Shalom

I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176


24 September 2013

The Twelve Tribes group in Germany part 3

Photo by A. Stahl

Since I've been covering the Zwölf Stämmen case, things have been quiet on the news front as the parents and children have been giving testimony in closed hearings in Bavaria. I waited for the election and a few other things to die down a bit before going back to this story.

There hasn't been much of any news to come out in English since the raid earlier this month, except for an article from The Independent UK. The article happens to interview one of the leaders at the Twelve Tribes location in Stentwood, Devon, UK.



“We have known that there is a legal issue in Germany over chastisement, but we believed we need to do what is right in God’s law rather than what the law of any land or state said. That’s really the bottom line of it. We always knew this day could come.”
...“we take the Bible seriously and believe... it’s a fundamental right to use the willow cane, it’s what we all believe...”
The Independent UK: 'It is our right to use the willow cane': Inside the Twelve Tribes Christian fundamentalist sect at centre of childcare controversy

Also, I somehow missed a couple news stories, prior to and immediately after the raid. It does make me wonder if this is why the reporter was so swift with his investigation?

  A few weeks before the beginning of the school year, the... community had once again asked for approval of their complementary school. The Ministry of Education had withdrawn authorization of the school ...on the 31st of July... The 20 school-age boys and girls ... will now need to attend state schools or ...private schools for the 2013/14 school year and forwards.
Sekte "Zwölf Stämme" beantragt eine neue Schule
["Twelve Tribes" sect applied for a new school]
 According to neighbors and former sect members, about ten school-age children are missing from Dolchau village since the week before the raid. The boys and girls are aged around 7 and 16 years of age and are thought to have been brought to a "Twelve Tribes" communie in the Czech Republic; presumably to escape the clutches of the German youth welfare offices.
 "Zwölf Stämme": Christen-Sekte soll Kinder ins Ausland gebracht haben
["Twelve Tribes": Christian sect is said to have brought children abroad]

 There was mention in my previous blog update on the Zwölf Stämmen that one child was returned to it's family during the hearings. It appears that this family was visiting from Latin America, and was not seen as a threat. Therefore, their three year old was returned in anticipation that they return to their homeland. You can find information here about that.

SWR ran a program this month with Criminologist Christian Pfeiffer. The findings are rather shocking, in my humble opinion, to find in a country that has outlawed physical discipline methods. Especially so, that people are justifying verses that are so far removed from their actual application to beat children.

Some free church communities ...are circulating parenting books, in which, ..."God has prescribed the use of corporal punishment..."
Detail is even given not to leave marks that would lead to criminal investigations: "... no matter how painful the blows of a slightly flexible article is... if no pain is felt in the child, then the instrument is ...too easy or ...soft. "
"Prügel im Namen der Bibel -"Den Kindern den Teufel aus dem Leib prügeln""
[Beatings in the name of the Bible "They beat the hell out of their kids"]

Updates on the Twelve Tribes case specifically:

The faith community has already been accused of chastising their children with beatings for a long time.
NTV: Religion Kinder - Amtsgericht hört Kinder der «Zwölf Stämme» wegen Prügelvorwürfen an

[Religion Children Court hears children of the "Twelve Tribes" because of allegations of beatings]
 In the case of the sect "The Twelve Tribes", authorities in Dolchau react in Saxony-Anhalt. After demands, the Youth Office has announced controls. "The youth welfare office is under a protection mandate," said district spokeswoman Birgit Eurich. Exactly when the employees want to look at the situation, is left unknown.
Jugendamt kündigt Kontrolle bei Sekte in Dolchau an
[Child Protective Services announce controlled look at a sect in Dolchau]
On Wednesday [September 18th] in the district court Nördlingen (district of Donau-Ries), the "Twelve Tribes" hearing began...
...In the next two weeks, the cult children are to be heard in court...
Amtsgericht Nördlingen hört Sekten-Eltern an
[Nördlingen sect parents' court hearing] 
 "The privacy of children is now top priority." The judge has prohibited outside press shots of people in and outside of the court house and has appealed to the media to respect this privacy.
...[September 18th] three children, aged thirteen, fifteen and sixteen were at court..
Anhörung: Privatsphäre der Kinder hat oberste Priorität
[ Hearing privacy of children is a top priority]
...Is established... that there is risk of and "massive, concrete and demonstrable child welfare risks"..
... care will be taken to support the welfare of the children in question and constantly take into account all new developments. There are currently ... 18 cases pending...
Familiengericht verhandelt 18 Fälle: Eltern verlieren Sorgerecht
[Family Court heard 18 cases: Parents lose custody]

Sharp criticism is heard from the faith community on its website about the RTL reporter. He bought "the confidence and openness of the people living there shamelessly, and abused it." ... The journalist.. "lied about himself and his life in order to conceal his true motives." The group wants to examine constitutional law, "to find out if one is allowed to secretly film and record sound, to publish them on television."
„Zwölf Stämme“ veröffentlichen Briefe ihrer in Obhut genommenen Kinder.
["Twelve Tribes" publishes letters from its children taken into care.]
 Last Friday [September 20th], two children who were in protective custody in Wörnitz; a 17-year-old girl and her ten year old sister  returned to their parents home. The parents informed the police of their presence. The foster parents had said the children had boarded a bus and already reported them missing. That same evening, the girls were returned by the police, back to the foster parents.
Zwölf Stämme: Zwei Mädchen wollten zurück
[Twelve Tribes: Two girls wanted to go back]

Because of the abuse allegations against the faith community, the children should remain ... in foster families. This was announced by the District Court of Ansbach on Tuesday, confirming the provisional withdrawal of parental authority for children...
Gericht: Kinder der Sekte bleiben bei Pflegefamilien
[Courts: Children of the Sect to Remain With Foster Families]


