KEYWORDS: children, family, court, case, members, evidence

Father to My Children!, A—Letter Links: Statements

July 8, 2005

(ML #3547, GN 1140)

FD/MM/FM June 2005

Religious Freedom on Trial

A Review of Judicial Findings on the Family International

Although many Western nations have well-articulated charters that make provision for religious plurality and the protection of religious liberty, advocates of human rights and religious freedom have expressed their concern at a rising tide of religious intolerance worldwide. New religious movements or minority religions are often vulnerable to such hostilities‚ being targeted by anti-religious groups and some sectors of the media. The Family International [the Family] has been no exception to this, and as such has served as a test case in courts around the world regarding the protection of the right to freely practice one's religion.

The Family (formerly known as the Children of God) is a fellowship of independent Christian communities, active in over 100 countries. Our nonconformist-yet Scripture based-beliefs and lifestyle led to our fellowship becoming a source of controversy during the early to mid-1990s and the object of official investigations and court actions in several countries. In every case our members were vindicated by the courts, and their right to practice their religion was upheld. The findings of some of these cases have been considered important legal precedents regarding religious freedom issues.

As a fledgling minority religious movement, we have been the object of much interest and scrutiny regarding the upbringing of our children. Our commitment to a communal lifestyle, our religious convictions, as well as our preference for educating our children at home has raised the question as to whether such a unique environment is adequate for the full development of our children. After observing almost 700 children living in Family communities, by means of extensive physical, psychological, and educational testing in court-appointed and independent investigations, the courts have in all cases been satisfied with the standard of life offered to the children.

The proceedings and findings of the magistrates and social service representatives in these investigations have been summarized in the following case outline. (Where an official judgment was written in a language other than English‚ the excerpts included are taken from the official translation.)


Buenos Aires: October 27‚ 1989-May 23, 1990

Buenos Aires: September 1, 1993-July 27, 2004


Melbourne: 1991-April 27, 1993

Sydney: May 15, 1992-March 31, 1999

Melbourne: May 15, 1992-April 22, 1994


Rio de Janeiro: April 13, 1992-January 30, 1995


London: 1992-November 1995


Eguilles and Lyon: June 9, 1993-February 24, 2000


Rome: January 16‚ 1979-November 15, 1991


Lima: July 30, 1990

Lima: September 1993-December 14, 1993


Barcelona: July 1990-October 30, 1994


Valbo: January 31, 1994-May 9, 1994


Los Angeles: July 1993


Zulia: February 26‚ 1992–May 27, 1992


Since 1987 the Family has been the subject of 11 investigations in Argentina. Eight of these resulted in court proceedings being instituted against Family members. In each case the allegations were unsubstantiated and Family members were found innocent of all charges.

As of October 1993, Argentine authorities have thoroughly examined over 230 children of Family members. Some of these children were subjected to repeated degrading and painful physical examinations by court-appointed doctors intent on finding evidence of abuse. Nevertheless, the children were all found to be in good mental and physical health and displayed no evidence of any physical, sexual, or psychological abuse.

Buenos Aires: October 27, 1989-May 23, 1990

One of the most serious investigations of the Family in Argentina occurred in 1989. On October 27, two Family communities were raided by scores of heavily armed police. Many adult Family members were arrested and held for two weeks, while 18 children were placed in state custody. The charges laid following this raid formed the basis for three separate court actions.

The first involved drug charges. The police alleged that a small quantity of cocaine was found on the property. (This was later found to have been planted by the police during the raids.) Judge Leónidas Moldes, of the San Isidro Court in Buenos Aires, dismissed the drug charges on January 11, 1990, stating:

I possess no element whatsoever which might permit to impute to any of the 13 defendants the tenancy of the seized drug. As regards to the facilitation of dwelling and instigating crimes for the consumption of drugs from the simple reading of the bibliographic material seized, it cannot be deduced that the group and the members of the same may propose the use of drugs, but instead all the contrary.1

The second case involved the welfare of the children apprehended by social services. On December 19, 1989, the children were returned to the custody of their parents by Judge Eleonora Mercedes Fernandez de Zingoni of the San Isidro Court. In her official judgment she stated:

After analyzing the different points brought out in relation to each individual case (e.g., social-environmental reports, declarations from relatives, personal contact between myself and each one of the minors), and taking into account that the parents and/or guardians of the minors who live here at the residence were left in liberty and that those from the residence were not indicted, I concluded on the basis of my sincere conviction that the minors find themselves in an environment fit for their physical and moral development, due to which the extreme conditions required for this Court to intervene according to what is stipulated in article 10‚ clause 2a of Provincial Law number 10067, are not evident.2

The social worker who investigated the Family wrote the following comment in her report dated November 29, 1989: "In the [Family residence] one could feel a calm atmosphere, where the children have all their needs met‚ are cared for and protected and appear to be healthy, stimulated, and normal. It does not appear as if the adult members of the home have any negative attitudes towards the minor children or may be trying to pervert them."

The third case involved accusations of child abuse. On May 23, 1990, Judge Alejandro de Korvez of the San Isidro Court dismissed these charges, stating:

I understand that in these proceedings the criminal responsibilities of those summoned as regards the unlawful situations on which the filing of this case was produced, do not appear proven. [In the] socio-environmental reports, medical-psychological examinations of the minors, examination of the seized literary and audio-visual materials do not appear any elements which would enervate the statements of the summoned as they absolutely deny the commission of the unlawful acts.3

Buenos Aires: September 1, 1993-July 27, 2004

The largest action against Family communities to date took place on September 1, 1993, when police raided five Family residences in Buenos Aires‚ arresting (and imprisoning) 21 adults and seizing 137 children of Family members. It was the largest number of children from a religious group taken into government custody at once in recent Argentine history. News of the raids and the sensational allegations‚ which included kidnapping, child trafficking‚ prostitution, slavery, and child abuse, made lurid headlines around the world.

