JUDGEMENT OF LORD JUSTICE WARD CONCERNING THE FAMILY : PT 18


THIS IS THE JUDGMENT OF LORD JUSTICE WARD IN THIS CASE WHICH
HE GAVE IN CHAMBERS ON THE 26TH MAY 1995 BUT WHICH IS BEING
HANDED DOWN IN OPEN COURT TODAY. IT CONSISTS OF 295 PAGES
AND HAS BEEN SIGNED AND DATED BY THE JUDGE.

THE JUDGE HEREBY DIRECTS THAT NO TRANSCRIPT OF THE JUDGMENT
NEED BE TAKEN AND THAT THE VERSION HANDED DOWN MAY BE
TREATED AS AUTHENTIC.

THE JUDGMENT IS BEING DISTRIBUTED ON THE STRICT
UNDERSTANDING THAT IN ANY REPORT OF IT NO PERSON (OTHER THAT
COUNSEL AND THEIR INSTRUCTING SOLICITORS AND THOSE PERSONS
IDENTIFIED BY NAME IN THE JUDGMENT ITSELF) MAY BE IDENTIFIED
BY NAME AND THAT IN PARTICULAR THE ANONYMITY OF THE CHILD, A
WARD OF COURT, AND THE MEMBERS OF HIS FAMILY MUST BE
STRICTLY PRESERVED.

SIGNED:

THE RT. HON. LORD JUSTICE WARD DATED 19TH OCTOBER 1995



W 42 1992 IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

FAMILY DIVISION

PRINCIPAL REGISTRY IN THE MATTER OF ST (A MINOR)

AND IN THE MATTER OF THE SUPREME COURT ACT 1991h

Lord Justice Ward



With particular regard to NT they reported that:-

"There is no doubt that NT is totally committed to S and
also to The Family. S is currently thriving in this
environment and all his needs fully met."

The purpose of my ordering that report was to give the Local
Authority the opportunity to consider whether or not they
wished to intervene in these proceedings in order to apply
for a Care Order or a Supervision Order with respect to S or
to provide services or assistance to S or his family or to
take any other action with respect to the child. In other
words this was an opportunity for the State, acting through
the Local Authority, to intervene in a private family
dispute and to seek public law remedies. The local
authorities have public law duties to act to protect
children in need. After a serious investigation by
experienced social workers whose professionalism and
objectivity commands respect, the recommendations of the
Local Authority were:-

"Given all of the above the Local Authority does not intend
at this stage to bring any proceedings under Section 31 of
the Children Act 1989 for a Care Order or a Supervision
Order in respect of S or any of the other children. The
overall demeanour, health and welfare of the children seen
are such that the Social Services Department does not
consider it necessary at this stage to provide any voluntary
services to The Family."

These conclusions have important consequences for me. The
first is a legal consequence: the Children Act effected
changes to the law which repealed the power of the Judge in
Wardship to make a Supervision Order directed at the Local
Authority if in the Court's discretion the exceptional
circumstances of the case justified it. Now it is necessary
for the Local Authority to apply and a Supervision Order
cannot be foisted upon them. That being the letter and the
spirit of the law, it would be quite inappropriate for me to
impose conditions in any order I make with a view to
monitoring S's progress hereafter. This is a truly
exceptional case where the wider discretion repealed by
Parliament might well have proved beneficial. But it is not
to be.

The second important consequence is that I cannot overlook
the favourable aspects of this report. I have evidence to
similar effect from Dr Cameron and Dr Heller. Moreover I
have evidence of similar observations of children in Family
homes in America and in Australia. Though I am not bound by
decisions taken by other Courts in other jurisdictions,
there is more evidence of exoneration of The Family than of
condemnation. I have received evidence from witnesses both
within and outside The Family which leads me to suspect that
The Family do have "sample homes". It may be all homes are
equal if only in an Orwellian sense. Suspicion does not,
however, justify a conclusion that conditions and practices
in the other homes are necessarily bad though they may not
be as good as the Ward's home. My views of the expert
evidence I have heard are set out elsewhere and I was not
always wholly convinced by all that was written or said. I
am, however, reminded of words attributed to Abraham Lincoln
that "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some
of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the
people all of the time." The broad and generalised
observations and finding across the world therefore tend to
confirm the specific conclusions of the Leicestershire
County Council that by and large those living in Family
homes, adults and children, seem content enough with their
lot. I must still resolve whether that is good enough for S.

