, in 1994, he co-edited a collection of essays favourable to The Family entitled Sex, Slander and Salvation; Investigating The Family/Children of God. 21 Kent and Krebs describe 22 how that book was a result of Family representatives seeking advice from certain scholars, including Melton, on how to create a positive public image in the face of negative publicity revolving mostly around allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. They also describe the substantial efforts The Family took to make sure any potentially discrediting information, such as sexual material involving children, was not available to researchers, and that researchers had access only to special, sanitized ‘media homes’ that were not at all representative of regular Family homes. Unsurprisingly, The Family touts that book, which they offer for sale on their Website, as “…proof of its legitimacy and the group has distributed copies to media in an attempt to gain favourable press.” 23 The Family considers Melton, as well as Chancellor, experts on the group, 24 and in 2000 Melton received USD $10,065.83 from The Family. 25
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[19] J. Gordon Melton, The Children of God: “The Family.” Signature Books in cooperation with CESNUR, 2004.

[20] J. Gordon Melton, Encyclopaedic Handbook of Cults in America, revised and updated edition. Garland Reference Library of Social Science (Vol. 797), Religious Information Systems Series, Vol. 7 (New York: Garland Publishing,1992), 224-231.

[21] James R. Lewis & J. Gordon Melton, Eds., Sex, Slander, and Salvation: Investigating the Family/Children of God (Stanford, CA: Centre for Academic Publication, 1994).

[22] Kent and Krebs.

[23] Kent and Krebs.

[24] The Family lists scholars who are favourable to it here; accessed 31 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.thefamily.org/about/referral.php?id=Experts >

[25] The payment is documented online at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/J._Gordon_Melton#Payment_received_from_The_Family > (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).
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As for Melton’s 2004 book on The Family, Raine points out that “…much of his discussion of sexuality in this latest book … is a reiteration of his contributing chapter” 26 10 years earlier in Sex, Slander, and Salvation, which begs the question: Does Melton deliberately downplay the more controversial aspects of sexuality in The Family? Raine identifies several instances wherein Melton demonstrates a seemingly uninformed naiveté concerning The Family’s sexual doctrines and practices. For example, “Melton uses language to minimize the atmosphere of child sexualisation” 27 in The Family. He also glosses over the issue of adult-child sex by ignoring the fact that the practice was advocated in official Family publications, even though he had the benefit of Chancellor’s research, which does admit that fact. 28 Melton also glosses over the issue of rape with the simple, but misleading, assertion that Family founder David Berg “condemned” it. 29 Because the issue of rape is not covered in Chancellor’s account, this article examines Family publications regarding rape that reveal just how misleading Melton is on this subject. By ignoring, downplaying, or misreporting certain inconvenient facts regarding sexuality in The Family, Melton undermines his purported expertise. Consequently, given the shortcomings of both Melton’s and Bainbridge’s studies of The Family, it is not surprising that Chancellor’s account is considered the most comprehensive and best overview of the group to date. However, as comprehensive as his work is, Chancellor does not tell the whole story, for he leaves out certain facts that are essential to an objective, academic understanding of The Family.

Regarding Chancellor’s book, Kent suggests that “[s]ocial scientists, feminists, and some former members may tell the same story very differently, and certainly they will provide less kind interpretations of many facts.” 30 What follows is a critique of Chancellor’s methodology as well as some “less kind interpretations of many facts” as he has presented them. Most importantly, Chancellor’s methodological decision not to consider the leadership structure of The Family necessarily excludes important details regarding past and current Family leaders, including their lack of integrity and their direct role in the abuse of numerous children and adolescents born and/or raised in the group. This article provides details of some of the most important omissions in Chancellor’s narrative of The Family’s history, details that must inform any account of that history.
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[26] Raine.

[27] Raine.

[28] Chancellor, 138.

[29] Melton, The Children of God, 16; cited by Raine.

[30] Kent, “Book Reviews.”
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Deceivers Yet True

Chancellor is one of many academics The Family approached with the idea of having a scholarly book written about them from their perspective. Their intention was to find tolerance, if not acceptance, within the mainstream evangelical Christian community. Taking up the challenge, Chancellor visited or stayed in Family homes in various countries over several years in the 1990s. He interacted with more than 1,000 members, formally interviewing at length more than 200 of them. From those interviews and his observations, he draws many conclusions and makes many claims and assertions about Family life, doctrines, policies, and practices. A number of those claims and conclusions I make no comment on because I lack specific knowledge or experience, but that does not necessarily mean I am in agreement with Chancellor on those issues. For example, there are others better suited to respond to Chancellor’s treatment of the issue of religious prostitution in The Family, known as Flirty Fishing. Also, while I do touch on some issues, I do not present a point-by-point refutation of Chancellor’s observations and conclusions regarding the experiences of those born into the group, the second generation; such an endeavour would be worthwhile. Instead, I focus on the most glaring gaps in Chancellor’s narrative.

Chancellor’s stated purpose is to provide a portrait of “…the every day thinking and doing, the hopes and fears and dreams of the ordinary Child of God.” 31 In doing so, however, he fails to adequately inform readers of the powerful, controlling influence the leadership has over regular members. The problem with his approach, which disregards the leadership structure within The Family’s complex, hierarchical social system, is that it gives a skewed portrait of life in The Family. This method is analogous to studying the body while disregarding the mind.

Chancellor does acknowledge that his book is not the whole story and that The Family requires a broader assessment from academics as well as former members. 32 It is unfortunate, however, that he does not include the voices of at least some former members to provide counterpoints to the more controversial aspects of life in The Family. Instead, he dichotomizes and characterizes former members pejoratively as being either “ the relatively few hostile career apostates” 33 — whatever that implies —or “the thousands of former Children of God who have little or no stake in the outcome.” 34 That kind of black-and-white thinking disregards the middle ground. Hundreds, if not thousands, of former members who are not “career apostates” do have a stake in the outcome because The Family had a negative impact upon either them or their loved ones, especially those of the second generation, or they still have personal family members and friends in the organization. Some former members might have provided useful insights to Chancellor’s effort to understand what life is like for ordinary members. Instead, their exclusion helps create a distorted picture.
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[31] Chancellor, xix.

[32] Chancellor, xxii.

[33] Chancellor’s use of the phrase “career apostates” reveals his bias in the debate over the reliability of accounts by former members of cults or new religious movements. It appears that Chancellor sides with those scholars, such as Melton, who discount the validity of critical former members’ testimonies while naively accepting current members’ testimonies. There are scholars who disagree with that position. Benjamin Zablocki, for example, conducted an empirical study that showed that the reliability of former members is equal to that of those who stayed in one particular group. Zablocki, Benjamin. “Reliability and Validity of Apostate Accounts in the Study of Religious Communities.” Paper presented at the Association for the Sociology of Religion in New York City, Saturday, August 17, 1996. That paper is cited in Langone, Michael Ph.D., The Two “Camps” of Cultic Studies: Time for a Dialogue,http://www.culticstudiesreview.org/csr_articles/langone_michael_full.htm> C&S: Vol.1, No. 1, 2001 accessed 30 Oct. 2006

[34] Chancellor, xxii.

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Chancellor’s chronicle of The Family’s story from their perspective is further undermined by The Family’s deceivers-yet-true doctrine, 35 which permits members to deceive and lie to further their mission. The public face The Family presents does not reflect the group’s true nature, and members have a deep distrust of outsiders, a distrust inculcated by the teachings of their revered founder, David Berg. Chancellor is convinced that he was able to overcome that distrust, in part because members were instructed by their leaders to cooperate with him. 36 Curiously, however, he does not refer to the widely practiced deceivers-yet-true doctrine and the difficulty that it presents to anyone interested in sorting out fact from fiction regarding The Family.

Chancellor must surely have known of that doctrine, if not directly from The Family’s publications, then from the well-known British child-custody case 37 in the mid-1990s concerning a Family child, which he refers to only briefly. Near the beginning of the 295-page judgment in that case, in a section titled “The Family’s Attitude to Lies and Deception,” Justice Ward speaks to the issue of the veracity of Family witnesses by specific reference to the deceivers-yet-true doctrine, stating, “I regret to find that in many instances there has been a lack of frankness and a failure to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” He then gives six specific examples of how The Family’s witnesses were less than honest in the proceedings and goes on to say, “These are worrying examples and they are not the only ones of the ingrained habit of lying if they have to and of telling half the truth if they can get away with it.” Throughout the judgment, Ward provides further examples of Family witnesses “dissembling the truth—deceiving yet true” and withholding incriminating documentary evidence from the court. Given The Family’s ingrained habit of lying and dissembling the truth, one cannot help but wonder why Chancellor does not warn his readers of that doctrine. Consequently, the strong possibility that his interviewees might have been less than honest with him leaves this portrait of The Family tarnished by their doctrine of deceit.

Other factors besides the deceivers-yet-true doctrine and the role of leadership that Chancellor either omits or fails to adequately address, thus further distorting his picture, include Berg’s alcoholism and anti-Semitism, Family policies and practices that deny personal autonomy to its members, The Family’s teachings on rape, and The Family’s beliefs—as opposed to its public stance—regarding sex between adults and minors, which are encapsulated in their primary doctrine, the Law of Love.
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[35] The Family produced an illustrated children’s version of a letter written by their founder, David Berg, titled Deceivers, Yet True. The illustrated version, known as a True Komix, uses various Bible verses to expound on the idea that it is proper to deceive and lie to outsiders in order to protect the Lord’s work. Accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/tk/deceivers_yet_true.html> A detailed analysis of The Family’s deceitful policies and practices is available to read online at <http://www.exfamily.org/the-family/policy-on-lying-and-deception.shtml> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[36] Chancellor, xxiii. “After the top level of leadership authorized the study, however, the nature and quality of access shifted.”

[37] The case was the longest child-custody case ever in Britain, with 75 days of hearings. Justice Ward took almost one year to write his 295-page judgment, which is available to read in its entirety here: <http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

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Berg, the End-Time Prophet

The first requirement of Family membership, according to their Charter of Responsibilities and Rights, or the Love Charter, 38 (the Charter), is to believe in Berg’s divine anointing as God’s end-time prophet. “ Once Berg had clarified his status as God’s unique Prophet for the End Time,” Chancellor writes, “all disciples were called upon to submit fully to his absolute spiritual authority. He left no room for ambiguity at all. ” 39 Leaving aside the obvious contradiction between that statement and Chancellor’s earlier assertion that members are free to interpret or accept Family doctrines to varying degrees, 40 Chancellor downplays three darker aspects of Berg’s character. Berg’s sexual perversities, notably his incestuous abuse of his granddaughter Merry, are either left out of Chancellor’s study or skimmed over and so are discussed below in some detail. 41 Also, his alcoholism and anti-Semitism must not go unmentioned because the Family continue to honour Berg as their revered leader, consider his writings divinely inspired, and believe that he continues to speak to them from Heaven. 42

Although Chancellor says he immersed himself in “…what seemed an endless stream of Family literature,” 43 as well as secondary sources, he demonstrates a certain naïveté concerning Berg’s personality, as seen from the following passage:
Despite [his] assertions of divine insight, The Prophet consistently acknowledged his human weaknesses and capacity for error. He freely admitted that he had been wrong in claiming the Jews had special status with God. He openly confessed his bout with alcoholism and his times of doubt and fear. 44

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[38] The Charter of Responsibilities and Rights contains the basic beliefs, and details the fundamental responsibilities and rights, of the disciples, as well as the rules and guidelines for communal life. The Charter and the Amendments is available to read online at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[39] Chancellor, 65.

[40] Chancellor, 59.

[41] For further examples of Berg’s sexual deviancy, including incest or attempts at incest with his two daughters and another granddaughter besides Merry, see Stephen Kent, “Lustful Prophet: A Psychosexual Historical Study of the Children of God's Leader, David Berg,” Cultic Studies Journal, Volume 11 No. 2 (1994):135-188. Also see <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/David_Berg#Alleged_sexual_abuse> and <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Berg_on_Pedophilia> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[42] Since the death of David Berg in 1994, The Family’s publications are rife with references to him speaking to Maria and others from beyond the grave. The following excerpt illustrates how Maria continues to seek guidance from Berg, and how specific his apparent instructions are:
This is not the first time I’ve [Maria] heard of this lack of respect from you younger ones for your parents and the other adults . This seems to be a fairly widespread problem, so I asked someone in my Home to pray about this, and the Lord had Dad speak. He has something important to say to both you kids and you adults!
(Dad speaking:) What in the world is going on?! How can people get so far off the track ? It's really sad! It's pitiful to see young kids treating their parents with such disrespect. I never would have put up with it! Children are expected to obey their parents, to respect and love them, to listen to them and take heed to their counsel. JETTs and teens in the Family are still minors, and they're still expected to obey their parents whether they like it or not! Whether they agree with their parents' counsel or not, they are still under their shepherding, and they are expected to humble themselves and accept their parents' instruction and obey them.
Karen Zerby (Maria), "Help From Heaven! Answers to Your Questions,” ML #3056 (1996), pars. 14–16; accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b2/3056.shtml>

[43] Chancellor, xviii.

[44] Chancellor, 66, 67.