The children of Family members were held in government custody for three and a half months, while 21 adults were imprisoned for the same period. All Family children were forced to undergo multiple psychological evaluations, as well as painful and degrading medical/gynecological examinations. Doctors for the prosecution, citing preliminary test results‚ claimed some signs of psychological distress in 16 of the 137 children tested. These results were later nullified by the court as unscientific‚ having been improperly conducted under duress. New psychological tests revealed no abnormalities. No evidence of abuse, sexual or otherwise, was found in any of the tests.

In a show of solidarity, Family members staged peaceful protests outside Argentine embassies, consulates, trade centers, and airline offices in major cities around the world. In Argentina, the Family launched a vigorous media and legal campaign, lodging an appeal and demanding the dismissal of all charges and the immediate release of the adults and children.

On December 13, the Federal Appeals Court of San Martin, Buenos Aires, ruled in favor of the Family, declaring the federal judge who ordered the raids, Judge Roberto Marquevich, legally incompetent to rule in the case.4 The court ordered the immediate release of all the adults, who by then had been imprisoned for 104 days. The court also ordered that all Family children be released from institutions and returned to the custody of their parents. In their 200-page majority ruling, Federal Judges Horacio Enrique Prack and Alberto Mansur methodically rejected and disproved each of the charges brought against the Family:

It was initially stated [by Judge Marquevich] that [the children] showed signs of supposed abuses of a sexual nature. Nevertheless, the medical examinations did not ratify this presumption as is evidenced from the examinations where the results were absolutely negative regarding this subject. There has not been the slightest shred of evidence to prove that any of the corruptive acts described above have actually occurred to any of the minors named in the proceedings.5

The allegations of abuse were put forward by embittered ex-members of the Family. Documented evidence later showed these same individuals to have been active in cases brought against the Family in other countries. After studying these ex-members' sworn statements, the appeals court stated:

[They] are incompatible with the results of the medical reports. Their own declarations reveal an apparent eagerness to exaggerate vague memories of past events, to the point of having resorted to accounts, which have been proven beyond doubt to be false and have therefore significantly weakened their declarations in terms of their credibility.6

The Court of Appeals also had harsh words for Judge Marquevich's prejudiced mishandling of the investigation.

It is evident that an illegal investigation violating the clear rules of public order has been initiated. This manner of proceeding represents an arbitrary use of penal power, by removing the case from the framework of rationality inherent in the fundamental right of the defense to a proper trial. This panorama puts in evidence an anachronistic continuation of the most severe inquisitive system‚ one in which people were summoned only to confess their sins‚ being considered "witches" or "heretics."7

Legal infractions committed during the investigation were reported, including a report that the five Family women arrested were imprisoned for the first eight days in inhumane conditions. After these reports and prior to the appeals court's ruling‚ former judges and members of the Buenos Aires Bar Association (not representing or associated with the Family) launched a petition for Judge Marquevich's impeachment, which was eventually brought before the Argentine House of Representatives. This was one of the very few cases brought to the House of Representatives for impeachment of a federal judge.

The courts also warned of the dangers of the "brainwashing" argument brought to bear in the case, and how it is used to stigmatize members of new religions:

To claim that proselytism has become ideological subversion; that the initial persuading of someone to an exotic way of life, which is protected by the right to religious freedom has become brainwashing; that missionaries have become subversive agents; that houses of spiritual retreat or monastic seclusion have become prisons; and finally‚ that mystical adherence to religious devotion has become psychopathic behavior, will undoubtedly bring us back to the time when society was authoritarian and repressed free thinking‚ limiting and castrating the freely chosen lifestyle of each individual.8

The judges went so far as to point out that it is not the place of the courts or the general populace to judge the beliefs of minorities: "[The opinion] of the majority as to what is morally correct or not is not necessarily right; many times it will be the product of prejudices or obscure ideas, and even when this is not the case‚ the majority of the population has no right to establish how others must live."

On December 23, 1993, after 114 days in state custody‚ the Family children were reunited with their parents. In the meantime, their residences had been looted and stripped bare by the police.

The prosecutor of the Appeals Court of San Martin, Pablo Hernan Quiroga, promptly lodged two appeals before the Supreme Court to the appeals court ruling. One affirmed that Judge Marquevich should have jurisdictional authority in this case and another appealed all points of the appeals court's decision. These appeals were overturned by the Supreme Court on June 29, 1995, and the case reached final closure on July 27, 2004, little over a month after Judge Marquevich was impeached and removed from office.


Melbourne: 1991-April 27‚ 1993

In mid-1991 a (now reconciled) former Family member-in a bid to gain the custody of the children-accused his estranged wife of abusing their children. Both the wife and their children lived in a Family community in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. As a result of these allegations, the Victorian Police and Community Services Victoria (CSV) sought to have the children placed in state custody.

A lengthy court case began in November of that year. Legal history was made when one of the children, who was 12 years old at the time‚ spent an unprecedented three days on the witness stand, giving testimony. On August 10, 1992, Senior Children's Court Magistrate Gregory Levine dismissed the application of the police and CSV, ruling that the children could continue to live with their mother in a Family residence.9 CSV appealed the ruling on a technicality. The Victorian Supreme Court returned the case to Magistrate Levine on April 27, 1993, where he finally dismissed the applications, thus ending nearly two years of proceedings.

In his judgment, the magistrate also warned against using child protection laws as a pretext to harass small religious groups such as the Family:

In my view it was not envisioned by the legislature that all such groups, organisations or sects should have their children made the subject of protection applications as a form of class action. It must be of concern that this form of inquiry may set a precedent for the bringing of protection applications in relation to other sects whose practices and beliefs do not appear to accord with mainstream thinking.10

Sydney: May 15, 1992-March 31‚1999

In 1991 police in the state of New South Wales launched an extensive yearlong investigation of the Family, code–named "Project A." This culminated on May 15, 1992, when police and officials from the Department of Community Services (DOCS) staged elaborate synchronized pre-dawn raids on Family residences in Sydney and took 65 children into state custody. The authorities claimed that disgruntled ex-Family members and anti-"cult" organizations had made allegations of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse against the Family. The raids received extensive coverage in the media.