The Court also is relying on information contained in the education manual of the "Twelve Tribes" and video recordings of a television journalist. In the book there is a chapter on punishment of children with a rod...
Kinder bleiben vorerst in Pflegefamilien See Augsburger Allgemeine also
[children remain in foster care for now] 


To the Family Court has adopted four resolutions in the interim ... the parents can appeal these decisions in the next two weeks before the Higher Regional Court of Nuremberg...
Familiengericht: "Zwölf Stämme" bekommen Kinder nicht zurück
[Family Court: "Twelve Tribes" will not get kids back]


After the court had looked at the statements of the children, parents and former members of the sect belongs and the videotapes of the reporter, it has now decided: The children remain in foster care for now and do not return to the sect. They wanted to obtain "family psychological expert opinion" among others, which could take several months.
 Christen-Sekte "Zwölf Stämme": Gericht bestätigt vorläufigen Entzug des Sorgerechts [Christian sect "Twelve Tribes": Court confirms preliminary deprivation of custody]

On Sunday 29.9.2013, "Gemeinsam gegen die Zwölf Stämme" [Together against the Twelve Tribes] will be organizing a vigil, as they did already on 21.9.2013 to stand against the harmful parenting and spiritual upbringing of the commune's children.

Der Spiegel just ran a story yesterday (27.9.2013) on the Twelve Tribes. This documents several different things, including the history of the group and a couple run-ins that they had in the US, including one mentioned in The New York Times in 1984; and ten children that have been missing since right before the raid. I've been waiting for them to translate it into English, but they tend to be a little slow sometimes with these things.
The community was founded in the seventies in the United States.
The members of the sect live according to their own specifications in communes in various countries including Canada, Brazil, and England. In Germany, there are nearly a hundred followers in the country. The Twelve Tribes say that they rely on early Christian practices; such as their maxim: "He who loves his child, beats him with a rod."
They believe in their leader Gene Spriggs, and that in 2026, the world will come to an end. To this end, they believe that all who are not a part of their sect are possessed by Satan.
By this logic, is the Devil himself who is sending the reserves of his battalion against the Bavarian commune.
 Christen-Sekte "Zwölf Stämme": "Die tanzen den Behörden auf der Nase herum"
[Christian sect "Twelve Tribes": "They're testing the authorities patience"]


Updated: 28.9.2013
This is all I have at the moment. As court proceedings advance, as children open up - I am sure there will be more that is let out to the public.


You can also read more here: Part 1, part 2 part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8 and part 9 

11 comments:

  1. Hello Jennifer, The court has decided to keep the children in their foster families, while court appointed child psychologists are doiing research and writing up their reports. This might take months, as the pr officer for the courts said. Obviously you know German, so here is a quote:
    BR Online: "Zwölf Stämme"
    Kinder bleiben vorerst in Pflegefamilien
    Die neun Kinder der Glaubensgemeinschaft "Zwölf Stämme" aus Wörnitz (Lkr. Ansbach) bleiben in ihren Pflegefamilien, teilt das Amtsgericht Ansbach mit. Die Entscheidung beruhe unter anderem auf der Befragung der Kinder.
    Stand: 24.09.2013

    and earlier:
    24. September 2013 17:06 Uhr

    Augsburger Allgemeine
    "Zwölf Stämme"
    Gericht: Kinder der Sekte bleiben bei Pflegefamilien
    Das Amtsgericht Ansbach hat bestätigt, dass ein Teil der Kinder der "Zwölf Stämme" auch weiter in Pflegefamilien bleibt. In Nördlingen ist noch keine Entscheidung gefallen

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    1. Thank you for that! I will update the blog with that information.

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  2. My pleasure, Jennifer. Here s another one from Britain. Seems UK authorities are finally waking up, too (GOOD MORNING, smell that burning toast...)

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/twelve-tribes-community-nspcc-demands-police-inquiry-into-christian-sect-that-canes-children-8847622.html

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  3. Today's print edition of Süddeutsche Zeitung is running a long page 3 report about an ex-member's experience and about the difficulty the German court will have convicting the parents and upholding the decision to keep the children in custody. As in the Mollath case (the man that was wrongfully kept in a psychiatric institution), Süddeutsche knows how to keep the "flame alive", i.e. run regular stories on cases where the public's acute indignation has faded...It seems the TT case is their next good cause. The page 3 article in question does nt offer anything new but it certainly got my blood boiling. (BTW, this is just to supply your blog with updates, you don t have to publish my comments).

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Arg. sorry. My phone is playing up. Thank you for this update. I will have to get a copy today then. Thanks for the updates!

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  5. Wow, here s a pretty strong one: The Twelve Tribes obviously published - under a new domain name - the minutes of the court sessions with THE FULL NAMES OF THE CHILDREN, THE DEFECTORS AND THEIR LAWYERS! In clear breach of the law btw...They have by now taken the documents off the site, but the statements of some families, in which they seek to discredit the defectors, remain to be read (please click link in the body of the article under the link below). The statements claim that domestic violence did occur but that it was a problem of just one individual family who "did not apply the rules of how to train a child properly". Pathetic!

    http://www.donau-ries-aktuell.de/2013/10/14/zwolf-stamme-stellungnahmen-an-gerichte-veroffentlicht/

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  6. In the Twelve Tribes, no sooner than a child can walk, they are given either a shovel or a broom and expected to behave as miniature adults; robbed of their childhood. Religious right ends when it is inflicted on innocent children, especially with pain.

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  7. Is there anywhere online, an authentic copy of The Twelve Tribes' 146 page book on child beating?

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    1. If there is, I have not seen it. However, someone else may know, so i'll leave this up for you. :)

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