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However, as with many leaders in The Family, Berg’s confessions were highly selective and offered only when it was expedient, not from genuine remorse. For example, if Berg was so consistently contrite and willing to admit mistakes, why is it that he never confessed to any wrongdoing regarding the diabolical abuse and public demonization he subjected his granddaughter to? Chancellor’s use of the word consistent to describe Berg is astonishing. He seems to accept at face value self-described aspects of Berg's behaviour and personality, as well as assessments by his loyal followers. The reality, however, is that change is a driving force in The Family, and Berg was constantly changing his mind on matters both trivial and momentous, effectively keeping members off-balance, never knowing what to expect, thus furthering their dependence on him. 45

More astonishing is Chancellor’s example of Berg’s willingness to admit errors; namely, Berg’s admission that his initial claim that Jews had special status with God was wrong. Although he had unprecedented access to Family literature, Chancellor completely ignores the fact that, immediately after Berg became disillusioned about the Jews while he was visiting Israel in the early 1970s, he began to write, publish, and disseminate vicious, anti-Semitic hate literature, which is a crime in some countries. He praised Hitler, denied the Holocaust ever happened, and published a version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a document that purports to detail a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, but which repeatedly has been debunked since as early as the 1920s. The Family’s publications are rife with extremely negative references to Jews. Neither Berg nor subsequent leadership ever renounced those writings. 46 To the contrary, in 1992 Karen Zerby, a.k.a. Maria, Berg’s second wife and heir to his ‘throne,’ boasted, “Of course we’re being a little quiet about the Jews now, but we’re going to come to the place where we’re going to come right out and tell the truth about them.” 47
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[45] For an example of Berg’s capriciousness, see the discussion below on rape, in which Berg blames a murder victim and her husband for being out of God’s will when, in fact, they were only doing what he had earlier suggested for all members to do.

[46] For a detailed study of this subject, see the article “Berg and Anti-Semitism” (2003) online at <http://www.exfamily.org/cgi-bin/gf.pl?fmt=dyn&t=articles&m=1&s=&r=art/exmem/bergs_anti-semitism.shtml> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[47] Karen Zerby (Maria), Concern About CA[child abuse] Question – Presenting to Public & Explaining to Family, Maria Monologue #5 (1992). Accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Karen_Zerby#The_Maria_Monologues> The Maria Monologues contain excerpts from the transcripts of audio recordings made by Maria’s staff. The excerpts cited here were edited and published in Summit Jewels ‘93, a document intended only for Family leaders. Sections of that document are available online at http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/misc/summit-93-jewels-scans.shtml

Portions of that audio recording also formed the basis of a Letter for all members called “Our Beliefs Concerning The Lord’s Law of Love,” available online at http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml2858.shtml

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The only other evidence Chancellor cites in his portrayal of Berg as being consistently contrite is that “he openly confessed his bout with alcoholism and his times of doubt and fear” 48 Doubt and fear are universal emotions, so there is nothing special in confessing those. As for alcoholism , Berg’s drinking habits are well documented in his writings, starting in 1971, although most members were unaware of how serious the problem was until much later. His so-called formal confession was really no confession at all, as evidenced by the past tense in the title: My Confession!—I Was an Alcoholic! 49 That confession and his subsequent admissions of heavy drinking were little more than justifications and excuses for why he drank so much, rather than a real attempt to admit and overcome his problem. He continued to drink heavily after that confession, despite serious stomach problems, until his health deteriorated to the point that he had no choice but to stop for the last few years before his death in 1994. Berg never sought professional help for his serious drinking problem, which adversely affected his followers for at least two decades. Much of his capricious and abusive behaviour, wild speculations, bizarre beliefs, and supposed prophecies used to control members can be traced directly to the large amounts of alcohol he consumed.

Chancellor's choice of the word bout to describe Berg’s alcoholism is curious. By definition, a bout is a limited period, so it is troubling that he uses the oxymoronic phrase “bout with alcoholism” to gloss over Berg’s 20 years of alcohol dependency. Either Chancellor does not know the basic and widely accepted fact that alcoholism is a chronic disease, or he has simply accepted uncritically The Family's version of events. There is no question that Berg drank copious amounts of alcohol; he admitted that he once “…drank 69 bottles of sherry in 21 days!” 50 A thorough study of Berg’s writings reveals, in his own words, just how dependent on alcohol he was throughout most of his entire reign over Family members. 51
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[48] Chancellor, 63

[49] David Berg, “My Confession!—I Was an Alcoholic!” ML #1406 (1982), available online at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml1406.shtml> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[50] Berg, “My Confession...,” 10.

[51] “The Alcoholic Prophet” by Ed Priebe (2003); accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/cgi-bin/gf.pl?fmt=dyn&t=articles&m=1&s=&r=art/exmem/alcoholic_prophet.shtml>

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Contrary to Chancellor’s portrait of a consistently contrite leader, Berg's self-aggrandizement knew no limits and was a primary method for retaining control over his followers. As Chancellor himself points out, “after the necessity to win souls for Jesus, Father David's claim as Prophet and King is the most consistent theme in Family literature." 52 Curiously, however, The Family's Statement of Faith, which is reproduced in Appendix A of Chancellor’s book and is also on The Family’s official Website, contains 30 separate topics but does not even mention Berg. 53 Although Berg’s writings are considered by his followers to be more important than the Bible, the self-professed end-time prophet and king is not included in the statements on the scriptures, spirits of departed saints, civil government, or eschatological or prophetic considerations. That Statement deals in some detail with end-time events, so the absence of any reference to The Family’s end-time prophet is suspicious, especially since he remains the revered founder whose writings continue to be believed and acted upon.

If the first requirement of membership in The Family is to believe in Berg’s divine anointing as God’s end-time prophet, then why is Berg so conspicuously absent from their Statement of Faith? It is important to recall that Chancellor’s book is a result of The Family contacting academics interested in studying new religious movements. Chancellor reports that Family leadership “...was particularly interested in the possibilities for acceptance of The Family in the wider world of traditional Christianity.” 54 To that end, they had encapsulated their primary beliefs in a formal Statement, hoping that doing this might facilitate their quest to be accepted by the greater Christian community. No wonder, then, that The Family leaves out of their Statement of Faith any reference whatsoever to Berg, and that their official Website makes no mention of their belief in Berg’s primary importance as God’s final end-time prophet who reputedly continues to speak to and lead them from Heaven. This is but one more example of their reliance on the deceivers-yet-true doctrine, which they believe gives them moral authority to deceive outsiders regarding the true nature of their organization. 55
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[52] Chancellor, 69.

[53] A critical analysis of The Family's Statement of Faith by a former member is available online at <http://www.makestraightpaths.com/> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[54] Chancellor, xviii.

[55] Another doctrine that is conspicuously absent from both The Family’s Statement of Faith and official Website is the Law of Love, Love Charter states, “The rule that should be emphasized above all is the Law of Love.” The discussion of this doctrine that follows herein suggests reasons why that prime directive of their faith is absent from their formal presentations to outsiders.

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The Family’s Leadership Structure

Constant organizational change is a way of life for The Family, and this flux presents a challenge when one is discussing its leadership structure and power dynamics. Chancellor avoids that difficulty by not discussing those aspects in any significant way. However, in his narrowly focused quest to discover “…the every day thinking and doing, the hopes and fears and dreams of the ordinary Child of God,” 56 he fails to adequately inform his readers of the many ways in which the leaders manipulate those hopes, fears, and dreams, even when the leaders are not physically present.

Chancellor’s interviews reveal that Family members “… hold a complex and somewhat ambivalent appreciation of the authoritarian nature of their movement,” 57 and he acknowledges that “… the disciples have lived most of their lives under the direct control of their leaders.” 58 However, during his visits to Family homes, everyone most certainly would have been on their best behaviour, so it is unlikely he would have witnessed directly the authoritarian control leaders exert over their followers. Furthermore, members are primarily controlled through Family publications that purport to reveal God’s highest will for them. As Justice Ward pointed out when he was discussing the fervour with which Family witnesses defended the practice of religious prostitution known as Flirty Fishing, “[that fervour] demonstrates the power which Berg wields through his letters to suborn the will of his disciples so that they do not know right from wrong.” 59
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[56] Chancellor, xix.

[57] Chancellor, 92.

[58] Chancellor, 90.

[59] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—the Evidence on FFing”; accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

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Chancellor’s interviewees assert, for the most part, that the worst abuses of authority occurred prior to 1978, when Berg fired the entire leadership in a reorganizational move that is referred to as the RNR. To his credit, Chancellor is aware that

…as crucial as the RNR was, it did not alter the basic orientation that requires an authoritarian system of community organization and control. There are numerous stories of tension, stress, and mistreatment received at the hands of ap pointed leaders, both before and after the RNR. 60

What Chancellor does not make clear, however, is the fact that the majority of abuses, including sexual crimes and torture, occurred long after the RNR in 1978. Furthermore, his use of the word mistreatment minimizes the physical, sexual, and emotional abuses so many suffered. He downplays that abuse and instead expresses confidence that The Family’s Charter brought a new era of democratic reform and personal freedom for regular members.

After Berg’s death in 1994, Maria and her Berg-appointed partner, Steven Kelly, a.k.a. Peter, took absolute control of The Family. Berg had been grooming Maria since at least 1978 to take over The Family when he died, and he had handpicked Peter to help her with that task. Members were conditioned through Berg’s letters to accept that plan as divinely inspired, and so there was no succession struggle. In fact, Maria was already running things during the last few years of Berg’s life, and upon his death members merely acquiesced to Maria and Peter’s control. They exert that control through World Services (WS), the highly secretive executive branch of the organization whose main function is to provide spiritual direction and international administration. Many prophecies, purportedly from Jesus and Berg, published after Berg’s death, conveniently portray Maria as the end-time prophetess, Queen of the End, and Peter as her king. In a 1998 letter titled “Heavenly Birthdays,” 61 both Maria and Peter are portrayed as pre-existing in Heaven and engaged in conversation with Jesus before he sent them on their earthly end-time mission. The dialogue is very precise, and Maria, already full of hubris from years of glorification by Berg, is told that her earthly birth will be the turning point in world history. It is their claimed special status and direct link to God, through Jesus and Berg, that enables Maria and Peter to manipulate their followers’ beliefs and that presents the greatest danger to gullible members and their innocent children, notwithstanding any Charter rights they appear to possess.
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[60] Chancellor, 92.

[61] Karen Zerby (Maria), “Heavenly Birthdays!” ML #3193 (1998). Accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b2/3193.shtml>

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Regardless of such heavenly pretensions of absolute spiritual authority, Maria and Peter were compelled by external events, including the British child-custody case, to introduce the Charter to members in 1995. Updated in 1998 and amended in 2003, the Charter is a codification of rules, responsibilities, and beliefs that have accumulated since The Family’s inception; it rivals the Pentateuch in its vast number of dicta intended to regulate most aspects of members’ lives. Chancellor reports that “[h]omes are far more democratic” 62 since the Charter’s inception, but he provides no real evidence of that observation other than a brief comment from a young-adult interviewee who naively claims, “ There is no one person in control of your life. You have the right to speak up, to disagree.… The Charter has really changed my life for the better.” 63 That interviewee may not have been very familiar with the provisions of the Charter, for it expressly forbids genuine dissent 64 and requires strict, unquestioning adherence to all Family fundamental beliefs, both Biblical and revealed. A primary prerequisite of membership is not only to believe that Berg was God’s final end-time prophet, but that Maria inherited his spiritual authority as God’s mouthpiece on Earth. God’s will is reputedly revealed, through either Jesus or Berg, to Maria and Peter, who then instruct Family members on the latest revelations from Heaven. Members are required to accept those revelations as God’s will for themselves, and they must not question, doubt, or criticize any aspect of The Family’s dogma. 65
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[62] Chancellor, 241.

[63] Chancellor, 241.

[64] The Fundamental Family Rules, section 43(I); accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter>

[65] The Loving Jesus Revolution, in which all members, male and female, must imagine themselves as having sexual intercourse with Jesus, is but one example of a bizarre, newly revealed doctrine that, under the Charter, all members must not only believe, but teach. This doctrine is discussed further in the article.
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Freedom of speech is a fundamental tenet of democracy, yet in The Family no one is truly free to question or criticize Maria or Peter’s authority, or Family rules and doctrines. Their Charter makes it clear that such questions and criticisms are excommunicable offences. 66 A recent defector, Steve Matheson, who devoted 27 years to the organization, writes in his blog a more accurate assessment of the Charter’s democratizing effect on the Family:

I believe there would have to be a complete change in the leadership structure and method of leadership, with more Democracy, more Transparency, and more Accountability. It’s dangerous when you have a situation like we have now in The Family with one or two people at the top with a lot of control over people’s minds and lives, and answerable to no one supposedly but God. 67

All Family homes were notified on January 20, 2006, that Matheson was excommunicated and no longer a Family member for sowing dissension by questioning the leadership of Maria and Peter. Other recent defectors, especially since the tragic events in 2005 involving Maria’s son (discussed below), share Matheson’s concerns about the tyrannical nature of The Family’s top leadership. 68 In the years since Chancellor’s book was published, the Charter clearly has not had the democratizing influence Chancellor claimed it had, for it merely gives the pretence of democracy without the substance.
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[66] The Fundamental Family Rules, section 43 (I); accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter>

[67] Matheson’s blog is online at < http://steve1.wordpress.com/ > (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[68] See the last paragraph preceding the Conclusion of this article. Also, personal accounts from recent defectors are available to read at various ex-member Websites, including www.exfamily.org and www.movingon.org .
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Although there is nothing unusual about an organization setting rules and requirements for membership, two aspects of the Charter are particularly disturbing. First, the Preface to the Charter makes clear that “ [t]he rule that should be emphasized above all is the Law of Love. ” I will have more to say about that pernicious doctrine later. The second major concern is the ability of Maria or Peter to arbitrarily revoke any provision of the Charter. 69 In 2004, Maria did just that, directing Family members to “fast worldly input” for a six-month period, which she called the Renewal and claimed was directly ordained by Jesus. The renewal period was to begin June 15 and end November 30, 2004, and it was required for all Family Disciple (FD) and Missionary Member (MM) Homes. Instructions for the renewal included the following:

All FD and MM Homes will fast worldly input for the duration of the renewal period. This includes movie watching, TV/sports watching, System music, novel reading, computer games, or Internet browsing (except for business purposes). 70

If anything can facilitate democracy within The Family, it is the Internet, which enables regular members to surreptitiously communicate with each other and with former members. It also allows them to access unfiltered information otherwise unavailable to them, some of which is highly critical of Family leadership, doctrines, and practices. Unfortunately, just as totalitarian regimes do, The Family’s leadership severely constrains members’ access to outside information, which is considered untrustworthy or harmful. Only information that conforms to The Family’s worldview is acceptable; and in the totalitarian milieu of Family life, self-censorship becomes an ingrained habit. That self-censorship is helped along by frequent reminders and suggestions from Maria or Peter, which in The Family are as good as orders, that members are “…not going to find out the truth via the news media or the Internet.” 71 And when that self-censoring habit becomes too relaxed, Maria simply pulls on her chains of control, as with that six-month fasting period. The true intent of censorship policies regarding information from any unapproved source is to keep members in ignorance, and thus easier to control. Clearly, the Charter does not provide true autonomy for members.
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[69] Section 22 (A-E) of The Charter allows World Service to revoke or override any provision for any reason. There is no check on this power, which can be invoked unilaterally and arbitrarily. Available online at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter >

[70] Karen Zerby (Maria), “Renewal: The Big Picture,” ML #3489 (2004), pars. 8, 12.