Other Investigations

As I had requested of them, Leicestershire County Council
made enquiries of other local authorities where the
activities of The Family had come to the Social Services
Departments' attention. Newcastle had an occasion to
investigate one particular family but within the context of
disputed divorce proceedings where nothing could be firmly
established one way or the other as to the effect of The
Family on the children concerned. I have already referred to
the investigations conducted by Hertfordshire County Council
with reference to SM's running away from Burnt Farm. The
London Borough of Barnet carried out investigations in
Hendon following reports in the press, the Daily Mail and
the Hendon Times in November 1990. Those investigations were
fruitless because The Family apparently vacated the premises
virtually overnight. They visited another house in
Cricklewood in London but that was inconclusive. The police
received reports relating to Arkley and Pinner and
eventually all three houses were raided by the police in
January 1991. The adults refused to permit interviews with
the children. Such enquiries as could be conducted gave rise
to no cause for concern.

Police Enquiries

After the conclusion of the hearing, there was some
publicity in the National Press relating to investigations
conducted by the Metropolitan Police into the affairs of the
Children of God and The Family. My attention was drawn to
the report in the Daily Mail. I have not read the police
report and although I am aware of their reported
conclusions, I take no account of them. I have sufficient
evidence placed before me to come to my own independent
conclusions and the police report, like the reports of
proceedings in foreign jurisdictions, fades into the
background.

THE EXPERT EVIDENCE

I am mightily relieved to have been spared the reams of
paper and days of evidence that it seemed at one time might
be inflicted upon me to resolve questions of brainwashing
and mind control. These terms seemed more likely to carry
emotive weight than scientific backing. The anti-cult
movement may believe it. I am most unlikely to have been
helped by it at all. The fact is that most of those within
The Family remain there because of their faith in what it
offers. For most it is blind faith. Some remain within The
Family because, having almost become institutionalised, they
cannot find either the strength and courage or the will to
break away. For the young there are, as I have already
found, pressures brought to bear upon them through the
traumatic testimonies and more subtly, to fear the unknown
and to prefer the devil they know. There is no evidence
whatsoever to suggest that NT - or CT for that matter - were
put under any improper pressure to join the family. Far from
it. They went into it voluntarily and happily. The letters
written by NT are eloquent of that new found happiness
through "finding" Jesus. She had undergone a remarkable
change but it is no more than one would expect from the
cataclysmic religious conversion which she and many others
have experienced. Being "reborn" is a phenomenon which
happens to some members of established churches. It does not
only affect those at the loony extremes of Christianity.

Professor James Richardson

He is a Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies at the
University of Nevada. He seems to have become interested in
the Children of God in the mid 1970's. He worked with Rex
Davis, the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral, who had himself become
interested in this group through their affiliation with the
World Council of Churches. They wrote a paper together in
1976. They predicted that the Children of God would change
just as all social movement groups changed and for broadly
two reasons. Firstly a negative reaction to a new religious
group was predictable leading the group to adopt a defensive
attitude to the perceived attacks from the state,
traditional religions and especially the anti-cult movement.
Secondly internally, as the group developed and children
were born into it, the group necessarily became more
"domesticated". This led to the group being "deformed" from
what they had set out to be and do. No longer could they
expect all members to spend their time and energy
evangelising in far-away lands. Some members had to take
care of their families and ways to support this diverse
membership had to be found. These authors did not, however,
predict that the major change would be the development of
the Flirty Fishing Ministry! Prof. Richardson finds this
group interesting because of the blending of their
acceptance of fundamentalist religious beliefs with "a
strong experiential orientation" manifested by their
"openness towards sexuality". He is of the opinion that The
Family has evolved into a relatively stable pattern of
managing sexuality in a manner much more in keeping with the
values of ordinary society. He does not flinch from
expressing the opinion that children were exposed to sexual
experiences to a greater extent within The Family than
outside it. He does not shrink from asserting his opinion
that some child sexual abuse occurred within Berg's own
household. He has spoken to Peter Amsterdam who accepted
that open sexual activity in the presence of the children
and adult teenage sex did take place and was "a mistake". He
recognised that necessarily there is some "submerging of
personality" in groups which are communal or collective
simply because they do not foster the individualistic and
competitive lifestyle to which society is accustomed.
Nevertheless he believed that most of the participants were
in their movements simply because they wanted to be there
and further that they would leave when the experience was no
longer rewarding for them. He struck me as a reputable
scholar who had, not surprisingly, a scholar's enthusiasm
for his subject and for his views, but not to the extent
that he had lost his objectivity.

