|Photo by A. Stahl|
This week, there have been two audio clips released covering the Twelve Tribes case. The first is from Augsburg TV. Note: For whatever reason, the link below is not going directly to the video. In the search box on A.TV's site - pop in "Zwölf Stämmen" and it will be the second result in the search results at the bottom of the page. (pay close attention, I missed it twice this morning!)
a.tv|mediathek: Natürlich Gemeinsam - die ehemaligen Schüler von Klosterzimmern melden sich zu Wort
[Naturally together - the former students of Klosterzimmern speak out]
Reporter: The Twelve Tribes community in Donau-Ries always wanted to seem like they had nothing to hide. In the previous months and years they have released videos on [their website www.zwoelfstaemme.de] the internet in which the members of the sect release commentary about their every day lives in the community.
[member] The most important thing in life is that my children - for me, is that my children walk in the same faith walk I also have been walking in and raised in.
Reporter: The sect was founded in the 1970s in the United States. Since then, there are groups all over the world - in total 2,000 people living in [Donau-Ries]. There have been problems for a while in Klosterzimmern. The first, due to the compulsory school laws being rejected.
Stefan Rößle (CSU) County Commissioner in Donau-Ries: I have been dealing with the question the Twelve Tribes since I've become county commissioner in 2002. In the past, there were bigger activities such as enforcing our compulsory school laws by sending police to escort the children to school, but in the end it wasn't very promising. The children did not take part in classes - they were there in person due to being escorted but not there in spirit.
Reporter: In the last year the Twelve Tribes have been implicated in first-hand accounts of corporal punishment in the Klosterzimmern community. However, not much happened. The authorities attempted to, but, sadly without results.
Stefan Rößle: This is an experience that has been made in other places, that when it comes to sects, there is a clannishness environment [among the members]. The children that we have interviewed, even without their parents, will not admit that they have received corporal punishment. They were instead very quiet and have been pressured and raised to not talk to any outsiders about it.
Reporter: In the public, the sect presents itself as very child-friendly. Happy children are seen at a play. What actually happens behind closed doors is only now coming to light.
Stefan Rößle: We have tried everything in our power to resolve the situation. It has taken a very, very long time but I'm glad about these film recordings [RTL's Wolfram Kuhnigk's detailing the life in the sect and the corporal punishment that happens regularly] which was the cause of it. That we now have concrete eye-witness statements and court decisions - that at the least, after all these years is able to terminate this state of affairs.
Reporter: The children are living in foster care at this time. The responsible sect members need to brace themselves for indictments. The state prosecutor in Augsburg has reopened the case. This time they are assured that they can close the case with an actual court sentence.
The second news article was released by the Südwestrundfunk. The summary of the story was "All is not quiet in the "Twelve Tribes" community of faith. A 13-year-old has run away from his foster parents with whom he had been housed since his biological parents had been accused of child abuse. The Court of Appeals has now decided in Augsburg that the 13-year-old must return to his foster parents. For one 13-year-old it is all just to hard to understand. And when he heard all charges against his parents he said they also suffer."
Eltern der Glaubensgemeinschaft "Zwölf Stämme" im Interview - Schwaben Radio - nachgehört | 5.12.2013, 14.36 Uhr[Parents of the religious community "Twelve Tribes" are interviewed by Schwaben Radio]
*musical intro* The best from the Swabian Radio as a podcast
Reporter: The point of meeting is the farm store in Klosterzimmern. This is a public store where bread, tea and cosmetics are available to purchase. More and more members are joining the group. Interview by Cheri and Stefan Pfeifer whose two children are also in foster care since the police raid in September.
Stefan: The worst is that we haven't seen our children very much and know that they would also like to see us more but the Child Protective Services are very strict about our visitation.
Reporter: It's been three times they've seen their 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son since then. For each an hour and only under strict surveillance. At the last meeting in Nördlingen, their mother, Cheri was shocked at the state of her children.
Cheri: They only want to return to their parents and they were not abused! The suffering that they are enduring right now is out of proportion to what they accuse us of doing to them.
Reporter: However the former sect members have told us, and the TV reports have showed us, children who are beaten and being abused very badly. Small children who are beaten in dark cellars with switches. Stefan Pfeifer, who is on the elders board of the Twelve Tribes says regarding these accusations:
Stefan: The film that was shown was a propaganda film. And it contains partial truths which we do not want to deny but it also contains many lies and the whole reason behind this is that they want to destroy the community.
Reporter: Stefan Pfeifer does not deny that the children were beaten but that was not done systematically, but only when the parents say that it is necessary.
Stefan: To raise children properly, you have to set limits. It's been hundreds of years that children have gotten spanked on their butts. It didn't hurt anybody to bring up children to a certain age when the heart of the children turn towards the parents completely - to which they don't need spankings any longer.
Reporter: But even spankings are not allowed by our laws in this country. The basics of raising children is the same for everyone in the community. They refer to the bible regarding this, says Stefan Pfeifer.
Stefan: This is from the bible. We read this and believe it is the right way and we see ourselves confirmed in this as we see our children to be wonderful and they love us and their good fruits prove to us that this is a good method. We are happy for a higher court to check into that. However, in the meantime, the children are supposed to be with us and not somewhere else with strangers where they don't feel secure.
Reporter: Four children have returned to Klosterzimmern. For some, the courts have decided to keep in foster care. For others, the decision has yet to be made. Though the many members of the sect have announced that they will continue to fight in court, it will still take months until the children have a permanent home. However, what the current well-being of the children is - that every party seems concerned with - is really a hard question to answer.
In addition to these two audio stories, I had a news story from Katholisch.de passed to me entitled "Wie frei ist die Religion?" [How free are our religious rights?] It can of course be run through Google Translate from German to English - just keep in mind that "switch" is translated as "tail" for whatever strange reason and there are hiccups in bringing over everything. The last paragraph closes things out with the current state of affairs concerning the Twelve Tribes' bid towards homeschooling quite well:
Wittreck, an attorney, was is skeptical: "The German government has been so far in my opinion well advised to proceed and remain restrictive against home schooling." He pleads for public school: "Children should be confronted there with the whole of life."
I have also been notified of a new documentary by Erika Fehse that is a 45 minute documentary due out in Germany on April 7th on ARD entitled „Wer seine Kinder liebt, der züchtigt sie…“ [Those who love their children, physically chastise them...] you can see the trailer for it here:
The basis of the documentary was the book "Die geprügelte Generation – Kochlöffel, Rohrstock und die Folgen" [The spanked generation - wooden spoon, cane and the consequences]
I am nervously looking forward to this. I'll be recording it to watch when the children are not around and hopefully will be able to give an update on it then. It will not be directly discussing the Twelve Tribes, but I am sure it will be discussing the consequences of corporal punishment which is key to understanding why the rulings are as they have been in this case.
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, part 13 and part 14 to be better informed on this issue.