[71] Maria, “The Truth About Angela's Death and Ricky's Suicide, Part 1,” #3529, January 2005, par. 23. Accessed 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=9&ID=2581>

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In a democracy, a constitutional document such as the Charter is intended to protect citizens from arbitrary actions of government, and creating constitutional amendments is an extremely onerous legal process. The American Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are two good examples of enlightened constitutional documents. They clearly set out the guaranteed rights and freedoms everyone is entitled to and that cannot be abrogated except in rare and well-defined situations. The Canadian Charter, for example, “…guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” 72 States with such constitutions have checks and balances on governmental power, and legal recourse when government oversteps its bounds. Not so The Family’s Charter, which puts members’ responsibilities to the group first, ahead of their individual rights—rights that are not guaranteed, but can be revoked or amended at the whim of Queen Maria and King Peter. Whatever limited rights members might have, they exist precariously within The Family’s dubious theology. Although the advent of the Charter might appear to have turned The Family into a benign, constitutional monarchy, the organization remains, in practice, an absolute monarchy because The Family’s adherence to the theocratic doctrine of divine right is antithetical to democracy.

The foregoing analogy to temporal governments is not overstating the matter. Family publications are replete with regal and militaristic language and imagery, and The Family and its members refer to themselves, among other things, as the Lord’s army, end-time soldiers, and a new nation. An early Family publication was called The New Nation News. In 1972 Berg orchestrated an elaborate coronation ceremony, and in 1996 Maria and Peter did the same. They do not consider these activities mere fantasy role-playing.73 As Chancellor points out,

Prophet of the End Time was not [Berg’s] only title; he was also King of God’s New Nation. He claimed not only absolute spiritual authority over his disciples, but also political authority and the homage due their rightful king. Old Testament passages referring to King David were appropriated for God’s new King David. 74
The Family has always envisioned itself as a spiritual nation, but one that possesses real, divinely ordained powers of conquest and government, which they will wield over all the peoples of the earth as God’s elite during the Millennium.
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[72] Canadian Constitution Act, 1982, section 1.

[73] In chapter 1 of her book, The Children of God: The Inside Story from the Daughter of the Founder, Deborah Davis, Berg’s first daughter, describes her elaborate coronation as Queen of The Family in 1972. The full book is available to read at <http://www.exfamily.org/cgi-bin/gf.pl?fmt=dyn&t=articles&m=1&s=&r=art/exmem/debdavis/the_cog.html> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

According to James Penn (see note 79), in 1996 The Family held a summit meeting in Maryland, in the United States, for top leaders. A pledging ceremony was held in which King Peter and a stand-in for Queen Maria sat on thrones dressed up in medieval, royal costumes while every participant came forward, one by one, to make their vows of loyalty. A video of the event was later shown to all Family homes.

[74] Chancellor, 68.

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By not discussing World Services and the leadership structure in any detail, Chancellor leaves out of his study an entire subgroup of members who work behind the scenes in clandestine WS homes. Many people in those Service homes are regular members with no leadership responsibilities, and some are children, although the children are not nearly as numerous as in regular homes. WS homes are held up as model homes that set a standard for residents of regular homes to live up to. 75 Although Family members are recruited into WS because of specific skills they possess and not necessarily because they model exemplary behaviour, they are, nevertheless, expected to obey unquestioningly and closely follow all rules and policies. In some ways those who live in WS homes have it easier than members in front-line outreach homes. For example, residents of WS homes do not have to sell Family publications on the street or door-to-door, or worry about housing, finances, and personal needs the way those in regular homes do. However, their personal autonomy is severely constrained, 76 and they have to endure very long hours of work each day. All ties with loved ones—not just those outside the group, but also those within it—are severely curtailed, and any communications that are allowed are censored. As Berg once bluntly put it, WS members are virtual prisoners under house arrest:

This is the toughest job you’ll ever have. You’re going to find out you’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked & the rules are going to be tougher than you ever lived under before & the risks of security are going to be greater. Some people can’t stand the confinement of a Selah Colony. 77 ... Like somebody said, it’s like living in prison or under house arrest. That’s true. You don’t have very much liberty here at all. Nobody’s allowed to go anywhere but people who have business outside & have to go.... Look, we have everything, everything a heart could desire!—but freedom. 78

WS members live a very restricted and isolated life, are in a constant state of high security alert bordering on paranoia, are under the constant scrutiny of top leadership, and have every aspect of their lives open to capricious criticism. After he had left The Family in 1998, a high-profile WS whistle-blower known by the Family pseudonym of James Penn, began to expose some of the more sinister aspects of WS and Family leadership. A member of WS for 19 years, including 13 years as a trusted member of Berg, Maria, and Peter’s inner circle, James is familiar with much of their conniving and machinations. After his defection, he wrote about life in WS, stating that

WS continues to be a highly secretive, weird “inner circle” cult financed completely by members of the outer circle. Alienated in many ways from the rest of the Family and society, WS is an extremely sexualized atmosphere with lots of threesomes, wife swapping, and more. The shepherds exert strong control, manipulating marriages and relationships to accomplish desired goals. And yes, the prime responsibility of several staff members is simply to act as spiritual channels. Some live in the basement, doing little else. 79

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[75] In a March 2000 letter that Maria wrote to the staff of the Family Care Foundation, she said, “…it is so important that our WS supported Service Homes set the right example for the other Service and regular field Homes.” This letter is available for reading online at <http://www.exfamily.org/chatbbs/genx/archives2/17874.htm> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[76] Section 16 (A) of the Charter states that “…members of a Service Home … may need to relinquish specific rights granted by the Charter….” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter>

[77] “Selah” is a code word to indicate that something is secret. “Colony” is a term used in the early years to refer to a Family home.

[78] David Berg, “You Must Obey the Least of these Commandments!—A Personal Talk on Our Family Security!” ML #1827 (1983), pars. 33, 34, 37. A heavily censored version of that letter is available online at < http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml1827.shtml > (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[79] James Penn, “All of These Things Moved Me” (2001). Accessed online 31 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/All_of_These_Things_Moved_Me >

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Children are especially vulnerable in such environments, for they are cut off not only from society, but also from other Family children. The ultimate consequence of raising a child in that kind of environment occurred in January 2005, when Ricky Rodriguez, Maria’s son, 80 tragically murdered her long-time assistant, Angela Smith, before he killed himself.

A few years before that tragedy, Ricky had left The Family, but he was raised throughout his childhood and early teen years in Berg’s household—that is, in an isolated, restrictive, and highly sexualized environment. Berg took immense pride in Ricky, known in The Family as Davidito (little David), grooming him to be the heir to Berg’s ‘throne’. Berg also prophesied that Ricky and Maria would be the two end-time witnesses spoken of in Revelations 11. 81 Ricky’s upbringing was an open book, every aspect of which was documented in the infamous Story of Davidito, including his sexual initiation by adults while he was still a very young child. That book and related publications were considered the primary authority for raising children in The Family. However, Ricky had long harboured a deep resentment of the way in which he had been raised. He grew increasingly disillusioned with The Family’s bizarre beliefs and disgusted with how he had been used by his mother and Berg; so in early 2001, he left The Family. During the next few years, Ricky struggled to adjust to life outside The Family. The abuse he had suffered, coupled with his mother’s continual refusal to accept responsibility for the widespread abuses of children and adolescents, weighed heavily on him. 82 Tormented by grief and anger, he concluded that his mother must be stopped. If she could not be brought to justice, he would attempt to end her life; and so he plotted his revenge. In early January 2005, he arranged to meet with Angela Smith, hoping that she would lead him to his mother, if not willingly, then by force. When that plan failed, he murdered her in a last desperate attempt, emphasized by his suicide, to send a message to The Family. In a video he left behind, he partly blames his secluded childhood, in which he was abused and saw other children routinely abused, for pushing him to take the extreme revenge that he did. At the end of the video he states, “...they sure fucked with our brains … used us as slaves … just there for those sick fucker’s pleasure. That’s the way it was at Grandfather’s and Mamma’s house.” 83

In their public-relations damage control after the Rodríguez murder-suicide, The Family accused vindictive apostates of egging Ricky on, while they claimed that thousands of former members remain favourable to The Family. 84 Their language is suspiciously similar to Chancellor’s dichotomous characterization of former members cited above. The Family assumes that, because the vast majority of the thousands of people who have left the group over the years remain silent about their past affiliation with The Family, they all are favourable to the group. That assumption is typical of The Family’s logic. However, there are almost as many reasons for former members to remain silent about their involvement with The Family as there are former members. Some common motivations are fear, guilt, embarrassment, shame, or the fact that loved ones remain in the group, and the former members do not want to jeopardize any communication with those who remain or their eventual emancipation. Many former members have simply chosen to put their questionable past behind them and concentrate instead on making up for wasted years. Thousands of former members might never speak up, having found new lives that they do not want disrupted by further controversy; but their silence more likely indicates an abhorrence of The Family than support for it.
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[80] Berg was not Ricky’s biological father. Ricky was The Family’s first “Jesus Baby,” the fruit of their infamous Flirty Fishing ministry, in which members used sex to win converts and supporters.

[81] David Berg, “The End-Time Witnesses,” ML #707 (1978) pars. 14-17. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/The_End-Time_Witnesses > As with all of Berg’s failed prophecies, including his prophesy of Jesus’ return in 1993, The Family explains this failure not as Berg’s, but as the failure of all necessary conditions to be in place for the prophecy to come true. In other words, they blamed Ricky. See Karen Zerby (Maria), “The Truth About Angela's Death and Ricky's Suicide, Part 2,” ML #3530 (2005) pars. 29, 30. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=9&ID=2584>

[82] For a first-hand account of these events in Ricky’s own words, see <http://www.rickyrodriguez.org/> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[83] The video and its transcript are accessible at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Ricky_Rodriguez_video> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).


[84] Karen Zerby (Maria), “The Truth About Angela's Death and Ricky's Suicide, Part 1,” ML #3529 (2005), pars. 40, 64. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=9&ID=2581>
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The Law of Love

The Family’s Law of Love is the governing tenet of their theology. As the Preface to the Charter states: “The rule that should be emphasized above all is the Law of Love.” 85 This belief is commonly expressed as “God’s only law is love” and is based on Berg’s peculiar interpretation of scripture, that God has freed Family members from all legal restrictions in the Bible so that all things are pure and lawful for “God’s last Church.” On its face, the Law of Love seems a benign, altruistic doctrine whereby members exemplify God’s love to each other and outsiders; but, in its application, the Law has led to sexual abuse of numerous children and adolescents. At its core the Law of Love is a maleficent doctrine that provides moral justification for the practice of almost all Biblical and secular sexual taboos. As Berg wrote to his followers,
As far as God’s concerned, there are no more sexual prohibitions hardly of any kind … there’s nothing in the world at all wrong with sex as long as it’s practiced in love, whatever it is, whoever it’s with, no matter who or what age or what relative or what manner! … There are no relationship restrictions or age limitations in His law of love.... 86
In one of his original missives on the subject, Berg wrote that the Law of Love requires that “…any projected sexual associations should have the willing consent of all parties concerned or affected…” and, lacking that, then it is “not in love nor according to God’s law of love.” 87 However, nowhere in Berg or Maria’s writings are there any discussions of the inability of minors to give informed consent to sexual activity with an adult. In fact, the opposite is true. Their writings reveal a complete ignorance of the concept of informed consent concerning sexual conduct between adults and minors. As Justice Ward pointed out, children
…do not have the maturity to understand the emotional consequences of any sexual engagement, … [and] due to the imbalance of power between adult and child, any decision of the child is made under influence and pressure. Apparent consent is thereby vitiated. 88

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[85] Preface to the Charter, accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Charter>

[86] David Berg, “The Devil Hates Sex! But God Loves It!” ML # 999 (1980), pars. 35, 69, and 110. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/ml999_main.shtml> According to Berg, one of the few remaining sexual prohibitions is male homosexuality.

[87] David Berg, “The Law of Love,” ML # 302C (1974), par. 14. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b4/ml0302C.shtml>

[88] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—The Oral Evidence of Child/Adult Abuse —Conclusions #2.” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html>

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Although Chancellor devotes an entire chapter to the Law of Love, detailing the development of The Family’s sexual doctrines, he makes no comment himself on the issue of minors and informed consent. Instead, he provides excerpts from two interviews in which the female interviewees—including a mother whose own minor daughter had been subjected to sexual activity with adults—both admit in hindsight, after the British custody case, that “[c]hildren are not able to make free and informed consent.” 89 However, because of Chancellor’s methodological decision to omit top-level leadership from his study, readers are left with the false impression that Family members, including Maria and Peter, now understand and accept that it is not possible for a child of any age to give informed consent to sexual activity of any kind with an adult. Maria and Peter simply do not accept that position.

