from the Christian Research Journal, Fall 1992, page 5. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.
Special Report: International Investigations Rock Children of God
Pressures from police and media investigations in several nations may force the controversial and secretive Children of God (COG) movement to go above-ground in self-defense, or be driven still further into the underworld.
The most recent wave of troubles facing the pseudo-Christian sect, which has an estimated 17,000 members, stem from its radical form of religious promiscuity. From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s the group's founder and leader, "Moses" David Berg, advocated free sex among his followers. He also instituted the group's use of sex for proselytizing ("flirty fishing," or FFing) and for gaining financial support, protection, and privileged treatment. This promiscuity led to widespread child-adult sex within the group, outbreaks of herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases, and negative publicity around the world. Although in the late 1980s the group claimed to put a stop to adult-child sex and FFing, promiscuous behavior continued among adult members, and reports of the sexual abuse of children still surfaced-- reinforcing the COG's reputation as a destructive cult and provoking investigations that may threaten its activities as never before.
Japan: In June the leading Japanese news weekly Shukan Bunshun initiated a far-reaching investigative series on the COG with hard-hitting reports detailing the group's strategies and deviant sexual practices. The magazine alleges that through FFing and slick public relations the group built a network of powerful friends. Included among these friends were the Naritas, a wealthy and influential couple who purchased property and built a COG facility in Tatiama that became the cult's model "21st Century International School" (known to members as "Heavenly City School").
Shukan Bunshun scored a journalistic coup by locating Richard Dupuy (a.k.a. "Watchman"), a former COG leader who was intimately involved in the sect's Japanese operation for four years prior to his departure in early 1992. Dupuy has supplied valuable inside information about the group's extensive clandestine activities, which include illegal visas.
The COG has much to lose in Japan, as publicity from Shukan Bunshun's investigation threatens the very nerve center of the cult's worldwide music, literature, and video propaganda operation. Such is its importance that in the late 1980s fugitive leader David Berg himself resided in Japan with his entourage to personally oversee the sect's operations there.
As this article goes to press, legal action against the COG in Japan is still pending.
Australia: Following months of surveillance, on May 15 authorities took some 140 minors from COG communes in New South Wales and Victoria in dawn raids and placed them in protective custody. In July and August hearings began in Children's Court in Sydney and Melbourne to decide the children's fate. The controversial case has far-reaching implications, as it is unquestionably the largest child-custody battle in the history of Australia and one of the largest such cases in the world. Proceedings are expected to take months, due to the vast amount of evidence, witnesses, and affidavits involved.
At first the accused parents denied membership in the COG. They claimed that the movement has disbanded and that they are actually a small and independent religious group, unjustly persecuted by "anti-religious forces" and a well-funded, worldwide conspiracy against them. However, once it became obvious that the Australian group is indeed part of the global COG movement, the cult's top leadership, calling itself the "Fellowship of Independent Missionary Communities," published a new history of the group -- "Our Family's Origins" -- to explain away troublesome discrepancies and inconsistencies.
It appears that the COG is throwing the full weight of its resources behind winning the case, and Australian members have retained the services of some of the best lawyers in the country.
While no charges have yet been filed against the children's parents, the government's Community Services agency contends that the children are in danger of educational deprivation and emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse. Some 1,500 separate items of evidence have been gathered, including 150 affidavits, most from ex-members testifying of the sexual and/or psychological abuse they suffered while in the group.
Recently departing members in other parts of the world affirm that, far from "disbanding," the sect is more active and tightly controlled than ever. The defectors allege that the COG is merely acting out of expediency, changing its names and tactics in an effort to become even more covert. They also substantiate recent allegations of adult-child sex, psychological abuse, and harsh thought-reform techniques in the movement, as well as the physical isolation of dissenters and the separation of parents from children and husbands from wives.
Spain: Authorities are continuing their investigations of the COG in the wake of a July 1990 raid on a Barcelona commune in which at least 22 children were taken into protective custody, some for months. Court rulings are expected in the case, which is far from closed.
Even if the ongoing investigations in Japan and Australia result in expelling COG members from those countries, chances are the group will only be driven further underground, changing its names and methods to blend in with its surroundings, as it has done elsewhere. The sect will turn its energies, personnel, and resources to countries that are as yet unaware and therefore vulnerable to it. The COG has been doing this for years in Eastern Europe, using nations of Western Europe as bases for forays into Russia and the former East Bloc nations. In Asia, although it has had to curtail its activities in India, the sect nevertheless remains entrenched in Thailand and Korea and uses Hong Kong and Macau as bases to infiltrate mainland China with missionaries posing as "English teachers."
About the Author
Hiebert and her husband, David, were members of the COG for 15 years. They are the founders of No Longer Children, a support group for ex-COG disciples.
Warnke Ministries Hurt by Expose -- Satanic Plot Alleged
In 1972 Mike Warnke caused a sensation with his book The Satan Seller, the compelling story of how he surrendered his life to Jesus after a bloody stint as a satanic high priest. The book became a nonfiction best seller, dramatically influencing popular views of modern Satanism -- and launching Warnke's lucrative career as a nationally known author, comedian, and authority on the occult.
Warnke's amazing tale went all but unchallenged until July of this year, when the respected evangelical magazine Cornerstone published "Selling Satan: The Tragic History of Mike Warnke." According to authors Jon Trott and Mike Hertenstein, an extensive, two-year investigation of Warnke's background revealed "discrepancies that raise serious doubts about the trustworthiness of his testimony. We have uncovered significant evidence contradicting his alleged satanic activity. His testimony contains major conflicts from book to book and tape to book, it contains significant internal problems, and doesn't square with known external times and events. Further, we have documentation and eyewitness testimony that contradict the claims he has made about himself."