Despite the 12-month investigation, which cost taxpayers millions of dollars, police found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The children were all found to be healthy and free of any signs of abuse. On May 21, Children's Magistrate Ian Forsyth described the children as "delightful and articulate" and released all the children into the temporary custody of their parents.11

Meanwhile, the DOCS continued to pursue the case in the courts. On October 31 the case was stayed in the New South Wales Supreme Court after the parties agreed to settle the case in a historic mediation by former Chief Justice Sir Lawrence Street. The Care Applications on the Family children would be withdrawn on the completion of a 12-month period of socialization activities (e.g., swimming, horseback riding, arts and crafts‚ etc.) attended by the children. The cost of this agreement was underwritten by the DOCS. The DOCS also withdrew their allegations that the children had been subjected to inappropriate sexual behavior.

The mediation agreement states:

[The Department of Community Services] denies any and all implications which may have arisen in the opening statement made in its case or in other evidence in the Children's Court at Cobham that all children the subject of the applications had been subjected to physical sexual assault or had engaged in sexual intercourse.12

At the expiry of the 12-month period‚ lawyers for the DOCS and the Family both presented petitions for the proceedings to be dropped. The Children's Court Magistrate, much to the surprise of all concerned, announced his intention to pursue the case. The lawyers for all parties took the matter to the State Supreme Court. On November 2, 1993, Justice David Levine of the New South Wales Supreme Court ordered the Children's Court Magistrate to dismiss the case. In his judgment Justice Levine stated,

I am persuaded that as a matter of law not only has the magistrate the jurisdiction but he has the obligation to bring to end these proceedings. I order the [magistrate] to give leave to the complainant to withdraw those proceedings and thereupon to dismiss them.13

The actions of the police and Community Services came under fire in New South Wales Parliament in November 1993, when the former Police Minister produced documents showing that the raids were conducted unlawfully and without proper evidence.14 In protest at the violation of their rights that such illegal raids represented, 62 of the children who had been removed from their families by New South Wales authorities in 1992, initiated a civil action against DOCS. On March 31‚ 1999, Supreme Court Justice John Dunford found that "in entering the relevant premises‚ searching for and removing the various plaintiffs, the defendant's servants [officers of police and Community Services] and agents were not acting under any authority conferred by the warrants but wrongfully and contrary to the law."15

The police and DOCS requested a mediation just as the main part of the hearing was to commence. Although the terms of the settlement were confidential, the Australian media reported "huge compensation payoffs" for the suffering endured by the children who had been taken from their parents. So ended a case that the Australian daily, The Sydney Morning Herald, estimated cost the government AUD$4.5 million.

Melbourne: May 15, 1992-April 22, 1994

In an operation orchestrated simultaneously with that carried out in Sydney, pre-dawn raids were conducted on Family communities in Melbourne on May 15, 1992. Fifty–six children were taken into custody. The raids were ordered by the Community Services Victoria (since renamed the Department of Health and Community Services [H&CS]), voicing the same allegations by anti-cult groups and some ex-members of the Family as in the Sydney case: physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of minors.

A week of medical and psychological examinations revealed no evidence of sexual or psychological abuse. On May 21, the same day Family children in Sydney were being released, Justice Gray of the Supreme Court of Victoria at Melbourne ordered that all Family children in custody be returned to the care of their parents‚ pending court proceedings on the protection applications sought by H&CS.

Despite the precedent of the agreement reached between the Department of Community Services and the Family in Sydney, the H&CS in Melbourne refused the Family's mediation terms and began court proceedings for custody of the Family children. Preliminary hearings dragged on for nearly two years. The Department was so determined to bring the case to trial that it agreed to fund both the prosecution and the defense, at an expense to taxpayers estimated by The Melbourne Age (May 23, 1994, page 1) at anywhere between AUD$1.5 and $10 million.

After 23 months, apparently without any evidence to show for its efforts and expense, and under pressure from the state government to end what was turning out to be an embarrassment, H&CS agreed to mediation on terms almost identical to those proposed by the Family 18 months earlier. In the mediation agreement the Family maintained its innocence of any of H&CS's charges:

The [parents] do not concede that the children are in need of [state] care and protection under the Act. The parties consent to this Order in order to avoid the harmful effects lengthy court proceedings would have on the children.

The terms of the agreement, ratified on April 22‚ 1994, by Victoria Supreme Court Justice Beach, similar to those reached in Sydney in October 1992, consisted of a 15-month period of "external socialization activities" for three hours weekly (such as sports, music lessons, etc.)‚ paid for by the Department.

The mediation was recognized by the media as a victory for the Family and a personal embarrassment for the H&CS chief, Dr. John Paterson (deceased 2/2003). Media coverage also principally focused on the large amount of taxpayers' money poured into a case that led nowhere and the overall lack of evidence of any wrongdoing. As Alan Austin of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's religious department observed in an interview on "The Religion Report" of Radio 2RN on May 29, 1994:

The significance of this case lies in the fact that over the past two years, welfare authorities in several countries have seized literally hundreds of children from homes within the Family. But nowhere has convincing evidence come to light of the sort of emotional, psychological, or sexual abuses alleged.


Rio de Janeiro: April 13, 1992-January 30, 1995

On April 13, 1992, the First Children's Court of Rio de Janeiro, acting on unfounded information supplied by reporters from a sensationalist TV show, opened an investigation of the Family's local community. The three-year investigation included numerous court-ordered visits by investigators, social workers, and other officials. No indication of any type of wrongdoing resulted.