Dr Susan Palmer

She is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Religion,
Concordia University, Montreal. There were times during her
evidence when she was less than impressive almost as if she
had fallen into the very trap she had acknowledged to exist,
namely the danger posed for the academic that they might
become irritated by the "wilful inaccuracies" of the
anti-cult movement and so succumb to "the temptation to
compensate by writing an overly positive report on The
Family". Subject to that caveat, I found her evidence
interesting and helpful. For example:-

"While the terms "system" and "systemites" suggest what the
anti-cult movement call an "us - and - them mentality," I
have observed Family members use them in a self-consciously
satirical fashion, as a quaint relic from their past. While
recent literature still conveys gothic portraits of "system"
life as a warning to youth in The Family, one must remember
that much of it is written by Mama Maria and her team, who
have lived in hiding since the mid 70's, and are presumably
out of touch with mainstream culture."

She formed her views from her spending a week in the San
Diego School in September 1993, spending a week in the
English homes in Newcastle, London and the Ward's home and a
week with her own children in the Washington Y.A. home. She
has visited other homes for a day. She has interviewed 45
members and three ex-members and her informants include
Peter Amsterdam and Davidito. She has submitted various
questionnaires.

The returns from 52 people in the United Kingdom on the
reasons for their having become Turf Supporters showed that
the causes for leaving The Family included a feeling that
the leaders were applying too much pressure on them or the
children. There seemed to her to be a discernible rise in
the number of defections in the past few years. Nevertheless
many seem to miss the practical assistance, the emotional
support and the religious intensity of the commune. She
quoted, by way of almost typical example, one 30 year old
lady with children who expressed among the advantages of
living outside a D.O. home, the ability to live according to
her own faith but with the freedom to make more of her own
decisions. Her complaint was that even leisure times had to
be scheduled, organised and co-ordinated in a way which in
essence amounted to an unacceptable invasion of her freedom
and her privacy. Despite that there was a perceived
disadvantage for her children (who seem to be young
teenagers) for there was less going on about them, less fun
and excitement and so more boredom. These observations
confirm views I have formed as I have listened to the
evidence that there is both good and bad in The Family way
of life.

She concluded from four case histories she took that:

"It does not seem very difficult for youth to leave The
Family if they are so inclined. ...Defectors are neither
shunned, threatened with Hell-fire nor debarred from
returning".

I do not entirely agree with that observation. It was
certainly true in the case of SC and SD but it was hardly
true of the defectors called by the Plaintiff. Perhaps that
is no surprise. One of the rare moments of passion in the
case as I have already set out was the distress evinced by
AB caused by the loss of contact to her mother and similar
distress was evident from MS and others. The fact that some
may come and go without fear or favour does suggest, and so
I find, that it is not all as black as the Plaintiff's
witnesses have painted.

I felt Dr. Palmer's evidence was weak when she came to deal
with the Victor programme. She acknowledged that Tony - Zack
Attack was made to conform by means of subjecting him to
public humiliation. She compared the Victor programme with
other groups and described it as an example of
"mortification mechanism". Nevertheless, she became
impatient when cross-examined about the excesses of the
Victor programmes run in this country which she sought to
shrug off as not being of any great interest to her. That
may in part be due to her opinion that some individuals
always suffer in a charismatic communal movement. She found
it to be a "striking characteristic of The Family" that they
were willing to experiment, admit they were wrong and try
again. There would always be casualties in such a process of
experimentation. I did not find this very reassuring for the
children who are to be the subjects and perhaps victims of
the next experiment!

When she came to discuss the group's sexual mores, she
observed that:

"These early "sexual experiments" - luridly and outrageously
preserved in pubs currently accessible only to anti-cultists
and the Courts - are mere historical curiosities which have
been whole heartedly expunged from contemporary homes and
will never be reinstated."

She argued:

"That The Family has evolved far beyond David Berg's sexual
fantasies and questionable pre-occupations and have
successfully established a healthy society with a highly
elaborated code of ethics which, if properly understood,
would not stretch the tolerance of the public."

I venture to think that the public might reasonably expect
to be furnished with a frank acknowledgement of the past
deviant practices before being invited to show tolerance
towards current behaviour patterns and beliefs.

