|Photo by A. Stahl|
This Friday, I was pointed in the direction of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald from 2008 called "Spare the rod and spoil the...", which is available in archives, about the Twelve Tribes.
What is echoed there as it is here over and over in the courts and on the Twelve Tribes website is:
...If a child disobeys these rules or fails to respond to an adult, he or she is hit on the bare bottom or hand with a 45-centimetre, reed-like stick, one of which is kept above the door ledge in every room.
"One spanking generally consisted of three to six hits," Klein says, with the rod regarded as "an instrument of love, not punishment".
Sydney Morning Herald, March 24, 2008 "Spare the rod and spoil the..."
There is another article from two years ago that was in the Augsburger Allgemeine which states that some small children were being hit with a switch for up to four hours at a time. The authorities knew and held back because there was not enough evidence.
I had done a little digging and was sent in the direction of a PDF that documented the long stay of the Twelve Tribes from around 2000 through 2006.
The Twelve Tribes came to Germany via a couple that went to the US and visited a commune in the US and wanted to begin a similar commune in Germany. The group began with a dozen or so members, some of them American Tribes members, and some of them German, who began camping out after selling their worldly goods. If I understand the documentation correctly, this commune was in Bremen.
A second commune was then established in Baden-Würrtemberg. This is when all the trouble with members homeschooling began. The commune in Bremen moved to Klosterzimmern in 2001 and began homeschooling their children. It was in June-August of that year that the school district was informed of the situation and mediation was put in place (as usual) to get the children into public or private schooling. By October, the Twelve Tribes had racked up fines in the figure of 2,000€ per child concerned.
By February of 2002, there was a press conference in the Bavarian Parliament and this discussed the compulsory school laws that are in place in Germany and Bavaria, and how the Twelve Tribes members were not in compliance with that law. By May-June, a deal was reached that if the children went to school, the fines would be forgiven. In October, the police came to ensure the children would attend school and escorted them there. It went downhill from there.
In March 2003, new fines were put into place. By December, there was a new letter from the ministry of education that went unanswered. Thirty more members moved from the Munich commune into the Klosterzimmern commune, bringing more children.
In the summer of 2004, several fathers were to be imprisoned due to contempt of court. (not paying the fines and not sending children to school) In July of 2004, the parliament in Donau-Ries met to discuss the removal of custody of the children involved. In August, there were 18 parents that the court found in contempt of the law and ordered to be jailed.
On the 15th of October, the Twelve Tribes held a press conference and invited the heads of the German Homeschool movement. Ingrid Günther of SCHUZH showed up and spoke on their behalf. By the 18th, seven fathers were locked up in jail for contempt of court. On the 21st, members of the sect protested outside of the Landratsamt against the fines imposed upon them.
In November, the authorities wanted to take the mothers concerned in the case into coercive detention for further talks. (I'm assuming due to the nature of the Tribes to bait and switch when it comes to this sort of thing) The authorities then decided to suspend the judicial hearing on the fines that were imposed on the families and forgive the debt.
By the 17th-20th of January 2005, the Twelve Tribes got their go-ahead from the authorities to have their long-wished private school.
The rest is history.
Last year, Wolfram Kuhnigk stepped in using his position as a reporter at TV/Radio station RTL to get into the Twelve Tribes and investigate the claims that had been made against this group in Germany for the last fourteen years. He lived with the sect for two weeks and very carefully documented everything that he found. [This has been discussed at length on my blog and you can find this information via the links at the bottom of the page.]
I'm finding now via Focus and the Augsburger Allgemeine that the lawyer representing the Twelve Tribes wishes to prosecute him for breach of confidentiality and filming in secret. They claim that the investigation into these claims are already in progress and ready to prosecute. Secret film and sound recordings are forbidden by law and punishable under Section 201 of the Penal Code with a heavy fine or a prison sentence of up to three years.
Without this recording, those children would still be in the Twelve Tribes and their parents would simply be fined for every month that they are not in school.
In the meantime, the campaign to paint the authorities and reporter Wolfram Kuhnigk in a bad light is out in full force on the Twelve Tribes' website. I won't be linking there as they do not need any more hits on their page, or any good press. Seriously, some of the news coming out of there is so distorted that former members are having a lot of difficulty reconciling what they know of their family's situation with what is being presented online as reality.
I'll be crossing my fingers and saying my prayers that the judges see through this smoke screen and dismiss these charges as frivolous in the light of everything that they are finding out has occurred in the commune.
If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12 and part 13 to be better informed on this issue.