On November 14‚ 1994, Judge Liborni Siqueira ordered a "rigorous inspection" of the Rio community. The surprise inspection was performed personally by the Director of the Department of Investigations of the First Children's Court, Dr. Wilherme Borges, who concluded his detailed report by stating:

We are very happy to have been able to visit the above-described institution the Family, as we have never visited a home that showed such loving attention in their care of the children, though these are accompanied by their parents. We only regret that other homes dedicated to the care of children do not reflect the beauty, the love, and the living conditions offered by the Family.16

Despite the favorable reports of the court investigators, the prosecutors inexplicably petitioned the court that the parents of Family children residing there be ordered to enroll their school-age children in conventional schools. The court acquiesced. (Homeschooling had never previously received official recognition in Brazil.) Family parents involved immediately appealed this decision.

On January 30‚ 1995, in a landmark seven-to-one decision, the Judicial Council of the State of Rio de Janeiro held that since court documents showed that the children were being well educated, the lower court had no right to interfere with the manner in which Family parents choose to administer education to their children. Justice Adolphino Ribeiro, writing for the majority, found that:

Having been demonstrated by regular means that the education utilized via the "homeschooling" method adopted in a religious community is equal to or better than the official education, there is no error or omission on the part of the parents or guardians which would cause the imposition of exceptional measures such as guardianship‚ especially since the law guarantees to the parents the right to choose the type of education to be given to their children. Appeal granted.17


London: 1992-November 1995

In 1992 the mother of an adult Family member filed a case with Lord Justice Ward in England, requesting the custody of her unmarried daughter's child. The only grounds presented by the mother for the removal of the custody of her grandchild were her daughter's membership in the Family. The grandmother never suggested that her daughter was an unfit mother or that she had been deficient in her care of her son‚ a point carefully noted by the assigned magistrate, Lord Justice Ward, in his decision.

These long months have been spent trying the issues joined between the Plaintiff, Mrs. T.‚ a grandmother and the defendant N.T.‚ her daughter, each so strongly imbued with that instinctive love for the offspring, and in grandmother's case also her offspring's offspring, that each has never flinched or contemplated surrender in this titanic struggle to secure the care and control of the much loved child in question, the Defendant's son, S. At no time has there been any issue about this young mother's ability to properly love her child and to attend to all his physical needs and the only harm from which grandmother seeks to protect him is the harm she alleges he will suffer from remaining with his mother as faithful members of what is popularly but inaccurately known as a cult, The Children of God, now known as the Family of Love or simply as the Family.

The mother claims the inalienable right to love her God as she chooses, which is a love she submits brooks no interference from a Court of Law because she is entitled to the fundamental freedom of thought‚ conscience, and religion. As I have already made clear there is not and there never has been any attack at all upon N.T.'s ability to provide proper physical care and to give all proper love and affection to her son. If the child is to be removed from her care, it is only because of her adherence to the Family.18

Although the member of the Family involved in this case was living outside of the country at the time, she obliged with the requests of the court and relocated to England to place herself at the disposition of Justice Ward. Despite the fact that this case was strictly a custody case involving a Family member and her mother‚ Justice Ward devoted several years to hearing both former-member and current-member witnesses, as well as studying Family literature and having social services evaluate the condition of local Family communities in England before pronouncing his decision. The court hearing lasted an unprecedented 75 days in which 10,000 pages of evidence were presented. Justice Ward made note of the request of the local Family communities to be adjoined to the case, which he refused.

I refused an application by several members of the home in which N.T. lives to be joined as individual parties because they considered my decision might impinge on their children. The Family as an entity of its own is not a party.

Three years later, in November 1995, Justice Ward issued a lengthy ruling, in which he leveled some harsh criticisms at past eras of the Family's history, while also concluding that the Family had undergone numerous positive changes, stating he was satisfied that the Family provided a safe environment for children raised within the group. The court consequently awarded the mother care and control of her child.


Eguilles and Lyon: June 9, 1993-February 24, 2000

From 1991 to 1993‚ French police conducted a secret but extensive investigation of the Family, code-named "Operation Moses." They were supplied misinformation about the Family by a French anti-cult organization, the Association for the Defense of the Family and Individual (ADFI), as well as by some disaffected ex-Family members.

On June 9, 1993 at 6 am, 200 heavily armed police staged paramilitary-style raids on two Family communities in Eguilles and Lyon, injuring and brutalizing some Family members (none of whom resisted arrest). Authorities arrested 22 adults and placed 80 children in state custody. Family members were accused of child abuse, child prostitution, and lack of medical and physical care for their children. Police searched Family residences for 10 hours, and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Court-appointed doctors thoroughly examined all the children, but detected no signs of neglect or abuse.

Authorities released all the adults after 48 hours for lack of evidence. On June 16‚ all 33 children in Lyon were returned to their parents. The Prosecuting Attorney of Lyon appealed this decision, requesting that the custody of the children be retained by the state. The Appeals Court dismissed this appeal, upholding the original decision in favor of the children.19 By the end of September 1993 the case had been dismissed for all the families residing in Lyon.

On July 29, after 51 days of separation, the children from the Eguilles community were also released to their parents. A provisional ruling by Judge Permingeat of the Minors Court of Aix-en-Provence (for the Eguilles community) stated that the Family children had not suffered any abuse, but nevertheless required them to engage in court-supervised weekly "socialization activities" for a 12-month period‚ paid for by the State. The parents remained free to continue their missionary activities and educate their children at home.

Asserting that such socialization activities were taking place without further need for court supervision‚ the parents and children objected to unwarranted state intrusion in their lives. An appeal was lodged, but did not come before the court during the 12-month period.

In March 1994 the presiding judge resolved to extend this program for another year, based on his belief that life in a religious community did not offer adequate education for children. In December 1994 Judge Permingeat terminated this order, which should have otherwise expired in March 1995.