From 1985 on, The Family issued a series of contradictory public and internal policy statements in response to allegations of child abuse. 90 During the British custody case, they withheld the more incriminating documents from Ward, but he found even those that were submitted to the court to be dishonest and disingenuous in their attempts to blame individual members and deny that Berg or other leaders were responsible for widespread abuses. With regard to one of those documents, Ward stated,
It is pertinent to note from that statement how inappropriately The Family shift the responsibility from the abusing adult and place it not just on the teens but also on the children—i.e., those below 13. They are the ones expected to have to say “No” to prevent advantage being taken of them against their will. 91

Ward was wise to be “…suspicious that the internal records of this highly organized computerized group contain information they wish to withhold from the court.” 92
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[89] Chancellor, 140.

[90] For an analysis of those documents, see the article “The Family’s Policy on Lying & Deception” (2005). Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/the-family/policy-on-lying-and-deception.shtml >

[91] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—The Oral Evidence of Child/Adult Abuse—The Family’s Response to This Abuse.” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html>

[92] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—The Oral Evidence of Child/Adult Abuse—The Family’s Response to This Abuse.” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >
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One of the most incriminating documents withheld from Ward is Summit ‘93 Mama Jewels No. 2, 93 which is a consolidation of confidential notes and policy statements that Maria sent to a top-level leadership conference in late 1992. That publication reveals that years after they claimed that all adult/child sexual conduct was prohibited, Family leadership continued to promote the practice as acceptable under the Law of Love. 94 That document was withheld from the court for good reason, because in it, among other things, Maria expresses her continued belief that the Law of Love permits sexual conduct between adults and minors:
I’m sorry that we couldn’t come out a little more forthrightly in the Child Abuse Statement, bringing out the point that all sex between adults & minors is not bad, sinful, harmful or abusive. However, the problem was that we didn’t know how much we could say without putting the Family at legal risk.… We certainly do not want to say that [Berg’s] Letters were wrong or to say anything that will infer that they were wrong, because they weren’t wrong.… Of course, having actual intercourse with a child wouldn’t be okay as it wouldn’t be loving, but a little fondling & sweet affection is not wrong in the eyes of God, & if they have experienced the same in the past they weren’t “abused”.… This is about the only subject we’re really going along with the system, we’re playing along with them, we’re acting like we believe what we did was wrong, because we have changed and stopped doing it.… [But] how can you put a boundary on it, or an age limit? If you can have sex with someone of 21, what’s wrong with having sex with somebody of 18, or 16 or 15? Those are manmade rulings & limitations & boundaries.… If the Law of Love is right, then it applies clear across the board no matter what age it is.95

From one of The Family’s child-abuse policy statements that Ward did have, he provides the following excerpt to illustrate The Family’s insincerity on this issue: “This is the very thing the system would like to use against us—sex with minors which they always term child abuse although in our loving Family there would be very little possibility of genuine abuse….” Ward sees that statement for what it is, “…a worrying disingenuous statement based upon the totally flawed belief that if done in love in accordance with the Law of Love, sex with minors (child abuse) is not capable of being abusive.” 96 Other than actual intercourse, Maria does not believe that sexual activity between an adult and a minor within The Family could ever be genuine abuse.

That doctrinal position continues to place minors in The Family at risk of sexual abuse, as that term is understand by any moral person, for it allows a wide range of sexual activity that Maria does not consider abuse but instead refers to as “fondling” or “sweet affection.” She clearly does not have the moral sense to understand that a minor can never give informed consent to sexual activity of any kind with an adult. Whether or not her followers have a sense of morality concerning sexual contact with minors is an open question. However, because adherence to the Law of Love is the prime directive of the group, they operate by the deceivers-yet-true doctrine, and they have an extremely narrow definition of sexual abuse that includes only sexual intercourse, 97 sexual abuse of minors in The Family remains an issue of concern, 98 especially given “[t] he distinctive sexual ethos [that] continues to inform and shape the daily lives of disciples.” 99
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[93] Karen Zerby (Maria), Summit ’93 Mama Jewels Part 2. A partial reproduction of that document is available online at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/misc/summit-93-jewels-scans.shtml> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[94] James Penn reports that “Mo, Maria, and Peter still felt that sexual contact with children was acceptable, and often voiced those sentiments to those of us in the ‘inner circle.’ … I knew that Mo, Maria and Peter felt that adults having sexual contact with minors was acceptable. It went on in their house well into the 90's.” See <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/All_of_These_Things_Moved_Me> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[95] Karen Zerby (Maria), The Maria Monologues #5—Concern About CA [child abuse] Question—Presenting to Public & Explaining to Family, August 15, 1992. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Karen_Zerby#The_Maria_Monologues> See also Endnote 47 and Karen Zerby (Maria), Summit ’93 Mama Jewels Part 2, pars. 129, 130, 134, 137. Available online at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/misc/summit-93-jewels-scans.shtml>

[96] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—The Oral Evidence of Child/Adult Abuse—The Family’s Response to This Abuse.” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[97] This definition is inferred from The Family’s various publications. The Love Charter does not define “sexual abuse.” Although the Charter contains various prohibitions against sexual activity between different age groups, these prohibitions are based on expediency, as this article shows, not on moral grounds because they are considered to be abusive.

[98] Despite The Family’s repeated claim that all adult/minor sex was formally prohibited in 1986, many former members report that such sexual abuse continued to occur well into the 1990s and after the advent of the Charter. See Endnote 93. The following Web page contains allegations of a particularly vile example of Maria and Peter having covered up a top leader’s sexually abusive conduct: < http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=9&ID=2532&searchTerms=Mene&qlid= > (accessed 30 October 2006).

[99] Chancellor, 149.

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The Exorcism of Merry Berg

The most shocking example of what Ward described as “shift[ing] the responsibility from the abusing adult and plac[ing] it not just on the teens but also on the children” 100 occurred with Berg’s own granddaughter, Merry. It is extremely unfortunate for her that Berg did not live by his own counsel with regard to the Law of Love’s requirement of willing consent and causing no harm, for Merry suffered the most horrific and most documented abuse in The Family’s immoral history. It is curious, therefore, that Chancellor provides no details of her abuse other than a one-sentence footnote. 101 It seems as if he deliberately ignores the inhumane abuse Merry suffered by simply referring to the fact that she gave testimony of her abuse in the British custody case; he does not mention that her testimony was wholly believed by Ward, unlike testimony from Family witnesses. Why did he not instead cite Ward’s findings of fact concerning the severe abuse that she suffered? He could also have read many explicit accounts of her abuse in The Family’s own publications, but apparently he felt that Merry’s story was irrelevant to his discussion of The Family’s sexual doctrines. Surely, any exposé of The Family’s Law of Love is incomplete if it excludes the terrible consequences Merry and many other minors like her suffered. However, considering how Berg, Maria, and Peter vilified Merry as a demonic, insane enemy, perhaps it’s not so surprising that Chancellor chose not to include any details of her barbaric, torturous treatment at their hands.

Merry’s abuse began when she was just 7 years old and forced to masturbate her stepfather; from that time on, she experienced frequent sexual activity with adults. She was brought to Berg’s home when she was 11 years old, and for the next three years, Berg, often in the presence of Maria or other female adults, routinely sexually abused her. In 1987, now 14 years old and still living with Berg, Merry began to openly criticize her grandfather for, among other things, his hypocritical standards, heavy drinking, and failed prophecies. Years of abuse at the hands of the very people who should have nurtured and protected her caused Merry much confusion and psychological trauma, but she had no one to turn to other than her abusers. In that emotionally fragile state, she made the mistake not only of criticizing Berg and expressing doubts about him, but also of confessing to seeing images of demons. 102 Berg seized on what he viewed as her rebelliousness as an opportunity to warn all Family members, especially the teens, of the dangers of doubting or rejecting Berg’s theology. Two of Berg’s letters, “The Last State? The Dangers of Demonism,” 103 and “It's Up to You—Mene's Farewell from the King's House!,” 104 detail the extreme physical and psychological punishments Berg and other Family leaders, including Maria and Peter, subjected her to, ostensibly to exorcise the demons out of her. In fact, they held numerous violent exorcisms wherein Merry was threatened, slapped, spanked with paddles on her bare buttocks, beaten with rods, and had her head banged against the wall. In Ricky’s suicide video referenced above, Ricky said the following about Merry’s beatings, many of which he witnessed: “Nobody, nobody deserved that. Especially not a kid that age. So I watched every day new bruises on her, big fuckin' fat fuckin' bruises on her.” In her court testimony, Merry described her physical abuse in detail, saying, “It all felt like torture and once I fainted, throwing up. They said I was throwing up demons. The exorcising terrified me.” 105
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[100] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—The Oral Evidence of Child/Adult Abuse—The Family’s Response to This Abuse,” accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[101] That footnote, on page 137, states, “In the court case, Father David’s granddaughter gave testimony that she had been sexually and physically abused by Father David, then subjected to terrifying ordeals of exorcisms.”

[102] That she saw such images is not surprising to anyone familiar with The Family’s theological writings, which are filled with occult beliefs, language, and imagery, and often turned into comics for children’s consumption.

[103] David Berg, “The Last State? The Dangers of Demonism,” ML# 2306 (1987). Excerpts from this letter are available online at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/The_Last_State> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[104] David Berg, “It's Up to You!–Mene’s Farewell from the King's House!” ML # 2524. No copy of this letter is currently available online.

[105] In the section titled “Medical Neglect—MB’s Appalling Treatment—MB’s Evidence”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

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Ward accepted as fact that Merry had been tortured, finding her testimony truthful and unembellished, much to the dismay of The Family, whose own witnesses had repeatedly been less than honest with the court. Ward “…became more and more convinced by her evidence the longer she gave it. She did not seem to paint the picture blacker than it was.” In addition, later in the case, after reading The Family’s own account of events related to Merry, Ward found that she “…had been moderate in her complaint of the indignities heaped upon her.” 106 The judge found as matters of fact that Merry
…was physically ill-treated; and she was emotionally ill-treated; she was put in fear; she was humiliated; her self-esteem was denigrated. Maria and Peter stood by and watched it happen and approved of what was happening. They showed little more sensitivity and insight than their at times demented leader.… In my judgment what MB went through was a form of torture. 107

After six months of terrifying treatment at the hands of those who supposedly loved her, Merry was sent to her uncle Jonathan’s 108 isolated compound in Macau. For three more years, she and other so-called delinquent teens were subjected to harsh punishment in the form of solitary confinement, forced fasting, silence restrictions, beatings, public humiliation, hard labour, intense doctrinal lectures, and exorcisms. That Macau compound had become, in effect, a detention and re-indoctrination camp for Family teens who were alleged to have rebelled in some way against Family rules and/or doctrines, or had criticized leadership. 109 Toward the end of her stay there, Merry had reached the breaking point. As she later described it, “something just snapped,” and she had a psychotic breakdown. 110 An affidavit provided to Ward from the woman charged with Merry’s care in Macau describes her condition at that point:
…she regressed into a sad state of hysteria, and frenzy, to the point that she had to be daily spoon-fed her meals—only to have her wilfully regurgitate her food after hours of struggling to help her eat. She began to have no control over her bladder and bowel movements and became incontinent. She was pulling her hair out by the handful, laying all over the house, on tables etc. and would frequently disrobe in public. She began running around the house threatening to harm myself or my husband if we failed to control her in any way, throwing articles of clothing out of the window and screaming profanities at the top of her lungs. 111

Merry was eventually sent to the local hospital, and sometime after that returned to the United States to live with non-Family relatives. 112
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[106] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—Incest—The Oral Evidence”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[107] In the section titled “Medical Neglect—MB’s Appalling Treatment—MB’s Evidence”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[108] Berg’s son, known in The Family as Hosea or Ho.

[109] See the section on Macau in the Ward Judgment for a full analysis of the abuses that occurred there; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[110] Merry briefly describes her ordeal in Macau in an ex-member publication, No Longer Children. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Merry%27s_Story >

[111] In the section titled “Medical Neglect—MB’s Appalling Treatment—MB’s Evidence”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[112] More details about Merry’s life after The Family are available online at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Merry_Berg > (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

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I have provided some details of Merry’s story because it is one of the most shameful episodes in The Family’s history, and certainly one of the most publicized; and yet it is conspicuously absent from Chancellor’s account. Ward also felt it necessary to deal with Merry’s story at length, stating,
I do so because of the central role she plays not only in The Family's past but in its present. For The Family to gain the respectability which they now appear to seek, they must acknowledge that what David Berg did to his granddaughter was wrong, not just a mistake, but inexcusably wrong. They must atone for their treatment of her which I find to have been barbaric and cruel. 113
There has been no such atonement by any Family leader.