She said that of the young adults she interviewed:

"They appear to regard their parents' time of sexual excess
with a kind of amused indulgence. The second generation
appear far more cautious in embarking on a sexual
relationship."

She concluded her written report as follows:-

"In my view The Family provides a healthy, safe, fun and
exiting environment in which to bring up children. I am
convinced that there is far less child abuse (if any at all)
occurring in the D.O. homes than in the suburbs of our large
city. Although it is true that Family JETTS and teens are
directed into a vocational training programme that will
render them better prepared to become leaders in the End
Time than to sit for Harvard or Oxford entrance
examinations, it appears unfair to expect a communal,
millenarian society struggling to instil spiritual ideals in
its youth, to also train its children to excel in a
pluralistic competitive society. There is a trend among the
YA's and teens in California - apparently at the bidding of
TSer parents - to undertake exams and receive their High
School Certificate. I found The Family's second generation
to be socially adept and emotionally open and they
manifested highly successful efforts to cultivate
old-fashioned Christian virtues like kindness, thrift,
cleanliness, diligence and humility."

In her visits to The Family homes she sensed the air of
excitement, satisfaction and fun as the children fulfilled
their role of conducting their missionary work, as they
perceived it to be, by going out onto the streets singing
and dancing etc. Although, therefore, their educational
system was narrow they were active and creative in song and
dance which was their own tradition rooted in the conviction
that the world was about to end.

It is difficult for me to ignore the observations she has
made of the homes which she has visited though she readily
acknowledged that she entered into her research "tending to
find new religious movements delightful and amusing. They
knew I would not be hostile or critical. As a Sociologist, I
am value free." I am less than fully convinced of her
objectivity and her ability to see the whole picture. I was
not impressed with her response when cross-examined about
the inappropriate use of corporal punishment and the other
excesses of the Victor programmes, that, "This is all very
dreary, there are more important things of interest about
The Family." There may be well be interesting things about
The Family's way of life but their methods of disciplining
the youth cannot be shrugged off as something very dreary.

Dr Gordon Melton

He is the Director of the Institute for the Study of
American Religion which has a specialty in the study of new
religious movements. He has written extensively on the
subject and his expertise is unquestioned. He first became
aware of the Children of God some time around 1970 and had
his first direct contact with them in 1971. He monitored
them through the 1970's until they closed their colonies and
their headquarters and the majority of members left the
country. After some years of being out of touch he was
unexpectedly approached in the Autumn of 1992. He was
provided with copies of the literature as he requested. He
visited homes of The Family in 1993. One was in rural
England which I assumed to be the Ward's present home. He
also stayed at homes in Eastern Europe and Paris as well as
in California. Frankly professing no special training in
psychology or child care, Dr Melton nonetheless reported
that he consistently found happy children who were
comfortable in the presence of a stranger and who were
openly affectionate with the grown-ups in their midst,
especially their own parents. He observed nothing to
indicate that any child abuse was occurring in any of the
homes which he visited. He found the youth quite
knowledgeable of the world around them and remarkably free
of criminal and drug related behaviour. Many were bilingual
and multi-lingual and all were comfortable speaking to
strangers and speaking before an audience. Many had
developed specialised skills with modern technological
equipment (especially the computer) and had an excellent
musical background. Females lacked any marked interest in
fashion and most males had little interest in professional
sport though some followed soccer.

His report dealt at length with the sexual freedoms granted
by and practised in accordance with the Law of Love. When
cross-examined he felt able to go further than he had in his
written report and his evidence was clear and unequivocal
namely that he was in no doubt at all that oral or manual
masturbation and full sexual intercourse had occurred
between child and adult within The Family and that the
incidence of this having occurred was higher in The Family
than outside it. He said that Peter Amsterdam had in a
roundabout way acknowledged that fact. He described
Amsterdam as an astute politician and apologist and a
staunch defender of the family. He revealed that there had
been much conversation among the leadership about the extent
to which Berg himself had participated in child sexual abuse
and there was some disquiet as to how he could hold himself
out to be the Prophet when he was morally flawed.

Dr Melton stated that he had a reputation for being a
defender of small religious groups and a defender of the
freedom of religion. Nevertheless he was not afraid to voice
his criticisms of The Family and he did not shrink from
expressing his horror at the excessive punishments meted out
to the children. He assisted the Official Solicitor by
providing literature from his archives which had not been
forthcoming from The Family. I found him to be independent
and objective and his views on the future of this group, to
which I will turn in due time, command respect.