Meanwhile, a criminal investigation carried out over a several-year period aimed at the adult members of the communities produced no evidence of wrongdoing, and the case was officially closed in January 1999. After five years of investigation the prosecutor concluded that there was "no proof, photos or medical evidence" to substantiate the charges and recommended the case be closed without being brought to trial. Judge Assonion of the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Aix–en-Provence accepted this recommendation, closing the proceedings in January 1999, officially acquitting Family members of all charges.

An appeal was promptly lodged to this ruling by ADFI‚ which was rejected by the courts on February 24, 2000, putting a definitive end to this investigation. The closure of this case in favor of Family members was considered a serious blow to ADFI, whose reports to officials were proven to be unsubstantiated. European lawyer and scholar of religion Massimo Introvigne stated in a press release:

Six years after the raids, the Justice Court of Aix-en-Provence has vindicated the Family. All defendants have been found not guilty and acquitted. The decision is a major embarrassment for ADFI and the French anti-cult milieu. ADFI lawyer Jean-Michel Pesenti criticized the court and ADFI called the decision "a catastrophe." Basically, the decision embarrasses ADFI and the governmental Mission to Fight Cults (whose key members have always taken for granted that the Family was guilty).

But we do not hear apologies for the unnecessary suffering caused to adults, teenagers, and children in the brutal 1993 raids.20


Rome: January 16, 1979-November 15, 1991

On January 16‚ 1979, Italian police raided Family communities in Rome. This resulted in charges being filed against several Family members. The Family's founder‚ David Brandt Berg (1919-1994), was also charged, even though he was not in Italy at that time. The authorities considered him culpable by virtue of his position as founder of the Family. The case was eventually tried in his absence.

In a final verdict delivered on November 15, 1991, magistrates Ricardo Morra, Claudio Cavallo, and M. Teresa Mirra of the Criminal Court of Rome acquitted David Berg and all other defendants.

Mr. David Berg, having been accused of the offense under article 416, paragraph 3 and last paragraph of the Penal Code for having promoted, set up and organized together with others and behind the screen of a sect named "The Children of God," a national and international criminal association having the aim of committing such offenses as aiding and abetting prostitution, fraud and the production, commerce and distribution of obscene publications.

The court pointed out that no certain evidence had been provided proving that the accused were actually members of a criminal organization with the aim of committing the offenses specified in the counts of indictment. There is absolutely no evidence that some of the accused may have entered the community with the intention of aiding and abetting prostitution or with the intention of trading and distributing obscene publications or with the intention of committing fraud-an offense of which no trace, as yet, has been found.

Therefore, for the foregoing reasons and in consideration of article 479 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (1930), this court hereby decides the acquittal of Mr. David Berg [and the other defendants].21


Lima: July 30, 1990

Ten adults from a Lima community were charged with corrupting and offending public morals by means of allegedly obscene actions and publications. In the final verdict delivered on July 30, 1990, the presiding judge concluded:

An analysis of the alleged acts, on the basis of personal inspection carried out by the court personnel, has not proven in any way whatsoever any acts or activities contrary to the morals and the good customs, and much less has there been any evidence of corruption of minors or of women, but instead we have found that in a private fashion they spiritually exercise their freedom of religion in a way which is compatible with their own personal customs.22

Lima: September 1993-December 14, 1993

After the highly publicized raids on Family communities in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 1, 1993, Family communities throughout South America mobilized in a proactive campaign to prevent any such action being taken in their respective countries. In Peru, negative news reports about the Family surfaced as critics attempted to goad the government into action. As a preemptive measure, local Family representatives approached the District Attorney's office requesting that an investigation of their communities be conducted.

The District Attorney's investigation lasted nearly two months. After a thorough inquiry, the Lima Ad Hoc Prosecutor, Rebeca Fuentes Sanchez, presented her report to the General Attorney's office‚ excerpts of which stated:

After conducting the necessary inquiries; examining the sworn statements of members of the group; verifying [all aspects of] the premises in which the aforementioned religious fellowship holds its activities; gathering a considerable amount of documentation about the group; analyzing its publications and official statements; performing medical, gynecological, psychological and psychiatric examinations on the children as well as footprint identification studies; as a result of the inquiries carried out on the premises‚ and information gathered by a number of governmental and law enforcement agencies such as, DIVISE [anti-kidnapping], DIRANDRO [narcotics], INTERPOL‚ Missing Persons Division‚ Immigrations Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs‚ SUNAT [National Revenue Service]‚ as well as different written and televised material gathered from media sources, and additional information collected by this Office in the course of the investigation; according to which this office has been able to establish that no evidence was found of irregularities in the legal status of any of the minors of the communities. There is no sign of neglect or failure to provide their essential needs, such as adequate diet, housing, and dress.

Although their views constitute a rather peculiar interpretation of the Gospels, in no way is this legally questionable nor can it substantiate criminal charges. According to results of medical, gynecological, psychological, and psychiatric examinations performed on the children there is no evidence whatsoever of moral or physical damage nor signs of psychosis. Therefore such probabilities remain unsubstantiated.

After extensive, thorough, and drawn-out investigations on the activities and behavior of members of the communities in our country‚ we have not been able to find the slightest shred of evidence to substantiate any of the allegations of supposed criminal offenses, illegal activities or immoral behavior. Therefore having completed all pertinent inquiries in accordance with resolution N. 1143-93-MP-FN this Ad-Hoc District Attorney's Office resolves: "There are no merits to press charges in the case, therefore this investigation is to be closed."


Barcelona: July 1990-October 30, 1994

In July 1990 regional authorities in Barcelona, Spain, raided a Family community and forcibly apprehended 21 children, one as young as eight months old. They claimed that the children were abused and in need of state care. At the same time, the parents of the children were charged with illegal association, operating an illegal school, inflicting mental damage on their children, and fraud. Although no evidence of any kind of abuse was found, the children were forced to remain against their will in state custody for nearly 12 months.