After she was no longer a Family member, but before the British case, Merry began speaking out publicly about the abuse she suffered in The Family. Consequently, Family leadership continued their campaign to vilify her as insane and demon-possessed. Describing a supposed vision he had of her, Berg stated,
And I got the most gruesome picture of Mene [Merry] with her mouth all red & dripping, drooling with blood like a vampire! Of course, she’s just a little ignorant nobody, but it shows you how the Devil is using her. 114

Around the same time of that “vision,” Maria wrote to members,
Why would anyone in the Family ever believe Mene above the Prophet? Dad is the man who changed your life & who has faithfully given you the Words of the Lord all these years, whose prophecies you have seen fulfilled & whose words you have seen work! … So why would you believe this girl who very obviously went completely insane?—Whom we know was completely taken over by the Devil, & whose life was one long fantasy….115

A couple years later, when the British case was ongoing and Merry’s testimony detailing her abuse was before the court, Family leadership became more determined than ever to smear her character. In internal communications between Maria and Peter in which they discussed the strategy they should take and the instructions they should give to their lawyers with regard to Merry’s testimony, Maria wrote,
…if these childish ravings of this poor mentally ill person are taken as fact, this could result in serious harm to our members & children, therefore we feel it is imperative to establish the invalidity of the testimony of this witness. 116

In that same document, Maria is seen seeking counsel from Peter on what to tell their lawyers about the question of whether or not Berg had sex with Merry. She wrote,

When I spoke to K., I explained pretty frankly & clearly about Dad's situation & what happened & exactly how far Dad went with Mene & how far he didn't go…. However when it comes to these lawyers … I believe I could explain our outlook on the Law of Love & that whatever happened, happened prior to 1986 & after that nothing happened & there was certainly no penetrative sex, that she didn't do anything for him. There are a lot of options I could take. Or I could just deny that it happened at all…. 117 [emphasis added]

Fearing the consequences of Merry’s revelations regarding Berg’s abusive perversions, The Family clearly took great effort, both prior to and during the British case, to malign and discredit Merry in what Ward recognized as an immoral attempt to blame a victim for her own abuse.
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[113] In the section titled “Medical Neglect—MB’s Appalling Treatment—MB’s Evidence”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[114] David Berg, “Persecution & Backsliders,” ML #2817 (1992) par. 18; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml2817.shtml>

[115] Karen Zerby (Maria), “False Accusers in the Last Days,” ML #2820 (1992) pars. 79, 81; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b2/2820.shtml>

[116] Karen Zerby (Maria), The Maria Monologues #3 (1994); accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Karen_Zerby#The_Maria_Monologues> See Endnote 47.

[117] On the question of whether Berg had sex with his granddaughter, Ward made the following finding of fact: “I find that Berg and Maria came down to her bedroom and whilst Maria and Sarah were talking, Berg got into her bed in their presence and fondled her. This happened on a number of occasions. She was called to his quarters. He was invariably impotent and they did not have sexual intercourse though he once tried to penetrate her, so there is no evidence of incest strictly defined. He did rupture her hymen with his finger. They had oral sex. That was oral sex by him on her … At one point they went through a mock celebration of marriage. Maria was fully aware of what was happening.” < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

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Several years after the British case concluded, Maria did offer a superficial apology to Merry, but only when she was forced to readdress the issue after the defection of James Penn. Several articles Penn wrote after he had left The Family in 1998 were highly critical of Berg, Maria, and Peter’s leadership, for he
…came to see them not as the loving, anointed leaders and shepherds of the end-time army of David, but rather as abusive, controlling, manipulative, self-centered, deceitful, and callous leaders who were willing to do just about anything to save their reputations and preserve their image. 118

He was especially critical of their abusive treatment of Merry, and their attempts to cover up the whole sordid affair by demonizing her in both Family publications and the media. He also pointed out that although Maria and Peter had offered apologies 119 to other children and adults, they had never apologized to Merry. According to Penn, shortly after the British case, Maria, through one of her assistants, had attempted to deliver a weak apology to Merry for failing to get her medical help sooner; however, Merry refused to meet with Maria’s representative. 120 In his first article, Penn forced Maria’s hand on this issue, and so in one of her replies to him, she offered Merry a superficial apology.

That apology is a particularly telling example of the semantic mind games Maria plays with her followers. She first apologizes to Merry for “any and all harm and hurt you experienced when you lived in our Home or any other Home.” However, she then proceeds to undermine that apology by describing the exorcisms Merry was subjected to, stating, “I would say it was wrong to go to the extreme that Dad did in Mene’s case.” 121 Maria very clearly gives her followers the impression that her apology covers only the extreme beatings and humiliations Merry suffered during the exorcisms. There is no mention whatsoever in that apology of Merry’s sexual abuse by Berg, or of the horrible public humiliations and degradations Maria and Peter heaped on her in many publications.

That self-serving, nonspecific apology comes nowhere close to atoning for the years of sexual and physical abuse and mental torment they subjected Merry to, nor for the vitriolic denouncements they published, which were intended not only to discredit her but to warn other Family children and teens of the dangers of questioning leadership. In fact, Family publications are so rife with references to Merry’s so-called demon possession that her Family name, Mene, became a byword to threaten anyone considered to be “out of the spirit” through disobedience to Family leadership or doctrines. Furthermore, those publications detailing her exorcisms and punishments unleashed a wave of similar abuse directed at The Family’s second generation in re-indoctrination camps similar to the one in Macau that were set up in various countries. 122 Berg never apologized or admitted any wrongdoing for his vile treatment of his granddaughter, and Family leadership continues to dispute the fact that Berg repeatedly sexually abused her. The Family has never fully atoned for the barbaric treatment Merry and many others suffered, as Ward instructed they must do if they are ever to gain the respectability they seek.
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[118] James Penn, No Regrets: Why I left The Family (2000). Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets >

[119] On the following Web page, a former second-generation member provides an analysis of the various official apologies Family leaders have issued over the years, concluding that they are disingenuous: < http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=31&ID=3619 > (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[120] Penn, No Regrets; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets >

[121] Karen Zerby (Maria), “None of These Things Move Me,” ML #3307 (2000), pars. 115–117. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/None_of_These_Things_Move_Me%21 > Whether Merry ever read this apology that was intended for her is not known.

[122] Stephen Kent, “Generational Revolt by the Adult Children of First-Generation Members of the Children of God/The Family,” Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2004.

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Children in The Family

In the final chapter of his book, titled “Children of the Revolution,” Chancellor claims that the Charter has democratized The Family and “…revolutionized life for the second wave of the younger generation.… Today the approach is to love the teens into staying.” 123 Although it might be true that harsh discipline tantamount to physical abuse is no longer employed to retain the loyalty of the youth, intense indoctrination is still used to spiritually coerce children and adolescents. Certainly, Ward’s concerns about the ability of the Charter to protect children’s rights were well founded, as subsequent events have shown.

A few paragraphs after the apology intended for Merry, discussed in the previous section, Maria makes the false claim that Ward “…officially stated in his written judgment that the Family is a safe place for children.” 124 She could make such a statement because she knew very few of her followers would ever likely read that judgment. However, nowhere in that 295-page decision does Ward say unequivocally that The Family is a safe place for children, or any words to that effect. After having read an advanced copy that was given to both parties, Maria described it as “…certainly not complimentary, and it is my prayer that the judge will not release it to the public in its entirety….” 125 If Ward gave The Family a clean bill of health regarding the welfare of its children, as Maria claimed to her followers, then why did she fear the release of the judgment to the public? In addition, why does Chancellor make no pertinent comments about that judgment? The answer to both questions is obvious to anyone who reads it, for Ward repeatedly censures Family leadership, doctrines, and practices.
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[123] Chancellor, 241-42, 244.

[124] Maria, “None of These Things...,” par. 122. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/None_of_These_Things_Move_Me%21 >

[125] Karen Zerby (Maria), “An Answer to Him That Asketh Us,” ML #3016 (1995), par. 8. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b2/3016.shtml> or <http://media.xfamily.org/docs/fam/gn/gn-653.pdf>

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Maria bases her claim that the final judgment was a victory for The Family on the sole fact that ultimately the child in question was allowed to remain in the care and control of his mother in the group, although he remained a ward of the court. What Maria failed to tell her followers, however, is that Ward’s initial judgment was that “…the risks of harm as matters presently stand are significant enough to dictate in [the child’s] interests that he be removed from his mother.” 126 He was particularly concerned about the mother’s attitude, saying in his conclusion that “…she fails to put S [her son] first. The Family comes first. Her devotion to Berg is so total that it has drained her intellectual reserves….” 127 An earlier assessment Ward made of the mother is worth quoting for the slavish devotion to the Law of Love it reveals, not only by her but also by all Family witnesses:
No witness called on behalf of the Defendant has repudiated the Law of Love. It is the cornerstone of The Family’s creed. NT’s [the mother’s] closing words to me were to plead with me not to denigrate the Law of Love. It was an extraordinary observation from her. I would have expected her to plead with me not to remove her son. Many mothers, often totally hopeless mothers, have begged for that mercy. But NT did not. It was as if the integrity of the Law of Love was more important to her than [her son]. Where is her sense of priorities? 128
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[126] In the final “Conclusions” section of the judgment, accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[127] In the section titled “Summary and Conclusions—#8 NT”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[128] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—The Evidence on Sexual Attitudes Generally”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html > 

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Ward was also concerned about the “significant number of breaches of the provisions” of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. He lists 14 separate Articles of that Convention, highlighting the pertinent points, and then states,
I am not satisfied that children are fully prepared by The Family to live an individual life in society nor are they brought up in the spirit of tolerance as set out in the preamble. I am not satisfied children enjoy the right to express their views freely in all matters affecting them. They do not enjoy the freedom to seek and receive ideas of all kinds. They do not have the right to freedom of thought or the freedom of association.

He went on to say that “The Family should not be able to fault [those Articles of the Convention] and can have no justification for not assuring this Court that they will be applied by The Family without qualification.” 129

Ward expressed other concerns he had about the welfare of children generally in The Family. 130 Regarding educational neglect, he stated, “…over the whole span of childhood merging into young adulthood, the full flowering of intellectual potential is stunted.” On the issue of emotional, social, and behavioural harm as the result of their isolated, communal lifestyle and the pressure to conform, he wrote, “…my concern for children within The Family is that legitimate assertions of precious individuality are suppressed as sins of worldliness and pride.” Concerning the physical ill treatment of children, he noted that “…in recent years, children in the absence of their parents have been harshly beaten and at times left bleeding and bruised by indiscriminate, over-zealous applications of Family discipline.” He observed that

…the new discipline guidelines [referring to the Charter], well-intentioned though they are, still harp back to old Letters and are still not tight enough in their control to protect children who remain at the mercy of those in charge of them.

Ward then considered his various concerns for children in The Family as they applied to the child in question. 131 Ward was persuaded that the child was “…not likely to be at risk of suffering sexual harm from any resurrection of the freedoms given by the Law of Love to abuse children in the way they have been abused in the past.” However, he was concerned that
…deviant and damaged members of The Family who have perpetrated abuse … are hard to identify.… Given their peripatetic and communal lifestyle, there are real possibilities that S may come into contact with some whose responses cannot be guaranteed. It poses a risk of harm to S which is higher, though not substantially higher, than it must be recognized he would face in life outside The Family. He suffers real risk of harm from excessive punishment. The tendency is for parents to surrender their responsibility to the Child Care Team, and there are too many recent examples of excess for me not to regard this risk as a real one not withstanding the new guidance from World Services. As matters currently stand S’s full intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development is at risk of being impaired. The Family’s isolation and tight control stultifies full development. I must, however, balance against this the freedom to live life in a religious community, and a degree of tolerance must be allowed. The current educational policies of The Family will harm S because he will not receive an education which equips him to make informed choices.

Having decided that the child was at risk and that it was in his own best interest to be removed from his mother, Ward then had to decide whether there was sufficient evidence of significant change in The Family. He recognized that in making that assessment he was faced with “…the difficulty of taking a snapshot view of them which freezes them at this moment of time.”

There is no question that Ward found it an extremely difficult case to decide, taking a full year to write the judgment. He wrote, “…I make no secret of the fact that I have had some difficulty in finally deciding what is best for this young boy.” After considering The Family’s evidence of its move toward a more democratic organization after Berg’s death, Ward concluded,
…not without anxiety, that there is some hope for future progress in directions which will be generally acceptable enough within the wide bounds of freedom and tolerance we extend to many to choose to live a religious life, even an extreme form of religious life like The Family's.

Despite his misgivings and initial decision to remove the child, Ward was willing to accept that perhaps The Family was beginning to implement much-needed changes. He issued a stay on his removal order to give the mother and Family leaders time to reflect on his decision. He also listed 12 conditions that the mother and WS had to meet for him to extend his stay order, thus allowing the child to remain with his mother. 132 Maria, commenting on those conditions before the close of the case, claimed that all but the last one, which deals with accepting Berg’s responsibility for sexual abuse, had already been implemented in the Charter. 133 However, Ward was not entirely convinced that the Charter lived up to Maria’s claims. On the final day of hearings, after both parties had time to consider Ward’s interim judgment, James Penn took the witness stand as the representative of Maria, Peter, and WS. He reports that Ward asked him, “What went wrong?” Before Penn could answer, Ward proceeded to answer his own question:
You have punished them [children] for having individual beliefs and points of view. You have sought to put them in an iron cast mould to clone them into good little missionaries, when many of them did not want to be missionaries as you, being an adult, are entitled to choose for yourself.… Show me the passage in the Charter that gives the child the right to self-dignity and to self-respect. Where is it put as a forefront principle? … Where do you find elevated in that Charter of Rights some expression that the child is entitled to grow up as an individual, free from pressure to conform to your religious views which are imposed upon them? ... I confess to finding it deeply disappointing that you have not yourself been able ... to plainly acknowledge to me, “Our mistake was not to allow our children to live an individual life in our society. ” 134
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[129] In the section titled “The Law—The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[130] The following quotations are in the section titled “Summary and Conclusions.” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[131] The following quotations are in the final “Conclusions” section of the judgment; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[132] The strict conditions for the child’s care set by Ward in the final “Conclusions” section of the judgment included no corporal punishment, no prolonged separations from his mother, a prohibition against leaving England, proper educational opportunities, and access to non-Family relatives. The mother was also instructed to elicit assurances from WS that in all U.K. Family homes corporal punishment would be banned, all children would have access to recognized educational qualifications, to confirm a policy that would encourage the maintenance of contact with relatives outside The Family. The last condition was a requirement that Family leadership denounce Berg for being personally responsible through his writings for subjecting Family children to sexually inappropriate behaviour. After seven years of public obfuscation and vacillation on the issue of child sexual abuse in The Family, leadership was finally forced to capitulate to Ward’s demand in the form of a letter from Peter to the judge, which in essence acknowledged that Berg was responsible, through his writings and spiritual authority, for creating sexual offenders within The Family. An excerpt from Peter’s letter to Ward is quoted by James Penn in No Regrets. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets >

[133] Maria, “An Answer to Him,” pars. 9–14; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b2/3016.shtml> or <http://media.xfamily.org/docs/fam/gn/gn-653.pdf>

[134] The transcript of the final day of hearings, in which Penn represented Maria and Peter, is not included in the final judgment, which was written some time before; but the transcript is in the court record. This excerpt is quoted by Penn in No Regrets. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets>

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The Loving Jesus Revolution

As Ward acknowledged, the difficulty in making his decision was that he had to assess the policies and practices of an organization that is in a constant state of flux. After having decided that the child could remain with his mother in The Family, Ward could only hope that the assurances he was given of positive, progressive change would actually come to fruition, for his hands were tied with regard to ordering any supervisory care. 135 Several years later, however, Penn wrote that while the means might have changed, the end was the same for Family children:
Maria and Peter no longer coerce young people physically, but instead concentrate on intense spiritual indoctrination, using the voices of God, Jesus, the departed spirits, spirit helpers, and the beloved Mo [Berg] to keep the sheep in the fold. They spend vast sums on publications aimed at indoctrinating children of Family Members into becoming unquestioning, adoring, mindless, “yielded” followers. They inundate children at early ages with bizarre new-wine-laced stories and novels. And when the children get older, the Family Pubs relentlessly reinforce how the Family is the greatest and only place to serve the Lord, and anyone who departs is leaving God, backsliding, and can expect dire consequences. 136
One such bizarre, new-wine 137 doctrine that was being formulated even while the British case was ongoing, in a prime example of deceivers-yet-true, was the Loving Jesus Revolution (LJR). Ward can hardly be blamed for not anticipating this new development. The question is, would Ward have come to a different conclusion about positive change in The Family had he known what Maria and Peter were up to behind his back? In a letter he wrote to Ward, Peter emphasized that they were “…determined that The Family will be a safe environment for all our children and teens to be brought up in.” 138 However, at the same time that letter was penned, he and Maria were introducing to members a new sexual doctrine that would eventually be required not for just adults, but also for teens and, in a modified form, for children.
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[135] Ward wrote in Part F of his final Conclusion, “This is one of those exceptional cases where the abolition of the Court's ability to make a Supervision Order does fetter my power to do what I consider to be necessary in the interest of this boy. Leicestershire County Council decline to bring proceedings themselves and I do not criticise that decision. It would, however, have been an invaluable source of comfort to know that a responsible body was making periodic visits to The Family, not to be meddlesome but only to be alive to the possibilities of unacceptable behaviour creeping into Family life again. Dr Cameron was anxious to recommend a visiting teacher with a duality of role, partly educational and partly supervisory. I have no power to direct such supervision.”

[136] Penn, No Regrets; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets>

[137] “New-wine” is a Family term to denote new spiritual revelations. It is a take on Matthew 9:17, which says that new wine poured into old bottles will break the bottles so it must be poured into new bottles. “Old bottles” thus became a derogatory term in The Family for anyone who could not handle the radical “new wine” doctrines that Berg formulated.

[138] See Endnote 131. This excerpt from Peter’s letter to Ward is quoted by Penn in No Regrets; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets>

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In mid-1995, months before the conclusion of the British case, Maria sent advance copies of “a special revelation” to the WS research department. 139 The LJR instructs all members to do three things: visualize Jesus while engaged in sex; speak erotic, sexually explicit words to Jesus; and masturbate to Jesus. In addition, men have to become “women in spirit” during this experience, and sexually desire Jesus. Peter told Chancellor about this new doctrine even before regular Family members became aware of it, and Chancellor reports his conversation with Peter. He accepts Peter’s assurance that “this special language of love to Jesus should not be employed in front of children.” 140 There seems to be no awareness on Chancellor’s part that this doctrine is indeed taught to minors, even though Family publications instructing members 12 years and older in this new doctrine are dated December 1995, 141 five years before Chancellor’s book was published.

The LJR was not the only new sexual revelation Maria and Peter introduced after the British case. Like Berg before them, they continued to deliberately and systematically create a highly sexualized environment in Family homes, despite their contrary claims to Ward. Penn reports that in 1996, less than a year after the British case concluded, Peter introduced the “Marriage of the Generations” revelation at a summit leadership meeting in an effort to break down the barriers between the two generations. At that meeting, young adults from the second generation who had leadership responsibilities were encouraged to have sex with older leaders from the first generation. After this trial run, Maria decided to introduce the concept to the wider Family through their primary publication, the Good News, or GNs. However, those proposed GNs, circulated first to top leaders for comments, “…contained a high-pressured sales pitch, with lots of spiritual coercion in the form of prophecies.” 142 The feedback Maria received was that those GNs could be a deal breaker for The Family, possibly leading to its breakup; so with the help of some more convenient prophecies, she put the project on hold.

After reconsideration, Maria determined that before the Marriage of Generations could work, Family members had to become even more sexually active by obeying and living the Law of Love more fully. To that end, in September 1998, Maria published an 11-part series of GNs entitled Living the Lord’s Law of Love, 143 which was required reading and came with special instructions that the series had to be read by each home as a group, not individually, thus increasing the pressure to conform. It seems Ward was somewhat prescient when he referred to the possible “resurrection of the freedoms given by the Law of Love,” 144 and he certainly would have been concerned about the effect of this development on children.
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[139] Penn, No Regrets; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets>

[140] Chancellor, 148.

[141] Family publications detailing the LJR for ages 12 and up are available online at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Loving_Jesus> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[142] Penn, No Regrets; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/No_Regrets>

[143] The individual letters that make up those GNs are numbered 3199 to 3212. The censored versions are available online at <http://www.exfamily.org/cgi-bin/pubindex.pl?3201> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[144] In Part E of the final “Conclusions” section of the judgment, accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

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The Family’s Position on Rape

Other than a brief reference to the LJR, there is no mention in Chancellor’s account of those various developments in the Family’s sexual doctrines. Nor is there any discussion of the Family’s position on rape, which presents an additional risk to children in The Family. I have already noted Maria’s belief that “a little fondling & sweet affection” between an adult and child is not abuse. Her belief about rape, informed by Berg’s writings, is just as problematic, for it too either downplays any harm to the victim or blames the victim for any harm done. Berg’s writings on the subject demonstrate a dangerous misunderstanding of the nature of rape, which is not about sex, but about power and control. Berg exhorted women to willingly submit to rapists, to surrender sexually to satisfy their sexual needs and be a witness of God’s love. In a series of comics depicting end-time events, entitled Heaven’s Girl, he even instructed the artistic team to include a gang-rape scenario of a young Family teen who willingly obliges her 10 rapists while preaching to them. 145

Perhaps the most depraved example of Berg’s views on rape and his callous blaming of a victim, rivalled only by his treatment of his granddaughter, occurred in 1980. Two years earlier, The Family had undergone a staged, cosmetic disbanding as The Children of God, and eventually it reorganized as The Family. During that reorganization period, referred to as the RNR, many people—with Berg’s encouragement—returned to their homelands and took up jobs. Subsequently, members were classified as either full disciples, who tithed 10 percent of their income, or associate members, who gave less than that. A young couple with three children were living on their own in the United States as associate members of The Family. One day while the husband was at work, his wife was brutally stabbed to death. Berg received some initial news reports about the tragedy, but before he knew all the details, he wrote a scathing letter denouncing that couple as backsliders out of God’s will and blaming the wife for her own murder. Although the news reports made no mention of sexual assault or a motive, Berg speculated that the victim must have resisted a rapist. In a wild speculation, he wrote,

Maybe she resisted FFing [Flirty Fishing] & wouldn’t let the guy fuck her, so she drove him to rape & murder. LOOK WHAT SHE DID TO HIM! — LOOK WHAT SHE DID TO THE POOR MURDERER! She not only lost her life, but he’s probably going to lose his because she resisted!” 146 [emphasis in original]

Berg repeatedly condemns both the husband and wife as being out of God’s will for not giving more money to The Family. In fact, the very title of the letter, accompanied by an illustration of a terrified woman being attacked by a man with a knife, includes a warning that if members don’t tithe to The Family, then God will take a collection. Although he knew next to nothing about this couple’s personal circumstances, let alone their relationship with God, Berg declares that “…it looks to me more like she may have reaped what she sowed & got what she deserved.” 147 Neither Berg nor Maria demonstrate any sympathy for the victim, her husband, or her children, nor offer help of any kind for the traumatized family. In fact, Berg expresses more concern for the murderer and what he assumes to have been the murderer’s sexual needs. Family leadership has never acknowledged Berg’s and Maria’s callous cruelty in publishing such a libellous document, nor did they even offer the husband an apology for the incredibly insensitive, hurtful, and defaming comments about him and his wife.
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[145] The Family’s beliefs on rape and excerpts from Berg’s writings on the subject are available to read online at <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Berg_on_Rape> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006). Also, Berg reveals his pedophilic nature in two letters that contain instructions to the artistic team working on the Heaven’s Girl comics. In both “Heaven’s Girls Have Fun,” ML #2043 and “She Can Gang Bang’m,” ML #2044, Berg exhibits a prurient lust for young girls and instructs the writers to include a scene where he meets and beds the main character, a young Family teen. Censored versions of those publications are available online at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml2043.shtml> and <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/b5/ml2044.shtml> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006). See also endnote XLI as well as <http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/Berg_on_Pedophilia> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[146] David Berg, “IRFers Beware! If You Fail to Tithe God Will Take a Collection,” ML #880 (1980), pars. 22–23. Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/ml880.html

[147] Berg, “IRFers Beware...,” par. 28; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/pubs/ml/ml880.html>

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Maria’s own beliefs about rape are documented by Penn, who provides an excerpt from a publication entitled Texas Mama Jewels—No. 1 (For Summit Use Only!). This publication is a summary of confidential notes Maria wrote for Family leaders at a leadership summit meeting held in Texas in late 1991. In that document, Maria comments on the rape of a Family teen that had occurred some months earlier. In an appalling display of insensitivity toward the victim of a traumatizing sexual crime, she writes:
I suppose it’s quite a big deal for any of our Teens to be raped, it must have been quite traumatic for her. However, for us adults who have FFed & been with men who have gotten rather insistent & what you might call “forceful,” I don’t think we should have considered that such a big deal, especially having had Dad's Letter on “Rape” (ML#528) & understanding that the Lord may even allow these things to happen as a chance to witness His Love to others.… Being held at gunpoint must have been very frightening, but since she is married & is already used to lovemaking & versed in sexual practices, the actual rape shouldn’t have been so traumatic.… I hope that the adults didn’t blow it up into more than they should have. I think in fact, that they should have made it very low key in their conversation with her & with anyone else who happened to find out about it. After all, we used to make love all the time with people we didn’t know anything about & who were “beasts” & were out for nothing but sex. But we were able to turn that around & use that “lust of the flesh” to offer them some love of the Spirit. So I think if I were having to counsel K. & comfort her and reassure her, that would be my approach. It sounds a little like a Heaven’s Girl situation, & I hope she took it as such. 148

Clearly, Family publications such as the Heaven’s Girl comics, Berg’s writings on rape, and other sexual doctrines were intended to indoctrinate disciples, including children, “so that they do not know right from wrong,” 149 as Ward pointed out.

By 1997, after the British case and all of Maria and Peter’s assurances to Ward that The Family was a safe place for children, Maria’s attitude and counsel concerning the rape of Family members, including children, still had not changed. In March of that year, Maria responded to a Family teen, Kate, who had written her about how she had been raped by a Family adult 10 years earlier when she was just 7 years old. 150 Kate reports that at the time she wrote Maria she “…still pretty much believed in The Family & I thought [Maria] would definitely do something about it. I don’t know what made me think that but when I got her answer I was so disappointed.” Not only did Maria not do anything about the rape, but she also told Kate, “I hope you are willing to forgive this man & ask the Lord to help you forget it & go on,” which was the extent of her counsel. She also included in her response two prophecies from Jesus and Berg. What exactly did The Family’s Jesus have to say to this distraught young person who had for a decade silently suffered the consequences of her rape? Among other things, He reportedly told her,

I know that you will remain a faithful, devoted, loving bride, one whom I can come to for sweet communion & loving affection, for you are mine & I love you. So do not feel that you are failing Me & do not worry that you are not giving enough to Me….

Berg’s supposed counsel was not much better:
I think He can give that to you, Honey, if you have the love & faith & desperation to ask the Lord to help you forgive him. The Lord can give you that love & He can give you forgiveness, & that will be a wonderful wonderful thing. It’s a gold mine, sweetheart. It’s a real key to your being able to carry on in full freedom in the Lord’s service.

Kate felt completely let down by Maria’s response, as evidenced by her reaction to those prophecies:

The first one encourages me to start ‘loving Jesus’ & that that will make me feel better … & the other one talks about how I need to forgive this person, forget the whole thing & just block it out.

There is no acknowledgment of the real harm done to Kate, no offer to get her professional help to deal with the consequences of that traumatic event, and no indication that the rape would be investigated further and the perpetrator brought to justice, or at least excommunicated.

