Family Ties

Ex-members of a cult that once advocated sex between adults and children want the group's leaders exposed and punished

Their stories might be unbelievable were it not for a 1995 British custody case that exposed thousands of internal Family memos.

That case supports what these ex-members say today: Their parents placed the Family before their kids. Many children were sent to "re-education" camps around the world, where some were forced to beg in the streets for the people who allegedly beat and raped them at will. They were allegedly told to lie to outsiders, and that if they uttered a word about their treatment, the devil's minions would take away their parents and brothers and sisters forever, and it would be all their fault.

It started in the mid-'60s, with one man: David Berg.

Ex-members say Dallas artist Hugo Westphal 
illustrated Mo letters in the 1970s.
Ex-members say Dallas artist Hugo Westphal illustrated Mo letters in the 1970s.

According to published materials, Berg was born in Oakland in 1919 to fundamentalist Christians; Berg would ultimately preach the gospel for a denomination known as the Christian and Missionary Alliance. After he was booted out in 1954, he longed to find someone to heed his Endtime, anti-authoritarian screeds. Plus, he had a wife and four children to feed.

Serendipity hooked him up with Los Angeles televangelist Fred Jordan, who took Berg under his wing. Berg also had assistance from his mother, who preached to hippies in Huntington Beach. Distraught over the military-industrial complex and in dire need of a sandwich, these disillusioned souls seemed to wash up in SoCal by the busload.

Jordan operated a ministry called The Soul Clinic out of a bombed-out building in downtown L.A. He also owned a godforsaken patch of rural Texas wasteland near Thurber, 70 miles west of Fort Worth, which Berg dubbed the Texas Soul Clinic. At the clinics, Berg and his cadre of leaders began his brainwashing techniques.

By the '90s, Berg would become an incestuous, sherry-swilling pedophile, but back in the hippy-dippy days, his charisma was unquestionable. The kids called him Dad or Grandpa or Moses David. He was already a bit off his rocker, but he gave his flock purpose. He preached of the Endtime, and how he and his buddy J.C. had the key to eternal salvation. He called his movement The Children of God, and they incorporated in Dallas. To the outside world, they were kooky but harmless.

Once Berg made it known he was a prophet, he could live in secrecy, corresponding with his flock via Mo letters (short for "Moses"), a series of increasingly bizarre commandments. By the mid-'70s, the Mo letters advocated the fund-raising practice he called Flirty Fishing. He called the women of the group "God's whores" and "hookers for Jesus."

Berg's sexual obsessions became group doctrine. Soon the Mo letters described how sex was appropriate at any age. Berg explained this in a 1977 Mo letter called "My Childhood Sex," in which he discussed a woman who baby-sat him when he was three or four.

"She used to suck me to sleep for my nap every afternoon," Berg wrote. "I loved it! But my mother began to get curious…I wasn't any little angel, I was just waiting to get sucked! I had orgasms and really enjoyed it." He then added, "Look at me, I don't think it did me any harm!"

His daughter Faithy seconded that emotion when she cheerfully recalled her molestation at the hands of her own father when "My Childhood Sex" was revamped in 1978. (By this time, Faithy operated as her father's emissary to his pal Mu'ammar Gadhafi.)

"Childhood sex: I like it! It reminded me of how you [Berg] used to put me to sleep when I was a little girl, three or four. Wow! Daddy did it best! Back rubbin' that is, and front rubbin', too…Praise the Lord! I don't think it perverted me, none at all, but it sure converted me to his call! So I believe our parents should try it and help our kids to get the natural habit! We pray it'll work, then junior won't be a sexual jerk! It worked for me as you can see, I just do what comes naturally!"

Faith Berg Fischer, whose love of pedophilia was apparently matched only by her love of exclamation points, lives in Houston, in an apartment complex off Westheimer. Faithy, now 54, refused to answer questions about allegations of systematic sexual abuse in the Family. It's not clear whether she is still part of the Family, but her position is similar to the Family's. She waffled from denying sexual abuse ever happened to saying it happened so long ago that it's not worth dwelling on. She said there are more important things to worry about, like hurricane evacuees. She also said she was too busy taking care of her elderly mother. (Jane Miller Berg, David Berg's first wife, is part of the Katy-based Star Family Singers.)

In the late '70s, there was unrest in the ranks, and Berg kicked out a bunch of naysayers and renamed the group the Family. But they were still hounded by allegations of sexual abuse of children. To counter the bad publicity, the Family adopted an anti-child-abuse policy in 1986. They said that some individual members, unbeknownst to the leadership, may have had inappropriate sexual contact with minors.

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