For the next two years, government agencies, aided by anti-cult groups such as Pro-Juventud and CROAS (Centro di Recuperacion, Orientacion, Y Asistencia Afectados por las Sectas) were unrelenting in their efforts to discredit the Family. An enormous amount of taxpayers' money was spent on pursuing the Family in court. In spite of this, in May 1992 the provincial court ruled that there was no evidence that abuse had occurred and the custody of the children was awarded definitively to their parents. In their ruling, Judges Adolfo Fernandez Oubiña, Jesus I. Perez Burred‚ and Jose Mä. Bachs Estany strongly questioned the competence and motives of the welfare agencies which had originally apprehended the children. They observed:

They [the children] were put in the hands of a group of psychologists who, in a language the children did not understand [Catalan], psychoanalyzed them twice for a prolonged period and issued reports cast in esoteric language designed rather to justify the operation than to describe any intellectual anomalies, which are completely non-existent.23

The judges alluded to the government action being reminiscent of the "Spanish Inquisition" and the "concentration camps of those former empires that ceased to be so when human dignity brought down the Berlin Wall." They concluded:

Therefore in light of the fact that nothing unusual was found in any of the children beyond the natural bewilderment of someone who is living in a foreign country and is forcibly separated from their parents despite their tender years and is taught in an unknown language, the supposed judgment of neglect should have been annulled as it is hereby agreed to do and the parents are perfectly free to live with their children in whichever country they consider best and to orient them towards whatever moral, religious, or philosophical convictions they believe to be appropriate.24

The Catalonian Social Services Agency (Direccion General de la Atencion a la Infancia de la Generalidad de Catalunia) appealed this ruling to the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the constitutional rights of the children were being infringed upon, due to the fact that the children were homeschooled and religiously indoctrinated according to the beliefs of their parents. In October 1994 the Constitutional Court found that the article of the Constitution guaranteeing education for minors did not carry an inherent requirement that such education could not be supplied privately by the parents outside of state institutions in accordance with the religious and moral convictions of the parents. As such, all appeals were dismissed.

In a second case involving criminal charges, the parents were acquitted of all charges. In the 42-page verdict that was issued on June 29, 1993‚ Judges J. O. Conzalvez, G. C. Guilabert, and A. I. Fernandez of the Third Section of the Barcelona Provincial Court stated:

The [Family] community maintains a disciplined communal way of life, distributing the responsibilities [among its members]. There is no proof existing that there is any coercive behavior. In accordance with their moral leading they teach their school-age children through homeschooling, in a manner similar to that of religious boarding schools. Their classes are complemented with readings of the Bible and other texts. The adults in the community show a great love and tenderness [toward the children]. The psychiatric reports are unanimous in vehemently dismissing any mental illness or any kind of psychosis or psychopathy.25

In addition, judges ruled that there was "no proof that fraud or trickery was used in their presentation [to donors of goods]. None of the donors feel that they have been deceived or damaged, thus no complaints were filed whatsoever."26

Thus Family members were acquitted of all charges. This ruling was appealed‚ and on October 30, 1994‚ the Supreme Court of Spain rejected the appeal and upheld the vindication of members of the Family. In its pronouncement the Supreme Court declared:

We find ourselves in the presence of a community of people who have adopted a lifestyle that differs from the generally accepted norms. Not a single element is found that could allow us to declare the existence of any intention to hurt their children or the other children of the community. They avoid sending their school-aged children to official institutions of learning choosing to teach them themselves using the method that in Anglo-Saxon countries is known as homeschooling. To proclaim the superiority of one education system over another would inevitably lead us to apply value judgments. Judges cannot enter into the sanctuary of personal beliefs‚ except when external behaviors originating from a particular ideology negatively affect legally protected rights.27


Valbo: January 31, 1994-May 9, 1994

Acting on a complaint by a municipal councilor who voiced suspicions that "minors are being treated in such a way that there is danger to their health and development‚" the Social Services Department of Valbo, Sweden, began an investigation of the Family community located at Gvle.

The investigation began January 31, 1994, and lasted three months. Social workers visited the Family community and interviewed the parents and their children (six years old and over). Social workers gathered information from the local school authorities, health services, sociologists, and religious "watchdog" organizations. They also studied Family literature as well as international sociologists' reports on the Family.

This case was closed on May 9, 1994. Following are excerpts of the concluding report, by Valbo Social Services Department Secretaries Monika Quadt and Per Sbrink:

The Family way of living brings many positive aspects: The children always have helpers around them. They have adults and older children to whom they can turn, which gives them a feeling of security. The children also have a close circle of friends. The Family way of life includes learning to care for others‚ taking communal responsibility, and sharing material things. They also have common values that result in a secure, common foundation. The Family is a well-organized, communal group.

In our investigation we have come to the conclusion that the way of life of the children in the Family is different from that of other Swedish children. These differing circumstances that have been described are not considered a danger to the health and development of the children.


Los Angeles‚ California: July 1993

Several ex-Family members maliciously alleged to law enforcement and social service officials that children were being abused in the Family's residence in Los Angeles. This triggered several months of investigations by numerous local government agencies. After inviting dialogue with the local government officials‚ the Family received a letter dated July 8, 1993 from Deane Dana, Supervisor of the 4th District, County of Los Angeles, in which he stated:

I am very sorry your community has fallen victim to such strenuous and continual evaluations. It appears there is an overwhelming effort to defame your group and its existence, and I cannot explain why this continues. I am, therefore, by copy of this letter, asking for further information as to the purpose of these investigations by government agencies involved.

The sheriff subsequently informed the Family that all investigations concerning them were closed. References were made to the "unnecessary intrusion due to false allegations by several disgruntled ex-members."