The lengthy and heavily documented article also claims that Warnke has lied about his educational achievements and accuses him of substance abuse, multiple extramarital affairs, financial improprieties, and participation in pagan rituals while a Christian.
In the wake of Cornerstone's call for Warnke to repent and withdraw from public ministry, the entertainer met for ten days with executives from his recording company to review the charges. On July 9 Word, Inc. president Roland Lundy announced the firm's intention to stand by Warnke, who issued a 12-page statement on July 15 in which he denied Cornerstone's allegations, yet presented no concrete evidence to refute them. (Warnke's first wife, Sue, and several prominent Christians were among others who released statements on the entertainer's behalf, but none offered conclusive proof to substantiate his story.)
Among those who found Warnke's response unsatisfactory was Tim Landis, organizer of the annual "Creation" Christian music festival. In a forceful July 16 letter to Lundy, Landis wrote: "In the event Mike Warnke refuses to answer each charge individually, the verdict is clear. Mike Warnke is a fraud and Word Records must weigh the potential legal liability of 'knowingly' distributing misrepresented materials."
Then, on August 6 Word suspended its business relationship with Warnke following a July 29 report in the Lexington, Kentucky Herald-Leader. The Herald-Leader stated that the IRS revoked Warnke Ministries' tax-exempt status in the fall of 1991 for improperly giving the entertainer and his family "too much money and too many benefits." The front-page story paints an extremely negative picture of the organization's finances and ethics, claiming that it "pays [Warnke] and his family nearly $1 million in salary and has bought them expensive Cadillacs and a $43,000 Mercedes-Benz roadster" while doing little or nothing to help alleged victims of Satanism.
In conversations with the JOURNAL in October, Rose Warnke Liebundguth -- another of the entertainer's former wives and an officer of Warnke Ministries -- claimed that the IRS had not actually revoked the organization's 501(c) (3) non-profit status, but had merely recommended that such action be taken (based on what she called "six minor infractions") and suspended tax exemptions on donations of $1,000 and above. The ministry has appealed the action to U.S. Tax Court.
Although at least two reports published after the Cornerstone expose have quoted Warnke as telling audiences that his organization would soon close, Liebundguth told the JOURNAL that "the ministry has no plans to shut down."
She further explained that she and Warnke are assembling a four-man "pastoral board" to review the ministry's practices and prepare further responses to charges against the entertainer. Once the board issues a public statement, she said, Mike Warnke will release yet another response to Cornerstone's charges. Apparently Warnke intends to use "a platform that would be very visible" -- perhaps the Trinity Broadcast Network -- to state his case.
Liebundguth told the JOURNAL that she and Warnke see the workings of a far-reaching satanic cult behind the recent attacks on their credibility -- a cult involving Cornerstone publisher Jesus People USA, apologists Robert and Gretchen Passantino of Answers in Action, and various unnamed conspirators bent on destroying any and all ministries that aid victims of satanic ritual abuse (e.g., those of Bob Larson, Johanna Michaelson, and Lauren Stratford).
But according to a reporter for Christianity Today, Liebundguth and Warnke clearly identified the Christian Research Institute as part of the supposed conspiracy more than once during a tape-recorded interview for the magazine's November 9 issue. When questioned by the JOURNAL, Liebundguth first denied ever making such an allegation, then backtracked, saying: "Well, if I did, I didn't mean it."
Meanwhile, Cornerstone stands by its original story, and have printed a followup report in its October issue.
About the Author
Abanes is a Research Assistant at the Christian Research Institute.
New Predicaments Confront Watchtower
Recent trends and events pose embarrassing problems for the Brooklyn, New York-based Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
- The breakup of the Soviet Union, while affording greater freedom for Jehovah's Witnesses in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, also leaves them with a failed prophecy to explain. Their 1958 book Your Will Be Done on Earth identified "the king of the north" of Daniel 11 as "the Soviet Union" (p. 263) and prophesied that the USSR would continue to exist as a communist state until finally meeting its "end in Armageddon" (pp. 297--300).
- Yet another predicament is the sect's leadership crisis. As the Watchtower's president, Frederick W. Franz, approaches his 100th birthday on September 12, 1993 -- and similarly elderly members of its elite Governing Body advance in age -- there is an obvious need for successors. But Witness doctrine excludes from eligibility 99.9 percent of the 10 million now attending Kingdom Halls. Leaders must come from among the "heavenly class" of 144,000 "anointed ones" converted prior to 1935, when Watchtower president Judge Rutherford introduced the teaching that the "great crowd" of believers will spend eternity on earth.
Of this number a mere 8,850 are still alive, and the vast majority of these are women -- another disqualification. That leaves perhaps 2,000 eligible men, most of them in their seventies or older -- a pool of potential successors with no greater vitality than the sect's present leaders. Thus, the organization must either turn over leadership to men who are eligible but incompetent or change the rules of eligibility to permit younger, competent men to assume control.
Since the claimed biblical basis for the sect's power structure rests entirely on the concept of "anointed" leaders, major problems and major doctrinal changes can be expected as this "remnant" of pre-1935 Witnesses continues to die off.
End of document, CRJ0116A.TXT (original CRI file name),
release A, June 30, 1994
R. Poll, CRI
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