A few years later, in 2001, there was still no improvement in Maria and Peter’s counsel to young people struggling with issues of past abuse in The Family. Penn’s exposé articles had revealed some of the more sinister aspects of Berg, Maria, and Peter’s personalities, leadership styles, and direct involvement in abuses of various kinds, and had levelled many accusations against Maria and Peter. They did not respond directly to Penn. Instead, knowing that many of their followers were aware of Penn’s accusations, they published hundreds of pages of admonishments that members should not be reading anything critical of The Family. In those publications, they either ignore Penn’s accusations or respond to them ambiguously. Their failure to respond to Penn’s specific accusations led a group of Family young adults who had lived their entire lives under the direct, forceful influence of Berg’s doctrines to write an anonymous letter to Maria and Peter asking them to clarify their many doubts and questions that Penn’s writings had evoked. Most of the questions are related to Berg, Maria, and Peter’s abusive treatment of Merry 151 or to the fraudulent use of prophecy. Their stated reason for writing anonymously is very revealing, especially considering Chancellor’s claim a year earlier that the Charter had brought a new era of openness and personal freedom. After first expressing their admiration of and loyalty to Maria and Peter, the young adults explain that

…there is a lot of stigma attached to a person voicing such questions, even if they are presented in a sincere undoubting manner. He or she is labelled as a ‘doubter,’ ‘sower of disunity,’ or ‘tool of the enemy' and the like.

In their response, Maria and Peter refused to answer any of the questions posed by their own followers, citing mostly flimsy legal reasons. One person from that group wrote back saying,
…being the ‘smart kids that you know we are’ (your words, not mine), we know it doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to understand that there are few to no legal ramifications in denying a false accusation. The trouble only comes up when there is some element of truth involved and you have to explain your side of the coin. So even though our questions weren’t directly answered, indirectly, they were, and I thank you for that.” 152

Those young people had come to realize through that correspondence with their leaders that Berg, Maria, and Peter were not the good shepherds they had been led to believe all their lives. In the ensuing years, there would be many more like these youth from both generations who would leave The Family once they realized the danger of having their spiritual and practical lives controlled by spiritual tyrants answerable to no one but their God.
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[148] James Penn, All of These Things Moved Me (2001). Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.xfamily.org/index.php/All_of_These_Things_Moved_Me#Maria.27s_Rape_Relief_Center >

[149] In the section titled “Sexually Inappropriate Behaviour—Flirty Fishing—The Evidence on FFing.” Accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[150] Maria’s letter to Kate and Kate’s reaction are available to read online at < http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=10&ID=379 > (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

[151] The fact that so many of their questions sought confirmation of Merry’s abuse strongly suggests that the young adults had never read Ward’s judgment for themselves and so had only Maria and Peter’s version of events.

[152] The three letters that this correspondence comprises are available to read online at <http://www.movingon.org/article.asp?sID=1&Cat=9&ID=227> (accessed 30 Oct. 2006).

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Conclusion

The subtitle of Chancellor’s book proclaims that it is an oral history of The Family. The book is, however, a one-sided, incomplete history of that controversial organization. Here, I have attempted to fill in some of the more obvious shortcomings in Chancellor’s account by providing a few examples of the abusive and devious nature of the group’s top leaders and the consequences for Family members. As Justice Ward conveyed when he was discussing the role that Maria and Peter played in Merry Berg’s abuse, they “…stood by and watched it happen and approved of what was happening. They showed little more sensitivity and insight than their at times demented leader.” 153 They are the sort of people who lead The Family today, but you would not know that from Chancellor’s portrayal. Detailing the role that leaders play in manipulating and controlling the spiritual and practical lives of members is crucial to any telling of The Family’s history. Chancellor’s methodological decision to create a portrait of The Family based solely on the view of active, regular members glosses over that direct role leaders play and thus distorts the result.

Chancellor’s portrait is further distorted by its exclusion of accounts by former members, many of whom see The Family’s history in a very different light. Furthermore, ample reason exists for one to suspect the veracity of Chancellor’s interviewees on certain topics, for they simply tell too many half-truths, too many incomplete stories. As Ward discovered, Family members rely on the doctrine of deceivers-yet-true and have “…an ingrained habit of lying … and of telling half the truth if they can get away with it.” 154 Their distrust of outsiders is such that all interactions between Family members and the outside world, including those exchanges with Chancellor, are tainted by their deceptive practices. Ward was alert to that distrust, finding that
[t]hey do not trust even their own lawyers. They do not fully trust their own experts, and I gained the impression that Doctor Millikan was less than pleased and Doctor Heller was certainly deeply dismayed because he felt he had been misled by The Family. 155

Chancellor, alternatively, does not even bother to warn his readers of that doctrine of deceit, but instead gives the impression that he eventually gained total trust and honesty from his interviewees. He even seems to have fallen into the trap of presenting half-truths on behalf of The Family. For example, he easily could have included details about Merry’s horrific abuse at the hands of past and current Family leaders and revealed just how far they will go to control their followers through extreme spiritual coercion. Instead, rather than setting out the facts regarding her tortuous abuse as found by Ward, he relegates her story to a one-line footnote that only hints at allegations of abuse.

Another problem with Chancellor’s portrait is that he accepts The Family's claims that they have instituted changes for the better and that the very nature of the organization has been reshaped. The history of The Family is one of constant change in doctrines, policies, and practices. However, organizational and administrative changes such as the RNR and the Charter give only the illusion of greater personal autonomy to Family members. The chains of control have always been tightened whenever the leaders have felt that personal freedoms have gone too far. Maria and Peter continue to retain the same absolute control over members’ spiritual lives that Berg maintained while he was alive. They have simply usurped his voice, which they now use as supposed prophecies from Heaven to direct even the minutiae of Family life. There is no guarantee, therefore, that The Family has truly changed for the better. The group has managed to mislead certain scholars in that regard, and it appears Chancellor might be among them.

Much more must be said in response to Chancellor’s book. In particular, I have barely touched on the experiences of the numerous children born into The Family who have been abused in one form or another. As Ward said, he was “… totally satisfied that there was widespread sexual abuse of young children and teenagers by adult members of The Family, and that this abuse occurred to a significantly greater extent within The Family than occurred in society outside it.” 156 Certainly, not all of the abuse suffered was of a sexual nature; there was also systemic physical, emotional, and spiritual abuse. I cannot adequately address the many issues that have affected the second generation, so I hope that some of those who continue what I have begun here will pick up where I have left off. Moreover, past abuse is not the only concern. The Family continues to raise children in socially isolated, high-demand environments, thus depriving them of many of their basic human rights. Ward was very concerned about that, citing at length international and domestic laws that ensure the rights of children, rights that The Family, even with its Charter, has failed to live up to.

In his introduction, Chancellor expresses confidence that he has created “a clear self-portrait of an intriguing and unique community.” The portrait can hardly be considered a clear one, however, when so many important events and details have been left out. One cannot help but wonder whether regular Family members, by helping to create that distorted self-portrait, are deceiving themselves as much as outsiders. By the end of the book, Chancellor leaves the impression that it is The Family in general that has endured more pain and suffering from persecution than the group’s own children have suffered from abuse within it. Certainly, survivors of that abuse draw the opposite conclusion. If Chancellor’s book is the best academic overview of the group to date, as Kent and Raine suggest, much still needs to be written.
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[153] In the section titled “Medical Neglect—MB’s Appalling Treatment—MB’s Evidence”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html>

[154] In the section titled “The Family’s Attitude to Lies and Deception”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[155] In the section titled “The Family’s Attitude to Lies and Deception”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at < http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html >

[156] In the section titled “Adult-Child Sex—Conclusions”; accessed online 30 Oct. 2006 at <http://www.exfamily.org/art/misc/justward_ver1.html>

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The following article is James D. Chancellor's response to the article above. My reply to his response follows immediately after.

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A Response to Perry Bulwer’s Evaluation of Life in the Family

James D. Chancellor, B.A., M. A., M. Div., Ph. D.

Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007

http://www.culticstudiesreview.com/csr_issues/csr_toc2007.2.htm

It is always troubling when one’s work, to say nothing of one’s good sense, comes under attack. The natural tendency is defense, and I must admit to feeling rather defensive on my first reading of Mr. Bulwer’s article. But as I read it carefully for the second and then third time, I began to relax a little. I hope my response is a reasoned one, and can help both to shed further light on the nature of The Family and my work on this unusual religious community. I will not attempt a point-by-point response to Mr. Bulwer, but will try to address the key issues.

Mr. Bulwer begins with a rather scathing attack on William Sims Bainbridge and G. Gordon Melton. In some sense, this is not my business. I probably would not be so concerned about the attacks on Bainbridge and Melton, except that Mr. Bulwer, very skillfully and by innuendo, attempts to tar me with the same brush. “The Family considers Melton, as well as Chancellor, experts on the group, and in 2000 Melton received USD 10,065.83 from the Family.” It is not the first time a former member has either directly or indirectly accused me of being ‘on the take’ from The Family. I suspect that Mr. Bulwer knows the truth, but for the record, I have never received a dime from The Family. I funded all of my own research. Even on the many occasions that I stayed in Family homes, I did my share of household duties and left a small amount of money to cover my food costs. [I can almost see it on the web now, “Chancellor admits to funding The Family.”]

Mr. Bulwer is a skillful writer, and his subtle turn of a phrase here and there sets a clear tone in the article. In the sixth full paragraph that begins “As for Melton’s 2004 book,” where he castigates Melton for ignoring the fact that Family leadership advocated adult-child sex, he states that Melton ‘had the benefit of Chancellor’s research, which does admit that fact” [emphasis mine]. The use of the word “admit” is curious, somehow implying that I did not want to reveal this information, or attempted to minimize it. Anyone who has given an honest reading of my work would never use the term “admit”—I emphasize it and document it fully [see “Little Girl Dream” in my index]. Little words mean a lot.

Mr. Bulwer’s main criticism is with my chosen method of an oral history of the ordinary disciples, and not giving much more attention to Family leadership or to the experiences of former members. He states that this leads to an incomplete picture of the Family. Of course it does. I “admit” this, and have done so from the beginning. As I have stated many times elsewhere, the story will not be complete until someone is able to do work similar to mine with former members, and someone produces a critical biography of David Berg. It seems ironic now, but after I completed writing the book in 1998, I gave very serious thought to doing just that, to attempting to do the same kind of research with former members and tell the whole story again from a very different perspective. But I could not possibly have done that in my first book on The Family. My original manuscript sent to Syracuse University Press was near 350 pages. I had to edit out nearly 100 pages to meet their publishing standards. Mr. Bulwer’s call for a more complete picture is a legitimate concern. Obviously, I am not the person to finish this story. And that is partly my own fault. Here Mr. Bulwer’s criticism is on target and well received. I was wrong to write about former members in any way in the book, and I regret doing that. I did no research on former members, and should have left any comments or observations about them in the voice of Family disciples.

I would like to respond more fully to the issue of “Deceivers Yet True.” Of course The Family tries to deceive the outside world and to downplay as fully as possible the darker aspects of Family life. That is certainly not unique to The Family. And I certainly experienced the deceiving in my initial forays into Family life. But I found my way through that. I was initially told that divorce was rare, and then discovered that few first generation disciples were still with their first spouse. I was told that the sexual abuse of children was rare and never sanctioned by The Family, and then discovered that neither of those things was true. I was initially told that the Family had a high retention rate of their youth, hardly the case at all. I was told that Flirty Fishing was not prostitution, and then discovered that in many cases it was, and in the end even Peter Amsterdam admitted as much to me. There were many other instances, but I think this makes the point. What I do find interesting is that Mr. Bulwer makes a great deal of “Deceivers Yet True,” yet he does not point to a single statement made by a disciple in my book that is not true.

I have never spoken or written of this before, but perhaps now is the time. Teaching is my second career. For some time prior, I served as a field investigator with the U.S. Office of Federal Investigations. I had years of training and experience in locating people and getting them to tell me things about themselves and others, often things they did not want anyone to know. That training and those skills were of considerable use as I conducted private and confidential interviews of Family disciples. Now, did I get everything right—of course not? Was Family leadership able to conceal some very incriminating documents from me—yes? But my focus was on the life of the ordinary disciple, the actual life experience of those people. I still believe I came close to getting it right.

The major issue here is sexual abuse. Flirty Fishing has ended, though never repudiated. Sexual sharing among adult disciples continues, but with less intensity than in the extreme period of 1978 to 1990. I continue to believe that the sexual abuse of the children, which was widespread, flagrant and frequent, has generally come to an end. I am not saying that it never occurs, but my impression is that it is now relatively rare, which of course is no consolation to past or current victims. The hundreds of children taken into custody over the last 15 years and given thorough physical and psychological examinations, with no evidence of current sexual abuse, seem to support my understanding. If Mr. Bulwer or anyone else has evidence that such abuse is systemic in The Family today, then I will certainly repent of my current understanding.

Mr. Bulwer states that I leave the impression that most of the abuses in The Family took place prior to the RNR in 1978. I make no such assertion, and virtually all of the disciple testimony of abuse within The Family references events that occurred between 1976 and 1994.

At this point, I begin to ask if Mr. Bulwer has actually read my book. Was the woman who was so obedient to her “shepherd” that it cost the life of her infant son lying to me? Were the women who admitted that their Flirty Fishing did amount to prostitution lying to me? Was it a falsehood when a man admitted he was so bound by authority that he followed his leader’s orders, even though he knew it would mean being thrown in an Egyptian jail? Was the young man who spoke of his extreme emotional and psychological abuse at a teen training camp lying to me? Was the young woman who told of being sexually abused as a child lying? Was she lying when she said that it was common in those years, that all Family kids know about these things, and that Family leadership was lying to cover it up? Was the woman who told me she surrendered up her own young daughter for the sexual pleasure of adult men lying to me? Was the leader of a teen training center lying to me when he admitted to harsh psychological and physical abuse of young people? I could go on and on.