Zulia: February 26, 1992-May 27, 1992

Fifteen adults of a Family community in Venezuela were charged with trafficking children and abuse of minors, and placed under house arrest for two months. The case was officially closed on May 27, 1992, when the judge of the Fifth Superior Court of the State of Zulia in the final verdict concluded:

After a detailed and intensive study of the documents that make up this indictment investigation, this Superior Court affirms that all of the necessary procedures have been carried out in accordance with the law, as though there was a crime, when in fact there was no evidence of any crime found after visiting the residence where lived [21 children‚ members of the Family]. [It] was proved that the aforementioned minors lived with their respective parents in a community constituted by families that chose this particular way of life with their own standard of education, health, work, and social and spiritual ideology inspired in a way of life taken from the New Testament. [This Court] declares this present investigation closed for finding no grounds for prosecution.28


1 Federal Court of San Isidro, Case No. 34.269, Buenos Aires, Argentina, January 11, 1990.

2 Minor's Court of San Isidro, Case No. 17.142, Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 19, 1989.

3 Provincial Court of San Isidro‚ Case No. 34.269, Buenos Aires, Argentina, May 23‚ 1990.

4 San Martin Court of Appeals, Case 81/89 "Cavazza, Juan C. and others‚ on Inf. Art.125, 139, 140, 142, Par.l, 142 bis, 210, 293 of the Code of Proceedings and art.3 of Law 23‚592," Federal Court of San Isidro, 1 Sec.2 Office II‚ Reg. 443. Federal Judges: Horacio Enrique Prack, Alberto Mansur, Daniel Mario Rudi, Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 13, 1993.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid.

9 Magistrate Gregory Levine of the Senior Children's Court, Melbourne, Victoria‚ Australia, Ruling on August 10, 1992.

10 Magistrate Gregory Levine of the Senior Children's Court, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Ruling on April 27, 1993.

11 Magistrate Ian Forsyth of the Children's Court, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, Ruling on May 21‚ 1992.

12 Quotation from settlement mediated by Sir Lawrence Street, former Supreme Court Justice, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

13 Ruling by David Levine of the New South Wales Supreme Court, Sydney, Australia, November 2‚ 1993.

14 Ibid.

15 Hartnett v State of New South Wales [1999] NSWSC 265, File number(s): 19380/93, 19373/93, 19402/93, Judgement date: March 31, 1999.

16 First Children's Court of Rio de Janeiro, Case number 57,931/92, November 14‚ 1994.

17 Judicial Council of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Appeal number 948/94, Rio de Janeiro‚ Brazil, January 30, 1995.

18 Lord Justice Ward in the High Court of Justice, Family Division, Case W 42 1992, London, England‚ October 19, 1995.

19 Minors Court of Appeal, Case No. 114/93, Lyon, France, July 23, 1993.

20 CESNUR press release‚ January 1999: "The Family Vindicated by French Court-'Catastrophe' for the Anti-Cult Movement, ADFI and the Government Mission to Fight Cults."

21 Tribunale Penale di Roma (Criminal Court of Rome), In "re: Berg and others," archives of the Criminal Court of Rome (RG 3841/84), November 15, 1991.

22 Judicial file number 307-87, Lima, Peru, July 30, 1990.

23 Judges: Adolfo Fernandez Oubiña, Jesus I. Perez Burred, and Jose Mä. Bachs Estany‚ Case numbers: 157 to 163/1992, Barcelona‚ Spain, Ruling on May 21, 1992.

24 Ibid.

25 Judges: Miguel Rodriguez-Piñero Bravo–Ferrer, Fernando Garcia-Mon Gonzalez-Regueral, Carlos de la Vega Benayas, Vicente Gimeno Sendra, Rafael de Mendizabal Allende, and Pedro Cruz Villalon, Appeal numbers: 1561 to 1567/1992, Verdict dated October 3, 1994.

26 Ibid.

27 Judges: Enrique Ruiz Vadillo, Jose Antonio Martin Pallin, and Justo Carrero Ramos, Appeal number: 3032/93, Verdict number 1669/94, October 30, 1994.

28 Fifth Superior Court of the State of Zulia, Case numbers 133 and 192.

("Religious Freedom on Trial," first published November 1993 as "The Test of Religious Freedom‚" was updated August 2004.)

Religious Persecution

The Test of Religious Freedom

"More Christians have died this century simply for being Christians than in the first nineteen centuries after the birth of Christ," writes Nina Shea, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Religious Freedom.1

This comment about the 20th century would seem paradoxical, considering the many countries of the world that have adopted some form of democratic rule and have constitutions guaranteeing freedom of religion. Nearly all countries are members of the United Nations, which has many provisions and internationally ratified documents espousing religious tolerance and the freedom to worship according to individual beliefs. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice‚ worship and observance.2

However, many scholars of religion agree that there is a rising trend toward religious intolerance in many areas of the world-including the most "enlightened" democracies. An example of this trend is the European Parliament having initiated ongoing investigations into religious movements. Another example is that several European countries have listed religious groups, including several mainstream denominations or branches of them, as "dangerous sects." Russia, many Eastern European countries, and some Latin American governments have taken similar steps by setting stringent and unreasonable requirements for religious groups to be registered and therefore legally recognized, placing serious limitations on the free practice of religion within their countries.

The Rising Tide of Religious Intolerance

Dr. Massimo Introvigne of the Center for Studies on New Religions in Turin, Italy, and Dr. J. Gordon Melton of the Institute for the Study of American Religion in Santa Barbara‚ California, warned of a disturbing trend toward government-sanctioned intolerance of minority religions in Western and Eastern Europe in reports released at a meeting of the American Academy of Religion in San Francisco (November 1997).

In his report‚ Dr. Introvigne stated, "There are literally hundreds of religious minorities discriminated against or persecuted in Western Europe. They belong to all possible religious and spiritual persuasions."

New Religious Movements and Minority Religions

New religions, popularly labeled as "sects" or demonized as "cults," are particularly vulnerable to religious intolerance, since their beliefs are often unconventional. Most do not wield any political or economic clout, and therefore are easily vilified by the media and the anti-religious sector, commonly referred to as the "Anti-'Cult' Movement" (ACM). This sector, diverse and often divided among itself‚ ranges from mainstream denominations determined to eradicate other groups viewed as competition in the religious market; to disgruntled apostates; to those with relatives or loved ones in a group who want to "rescue" them from the "dangerous cult"; to those who make campaigning against religious groups their profession, having vested interests in attacking unpopular religions.