The Reverend Dr. David Millikan

He is a Minister of the Uniting Church in Australia who for
20 years has been involved in working with new religious
movements and monitoring their activities and evolution in
Australia. When the "raids" took place in Australia and
children were removed into care, he felt that the
authorities had overreacted and, without any sympathy for
The Family apart from that, and possibly even a degree of
antipathy felt towards them, he became involved and began
his investigations. He began his report in this way:-

"It is a complex undertaking to understanding a group such
as the Children of God - Family of Love - The Family. There
are a large number of sources one must contact before
judgments can be made. There is the testimony of past
members, the research of others, the literature and other
materials produced by the group, and contact with the group
itself and the experience of people within it."

At this stage of a judgment, which is already too long, I
could say, "You're telling me!"

He had approached his task seeking openness with The Family.
He made considerable progress but was denied direct access
to Berg or Maria. He knew of the "Deceivers yet True"
philosophy and he guarded against being deceived. The use of
Victor camps had made him wary but he felt satisfied by
their explanations until the events in this country
gradually emerged. He was not told the full facts. That
caused him concern but not enough completely to modify his
views about The Family. He felt manipulated by them and
angry. He told me, "I am still making my judgments about
this group".

He has endeavoured to speak to a broad range of Family
members from those newly-joined to many long-term members
including several who were present at the beginning of the
movement in the late 60's. He has many hours of recorded
conversation and hand-written notes. He has been able to
talk with several who are known as the key thinkers of the
movement. He has visited homes in Australia, Japan,
Thailand, India, Russia and the United Kingdom. He has had
extensive conversation with people who are ex-members of the
family some of whom look back on their time in The Family
with generally happy memories but others of whom are
hostile.

I formed the view that he was by no means an apologist for
them - on the contrary he struck me - if he will forgive me
for describing him and if the World Services will understand
my so describing him! - as a typical hard-headed Aussie who
would have been treated as one of the lads on the hill at
Sydney cricket ground. In other words, he was an impressive
witness!

His conversation with Family members convinced him:

"That they believe they have freedom to make their own
assessments of David Berg's writing. But they also live with
the belief that gives them no expectation that David Berg
could ever lead them astray."

He also expressed the opinion:-

"That there are some groups whose life is so aberrant and
destructive that they move beyond the realms of what is
acceptable in human society. Such a group I would call a
cult. I do not believe The Family fits this description."

Because the group so strongly believe that they will witness
the great events which will see the end of the world, their
educational efforts are directed to equipping the children
with the skills of management and decision making which will
be appropriate to the task of ruling the world with Christ
in the millennium. Dr Millikan expressed this opinion about
their education:-

"I am not without some reservations concerning the education
of the children above the primary school level. Up to that
point what I have seen of the education of the children
around the world is excellent. They are taught in a loving
and open atmosphere and they appear to enjoy the experience.
...For the teens, the educational materials available are
limited to a narrow band of publications emerging from the
fundamentalist creationist frameworks, although it must be
said that there is a concerted attempt within The Family to
address this situation. ....What is primary in my mind is
the emotional and spiritual health of the children. That I
believe is not at risk."

He expressed this strong opinion:-

"I believe we must retain within society the right of groups
such as this, when driven by powerful religious or
philosophical beliefs to put themselves at a distance from
the dominant values of our culture. The rights of children
in this situation are complex and under certain conditions
should be allowed to compromise the right of a group to
stand against our culture. But it is not a sufficient
argument to say that a group is aberrant and dangerous to
its children when the only reasons advanced are that the
group is isolated, or holds eccentric beliefs, or restricts
access to the state educational system for its children, or
advocates an openness in sexual expression. ...There were
certain forms of behaviour prior to 1986 in relation to
child sexuality which I believe are alarming...I am of the
opinion that all sexual encounters between adults and
children have ceased. The present literature is unequivocal
in its rejection of this behaviour and the people within the
group are clear about their own changes and that earlier
lit. has been removed or destroyed. ...The Family as they
present themselves now have a right to be respected within
the diversity which makes up the contemporary pluralist
nature of our society."


[ CLICK ME! ] Go To Part 17 . . .

[ CLICK ME! ] Go To Part 19 . . .


Divider

[ GO BACK UP ] [ GO TO GROUP ] [ DIRECTORY ]

[ HOME PAGE ]
[ E-MAIL ] UPDATE NEWS

Divider