I think it is important to make a few observations regarding Mr. Bulwer’s approach to my work. He states that I refer “only briefly” to the British child-custody case, when in fact the testimony of the principle figure in the case is the longest single testimony in the entire book. In that testimony [pages 133 – 138], it is clear that Family leadership sanctioned sex between minors and adults, that it occurred on a consistent basis, that David Berg both taught and modeled this behavior, and that he abused his granddaughter and subjected her to “terrifying ordeals of exorcisms.” How more clearly could it be stated? However, in keeping with the basic format and methodology of the book, the emphasis was focused on the experience of the disciple involved, not the leadership.

Mr. Bulwer repeatedly states that I portray David Berg as a “consistently contrite leader”. That is simply absurd—read the book, particularly pages 64–74. Nowhere do I come anywhere close to using that term, or any term remotely similar to “consistently contrite.” The two examples of confession of error were inserted to demonstrate that Berg did not claim to be GOD—hardly the same thing as being “consistently contrite”.

There is little question that many innocent persons suffered serious abuse as members of The Family. Their anger toward the Family is more than understandable, and it is just and right that their stories be told. Their anger and frustration over the inability to hold the Family or members of the Family accountable for this abuse is also very understandable. But I think it is very important that this community of people understand that their story is harmed, not enhanced, when they make unjust and in some cases malicious attacks on persons who view the Family through a different lens. On certain web sites, I have been openly and publicly accused of being on the Family payroll and of receiving sexual favors from Family women. I have been accused of not holding a real academic position [W. O. Carver Professor of World Religions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary 1992- present], and of not having a legitimate academic degree [B.A. Bellevue University, M. Div. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, M. A. The University of Nebraska, Ph. D. Duke University]. It has been asserted publicly that my wife was raised in The Family [humorous, in that my wife was raised in a small Mennonite community in Canada, about as far from The Family as possible.] In my initial contacts with former members, I attempted to open a dialogue with one of the leaders of that community. I was assured our correspondence would remain confidential, but portions of my very first letter were taken from their context and put up on the World Wide Web. I think the point is made.

I would like to add one more observation, one that I think is extraordinarily significant for our discussion here. Some very dark and terrible things went on in The Family, particularly in the years 1976 to 1990. Those that involve the focus of my research, the ordinary field disciple, are fully chronicled in my book. These abuses were so ubiquitous and severe that almost all the first wave of children left the movement, many as soon as possible. This mass exodus is also made very clear in my book. I know these awful things occurred because people in The Family told me these things happened to them. Former members also affirm these terrible things happened to them. But I also know these terrible things occurred because active disciples within The Family confessed to me that they did these things to their fellow disciples, that they were responsible agents who abused other people. Such evidence from former members would add greatly to the overall picture of The Family, and we are now presented with a perfect opportunity for just that.

Mr. Bulwer states that I fail “to adequately inform readers of the powerful, controlling influence the leadership has over regular disciples”. That is nonsense. Read the book. The authoritarian nature of The Family is clearly described as experienced by any number of disciples. My book demonstrates that this “controlling influence” did not have the same force on every disciple, and has moderated somewhat since 1994. Family disciples now have more choice and more control over their own lives, but the Family remains at base an autocratic institution under the rule of Queen Maria and King Peter. I do not believe such “powerful, controlling influence” absolves individual disciples from at least partial responsibility for their own actions and own choices. Perhaps Mr. Bulwer does, but if so, the only persons he would hold accountable are leaders such as Father David, Queen Maria, and King Peter.

When I was first contacted asking for a response to Mr. Bulwer’s article, I was informed that he had spent nearly 20 years in The Family, had left in 1991, and was an attorney. As I read through his article, I naturally assumed he had been born into the movement, and left at age 19 to pursue his life in the world. But when I read his bio at the end of the article, I was surprised to discover that he joined at age 16 in 1972 and left in 1991. This means that Mr. Bulwer was an active adult male in The Family, age 20 to 34, during the very worst years of sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse of the disciples and their children. He served as a Family disciple in Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia—places where some of the worst abuses were common. I have no idea what level of leadership Mr. Bulwer attained. Perhaps I am being naive here, but it seems to me his credibility would be enormously enhanced if he detailed for us the level of his own involvement in what he describes as typical Family life during these times, or if he directed us to where this information is available.

I do not believe Mr. Bulwer’s attack on my work is malicious. Though I do not know him and have not spoken with him, I would suspect he is most troubled not by what I leave out, but what I put in, that I include anything that reflects positively about the Family experience. Does he believe that there is absolutely nothing positive to say about the Family? Or does he believe that the Family is so evil that whatever might be positive is best ignored? These are important questions, the answers to which may shed light on why some former Family members see me as an “apologist,” yet I think that in my book I exposed a great deal of the darker side of the Family.

Well, I think I have said enough. After re-reading Mr. Bulwer’s article one more time, I am convinced that he has made some good points. Information that he provides does shed further light on The Family and in some places adds appropriate balance to the story. My book is not perfect, and the claims about the book that he disputes are not claims that I have made. Perhaps after I hear Mr. Bulwer’s own story of his Life in The Family, I will better understand this very unusual community of people.

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A Rejoinder to James Chancellor’s Response to My Article

Perry Bulwer, B.A., LL.B.

Cultic Studies Review, Vol. 6, No. 2, 2007


I have a few comments in response to Dr. Chancellor’s criticisms of my article. First, he describes my criticism of William Bainbridge and G. Gordon Melton as a “scathing attack” on those two scholars. In fact, half of what I write about Bainbridge is simply citing what other scholars have written about his work on The Family. My own analysis is confined to pointing out two glaring errors in Bainbridge’s foreword to Dr. Chancellor’s book. It is hardly a scathing attack to point out that an expert on The Family is completely wrong about one of their central doctrines regarding nuclear families, namely One Wife.

Similarly, most of what I write about Melton comes from other scholars’ analysis of his work on The Family. My own criticism, far from a scathing attack, simply points out the discrepancy between Melton’s writings from 1986 to 1992, in which he doubted The Family could ever gain respectability in the larger religious community, and his favorable view of The Family in his writings in 1994 and beyond. Furthermore, I do not consider it an attack to point out the fact that a scholar who once wrote critically and now writes favorably about The Family also received a large cash payment from the group.

It seems that my reporting of that last fact has caused Dr. Chancellor to accuse me of using innuendo to paint him with the same brush as Bainbridge and Melton. Perhaps that is just his way of trying to distance himself from them. The sentence in which I report the fact of Melton receiving money from The Family contains two main clauses. The first clause points out that both Melton and Dr. Chancellor are considered experts by The Family. The second, independent clause singles out Melton as the recipient of money from the group. There is no suggestion by me that Dr. Chancellor accepted money from The Family and I reject the insinuation that I deliberately tried to give that impression. Perhaps I would have been clearer if I made that sentence into two separate ones, but I am not sure even that would have satisfied Dr. Chancellor.

Interestingly, after accusing me of deliberately attempting to disparage him by factually associating him with scholars whose work on The Family is somewhat dubious, Dr. Chancellor uses innuendo himself to attempt to associate me with abusive leaders in The Family. He writes that I “… was an active adult male in The Family, age 20 to 34, during the very worst years of sexual, physical, emotional, and psychological abuse of the disciples and their children.” His insinuation is that I must have had some part in the abuses that occurred, even though he knows nothing about me and admits to not having done any research on former members.

Dr. Chancellor conveniently overlooks the fact that I was only 16 when I joined the group, hardly a mature adult. While still an extremely impressionable minor, I was submitted to intense indoctrination by means of spiritual coercion and psychological manipulation, in an isolated environment where I was undernourished and overworked. There is a reason the Canadian and U.S. militaries require parental consent for new recruits under 18 years old who have not yet attained full maturity (an appropriate analogy since I was recruited and indoctrinated to believe that I was a revolutionary Christian soldier). Furthermore, consent in the case of the military is given with full disclosure and recruitment is without coercion, unlike the group I joined. My life most likely would have taken a very different turn, if I had known the true nature of the group and that their leader, whose identity was kept from me for at least the first year after joining, was a sex-obsessed, incestuous, and abusive alcoholic. Perhaps in his haste to insinuate, wrongly, that I abused others it did not occur to Dr. Chancellor that I too was abused.

It is difficult to determine if Dr. Chancellor is encouraging me or merely taunting me to write my story. I do intend to write it one day, but that could yet be years in the making. He says that my credibility would be enhanced (I did not realize it needed enhancement) if I revealed more about my personal involvement in The Family. Early drafts of my article did contain passages where my personal experiences confirmed some of the reported abuses. However, I decided to take out all personal references. The intent of the article is to fill in some of the gaps in Chancellor’s narrative. Just as Chancellor chose to leave out of his book any in-depth discussion of Family leadership, I chose to leave out my personal experiences as the evidence I provide is loud and clear without requiring confirmation from me. Furthermore, if he is not willing to do research on former members, it is not clear to me how reading my unique story would help him understand what he refers to as “this very unusual community of people.” Is Dr. Chancellor here making the same assumption he appears to make in his book, that is, former members are a homogenous group divided only between those who remain favorable to The Family and those who do not? It will take more than just a few personal stories like mine to understand the extremely diverse community to which he refers.

If Dr. Chancellor is so concerned about my credibility, perhaps it will satisfy him if I respond to his innuendo by categorically stating that I was never in a position of leadership in The Family, and I never abused anyone in anyway, sexually, physically, psychologically, emotionally or otherwise. I did witness instances of physical, spiritual and psychological abuse as well as medical neglect, and suffered the same, at the hands of Family leaders. The list of abuses I suffered is too long to list here, but includes two medical emergencies where my life was seriously endangered (I have the scars to prove it) through no fault of my own. Both times, though certainly not the only times, I was punished by leadership for being out of God’s will (I have scars of a different kind from that). I did not see all that abuse for what it was, given my state of mind at the time, which was entirely informed by David Berg’s warped world-view in an isolated, high demand, totalitarian milieu. That is a large topic not suitable for discussion here, but it suggests a possible subject for Dr. Chancellor’s next research project.

Also inclining me to ask if Dr. Chancellor views all former members as essentially the same, even while he objects to being lumped in with other experts on The Family, are his complaints about how he has been treated by other former members. I do not understand why he feels the need to bring up specific instances of his interactions with other former members and various accusations made against him, as if I am somehow responsible. He writes: “But I think it is very important that this community of people understand that their story is harmed, not enhanced, when they make unjust and in some cases malicious attacks on persons who view the Family through a different lens.” I certainly have not made unjust or malicious attacks on Dr. Chancellor or anyone else, and I am not responsible for those who may have. It seems to me that he has simply taken this opportunity to air some grievances unrelated to me and my article, and in doing so has used a little innuendo of his own.

Dr. Chancellor complains about statements I make in my article that his is not the whole story, and takes this opportunity to assure his readers that he is well aware of that fact. Perhaps he missed it, but I was also careful to explain to my readers that same point, writing: “Chancellor does acknowledge that his book is not the whole story and that The Family requires a broader assessment from academics as well as former members.” It seems Dr. Chancellor is still on the defensive, as if my article is a direct or even indirect attack on him. It is not. My intended audience for this article is the academic community and my purpose, which I repeat a few times, is to provide a fuller picture than they would get from just reading Dr. Chancellor’s book alone.

Regarding The Family’s doctrine of Deceivers Yet True, Dr. Chancellor complains that I do “… not point to a single statement made by a disciple in my book that is not true.” That is to miss the point about that doctrine. It is not as much about making false statements as it is about only telling half-truths; deceiving and misleading while appearing to be truthful. That is what makes it an effective strategy and why I criticize him for not forewarning his readers about that doctrine. The analysis by Justice Ward in the British custody case is sufficient to show how far Family members will go to conceal the truth and tell outright lies. More difficult to discern is the dissembling of truth outside of a courtroom by telling only half-truths and part of the story. Contrary to Dr. Chancellor’s suspicion that I am most troubled by what he put in his book, not what he left out, what I objected to in Dr. Chancellor’s interviews of Family members was not lies they told, but truths they did not. Although, to his credit, Dr. Chancellor does expose “a great deal of the darker side of the Family,” his methodology, as he has acknowledged, prevented him from discovering the truths that current members did not tell him about. Further research into the perspectives of former members of the Family, including those who have criticized Dr. Chancellor and other academics, will provide a more accurate and complete picture of the Family.

Dr. Chancellor states that the major issue here is sexual abuse, that according to his understanding there is “no evidence of current sexual abuse,” and wonders if I have such evidence. I do not claim in my article that systemic sexual abuse is occurring now or that I have evidence for it. What I do is document Family publications, Family doctrines and beliefs, and leadership attitudes that continue to put children in harms way or deny them basic human rights. Justice Ward came to the same conclusion and expressed concern for children’s futures in The Family. I also document the fact that many changes in The Family are superficial and thus provide no real assurance that their children’s inherent human rights will be respected, something Ward was also concerned about. Hence, even if there is no evidence of current abuse, these other facts about the Family suggest that the level of abuse and risk to children might be greater than the current evidence indicates, for, as I have argued repeatedly, discovering the full truth about the Family requires more diligent investigations than have thus far been conducted.

I am glad that Dr. Chancellor does not consider my “attack” on his work, as he puts it, to be malicious. It is not. It is not even an attack, let alone a scathing attack. My article is not intended to disparage his work or him personally. My only interest is in ensuring the whole truth about this controversial and secretive group is revealed to the public, especially scholars involved in the study of such groups. In my article I credit Dr. Chancellor with acknowledging his is not the whole story, and I proceed to fill in some of the gaps left by his methodology. I, too, do not provide the whole story and acknowledge that there are issues better left to others.

To satisfy Dr. Chancellor’s curiosity about my experiences in The Family, and to show I harbour no ill-will towards him, I would be willing to be interviewed by him should he ever decide to attempt “... to do the same kind of research with former members and tell the whole story again from a very different perspective.”