Family Ties

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

"What really keeps the cult going is this widespread fundamentalist circle-jerk that we call the Bible Belt," Stone says. "These are the people who give to televangelists. These are the people who gave to the PTL Club back in the day, when Jim Bakker was having sex with his secretary…You tug those fundamentalist heartstrings and the checkbooks will open."

Ex-member Ashley (not her real name) says she worked at NACRO in the 1990s, which functioned in a state of perpetual paranoia.

"It's what the Family terms a selah home," Ashley says. "You would never call from your house to anywhere that would possibly connect that you were with NACRO."

David Berg's sexual obsessions became Family 
David Berg's sexual obsessions became Family doctrine.
Berg's daughter, Faith Berg Fischer, was a longtime 
Family leader.
Berg's daughter, Faith Berg Fischer, was a longtime Family leader.

For security purposes, NACRO workers were told not to send e-mails from the home.

"They never knew if someone down the line was being followed," she says, later adding, "it's very much like a cell structure, where information is given on a need-to-know basis…They don't trust their own people. And the people that they do trust enough…they've got something on them."

Working in NACRO meant you were working as a money launderer, but, for a female Family member, it was a safe environment. Ashley says she was raped at age 12, and she worked hard to bite her tongue and be a good little automaton so she could get that job.

"My whole life, the Family leadership has told me I was not abused," she says. "And to this day, I cannot get the words out of my mouth that, yes, I was abused…Because I've been told my whole life that, you know, 'When people poke your eyes out with hot irons, that's abuse. But what happened to you was not abuse.' "

She says that when the Family instituted the Child Abuse Policy, they didn't tell the kids.

"So if I didn't know, and a guy came and did something with me, how was I supposed to know that it's wrong?" she asks.

She describes Zerby's Discipleship Training Revolution this way: "These are children. Beaten. Silence restrictions. Food restrictions. Exorcisms. Removed from their parents and from anybody who should be caring about or loving them, and put into these homes-slash-camps where they were forced to do hard labor, where their mouths were duct-taped shut because they had a problem with being 'silly.' "

Still, Ashley says she's frustrated by the media's focus on the sexual abuse allowed by the Family.

"It's getting to the point now where me and a lot of people that I know are pretty upset," she says. "Because that was just a small fraction of our lives. There was physical abuse, emotional abuse, educational neglect -- my education stopped when I was 12 years old. Imagine what it's like for me now…to try to put my life back together when I barely even understand sixth-grade math. Nobody writes about that. What about not being able to adapt to society because you've got PTSD up the kazoo?"

Today, ex-members claim the Family has established front organizations to launder its money.

Earlier this year, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Lattin uncovered the Family's ties to a charity called Family Care Foundation. The Foundation's board consists of Family members and relatives of Family members. Until she was killed by Rodriguez in January, Angela Smith also served on the board.

According to the Foundation's Web site, its "Focus on Kidz" children's outreach program in the Ivory Coast is run by Paul Peloquin today. In the sweeping 1995 British court case, Peloquin was accused of molesting girls -- including Mene Berg -- in the Family's Music with Meaning compound in Greece. As a gift to Berg, Peloquin videotaped girls (including a nine-year-old Mene) and women dancing naked.

The judge in the 1995 case wrote of Peloquin:

"He was another member of the Music with Meaning team. He corrupted and abused the young girls who were part of the singing and dancing troupe. What troubles me gravely is that he is now the European Shepherd [chief officer]."

A former first-generation member provided the Press with excerpts from Peloquin's videos, which feature girls who appear to be as young as four dancing naked. In an interview portion, Peloquin asks an adult dancer identified as Joan to describe her scene.

"Paul was videoing two songs that I was dancing to…at the end of the take, I was masturbating to you [Berg], and when I came, I broke out in strong tongues. I couldn't control it. And the last few words were 'Father, I love you.' "

Peloquin's work for the Foundation puts him in direct contact with children. In one photo on the Foundation's current Web site, he's holding a girl who is about the same age as girls he used to videotaped dancing naked for Berg.

Lawrence Corley, the Foundation's executive director, told the Chronicle that his foundation is not connected to the Family. The Foundation collected $9.9 million in cash and in-kind gifts between 1997 and 2003.

Lattin, the Chronicle reporter, has interviewed many current and former members. He says a sense of abandonment pervades ex-second-generation members, especially those whose parents are still in the Family and who have not recognized past abuses.

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