Bavaria, Germany. Police have swooped in to rescue forty children from a Christian sect, following allegations that the children were being physically abused.
The sect, known as “Twelve Tribes,” that has bases globally and promotes hitting children with rods as God’s word, was subject to a dawn raid, involving one hundred police officers, at the farm community in southern Germany.
The German authorities have reported that twenty-eight children were found at a farm at Klosterzimmern near Deningen, while the remaining twelve were located at a farm community in Wornitz.
Bavarian police have said that the Twelve Tribes sect is under investigation for the physical abuse of the forty children aged between one and a half and seventeen years old.
Earlier reports have stated that the rods that were used to discipline the children had been soaked in oil to render them more pliable for beating with. The children were reportedly beaten on their backs, arms and bare feet at the former monastery.
All of the rescued children have now been taken into custody by the German authorities and placed temporarily with foster carers, where they will remain until after a court inquiry takes place next week.
According to another report in the Guardian, eyewitnesses in Germany had said that during the police raids, the children had not displayed any emotion toward their parents.
The police are reportedly seeking to press charges against the commune’s leader, Detlef Markell, 54, who insists on his innocence.
The so-called Twelve Tribes Christian sect has other bases around the world and claims to already have thousands of members. It follows both the New and Old Testament, regarding them both as God’s direct word.
Members of the sect, said to really be a cult, believe strongly in spanking their children when disobedient, in spite of the controversial light it sheds on the sect and its view of how they choose to discipline their offspring.
Nevertheless, despite mixed world-views on the ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ adage, it is the very fact that they strongly believe in using a rod “to inflict pain and not damage,” while not seeing it as abusive, that many might find the most disturbing. The sect states:
“Desiring to be good parents, we do not hit our children in anger, nor with our hand or fist… we know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority.”
On its website however, the sect still insists on its transparency and that it does not tolerate any type of child abuse.
According to previous reports, this is not the first time that the Twelve Tribes have come under investigation. Back in 1984, one of the sects in Vermont was raided and authorities took away one hundred and twelve children amid allegations of abuse. The judge found the raid to be unconstitutional and had the children returned to their families.
Founded by Elbert Eugene Spriggs, in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the early 1970s, the sect has also fallen foul of the law in Connecticut in 2000, when a couple from the group were found guilty of third-degree assault for cruelly disciplining their children with a thirty-inch rod, made of tough fiberglass.
To add to the controversy, because of its beliefs, the sect refuses to put any of its children through the public school system as it works against the leader’s teachings. As a result, Twelve Tribes has come under attack by the local authorities, who revoked its education license, because the Bavarian ministry for education found the Twelve Tribes at Klosterzimmern to be unfit to teach, thus forcing some of the children to attend state school by law.
A blog, entitled Yoneq and the Twelve Tribes, “Yoneq” reportedly being the new name that US-based Spriggs calls himself, and appears to be written by a former member of the ‘cult’. The author has done this for the sole purpose of providing prospective members some insight into the sect and to think twice before they consider joining.
One former member, who wishes to remain nameless, was cited on the blog, after writing eighty-nine reasons on why he left Twelve Tribes. His twenty-sixth reason points out that while many parents punish their children as a last resort, the Twelve Tribes tend to do it as a first resort. He states:
“Walloping their children provides some adults with an excuse to leave a gathering. Instructed to remove their ‘disobedient’ children far from the listening ears of visitors, the parents strike their children on outstretched palms or bare buttocks with long thin flexible sticks. Foolishness, joke telling, laughing or making faces often results in ‘discipline’ for these young children.”
Another father, who was reportedly made to watch his daughter being beaten for 7 hours, eventually left the cult with his wife the next day, according to reports from the blog.
The author of the blog revealed a statement that counters the judge’s ruling alleged by the sect’s website from the Vermont case in the early 1980s. According to the site, the judge had ruled that the children involved in the hearing had “been subjected to frequent and methodical abuse by adult members of the community ‘for disciplinary infractions.’”
Further, the site quotes what it claims to be one of Spriggs’ teachings, entitled “Execution of Justice Teaching,” whereby the author cites Spriggs’ suggestion that one who does not spare the rod must hate their child:
“Unless your son had blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a standard is in you – it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.”
Members of the sect are claiming that they are descended from early Christians. They also produce their own food and electricity and the females of the sect are subservient to the males.
But the world will be watching, to see what will become of the forty rescued children from the German community of the so-called Christian Twelve Tribes; young children who allegedly were so physically and needlessly abused with rods. It will also be waiting to see what the judge at next week’s hearing will rule of the children’s fate.
Written by: Brucella Newman