The Family International [the Family], formerly known as the Children of God‚ an unconventional Christian group founded in 1968, has been no exception to attacks by anti-cultists, often with the cooperation of sensation-seeking media. Time and again‚ incessant lobbying by apostates, the ACM, and the media has pressured civil authorities to carry out raids on our home-based communities, brutally mistreating our members and their children. We believe that such assaults on our peace-loving homes are a somber foreshadowing of growing religious intolerance that threatens to overcome religious freedom.

Highly Publicized Pre–Dawn Raids

In the period from 1989 to 1993, massive pre-dawn police raids in Spain, Australia, France, and Argentina were launched against dozens of our communities. Though the specific details of the raids differ, the pattern was very similar. At each of the communities, scores of police barged in (often violently breaking down doors), accompanied by child protection agency representatives and the media. Shocked and bewildered mothers and fathers were ordered not to interfere as authorities cold-heartedly awoke and rounded up their children, in some cases at gunpoint‚ snatching them from their beds and out of their mothers' arms and hauling the children away to undisclosed locations.

In a few of these incidents, adults were hauled off to prison without being notified of the charges against them, and were denied contact with their lawyers for days on end. Traumatized children, who had been aggressively whisked away to detention centers by child "protection" agencies‚ were not allowed to contact their parents, being told their parents had no desire to contact them.

In each of these incidents the media had been given advance notice of the raids, and TV cameras were rolling as soon as the action began, thus guaranteeing maximum coverage of the spectacle, accompanied by interviews with anti-cult representatives and disgruntled ex-members proclaiming our members guilty of horrific crimes. All of the national newspapers' front-page headlines and every local TV and radio station's prime-time news broadcasts immediately focused their attention on this unprecedented seizure of so many children. During the incarceration of our Family members in Argentina, the largest of the raids, the headlines were international.

Despite the sensational and lurid false accusations against members of our community, so excessive and callous was the manner in which these raids and abduction of children were conducted that a public backlash arose at once to protest the totalitarian methods employed by the authorities. In many cases, top lawyers offered their services on a pro bono basis to protest the clear violation of our rights and the traumatic circumstances in which our children were placed.

A protracted battle was then waged, with child protection agencies fighting to maintain guardianship of the children for as long as possible, while they examined, interrogated, and observed the children they had "rescued," frantically searching for some shred of evidence of any conceivable form of abuse. In every case‚ they came up empty-handed.

In the so–called care of many social workers, our children were blatantly and cruelly lied to, in some cases children were repeatedly subjected to painful gynecological examinations as doctors searched in vain for signs of abuse. They were purposely placed with juvenile delinquents who taunted and bullied them. They were neglected and left to themselves in dangerous environments, resulting in several cases of serious accidents and broken bones. They had members of anti-cult groups fraudulently posing as psychologists interviewing them and issuing false reports about them. They were denied their basic needs‚ including schooling, over protracted periods of time. A handicapped child was denied urgent medical treatment. Almost 700 children of Family members were subjected to such government-sanctioned incarcerations.

Subsequent examinations by a wide range of genuine medical, psychological, educational, and legal professionals appointed by courts in each country where the raids were conducted unanimously concluded that not a single child was found to show any evidence of any kind of abuse, sexual or otherwise.

Judges, educators, and psychologists have repeatedly gone on public record, stating that our children are above average in intellect, behavior‚ and socialization in comparison to their peers in society at large. Unfortunately, the facts of vindication rarely receive the same coverage in the press as do the initial public presentations of the false accusations. In Sydney‚ Australia, for example, raids were conducted in May of 1992, but it was not until May of 1999 that the Government of New South Wales was forced to publicly admit that the raids on the Family communities were conducted illegally. They agreed to provide monetary compensation to the children for their mistreatment.

The Courts' Rulings

In each of the sensationalized raids that the Family has been subjected to‚ the courts have clearly vindicated the Family of all wrongdoing, even decrying the horrific treatment of Family members and the violation of their rights. Some have been deeply disturbed by the paramilitary-style action taken against the Family without any evidence to support the allegations of wrongdoing, as is evidenced in their rulings.

On June 29, 1993, the Provincial High Court of Barcelona, Spain‚ ruling in favor of the Family children who had been kept against their will for nearly 12 months in state custody, questioned the competence and motives of the welfare agencies which had originally seized the children:3

They [the children] were put in the hands of a group of psychologists who, in a language the children did not understand [Catalan], psychoanalyzed them twice for a prolonged period and issued reports cast in esoteric language designed rather to justify the operation than to describe any intellectual anomalies, which are completely nonexistent.4

The judges also alluded to the government action as reminiscent of, in their own words, the "Spanish Inquisition" and the "concentration camps of those former empires that ceased to be so when human dignity brought down the Berlin Wall."

When the prosecutor appealed our acquittal to the Supreme Court of Spain, the appeal was rejected on October 30. The judges stated:

We find ourselves in the presence of a community of people, made up of adults and children, who have adopted a lifestyle that differs from the generally accepted norms. Not a single element is found that could allow us to declare the existence of any intention to hurt their children or the other children of the community.

Judges cannot enter into the sanctuary of personal beliefs, except when external behaviors originating from a particular ideology negatively affect legally protected rights.5

In Melbourne, Australia, on April 27‚ 1993, Senior Children's Court Magistrate Gregory Levine warned against using child protection laws as a pretext to harass small religious groups such as the Family:

In my view, it was not envisioned by the legislature that all such groups, organizations or sects should have their children made the subject of protection applications as a form of class action. It must be of concern that this form of inquiry may set a precedent for the bringing of protection applications in relation to other sects whose practices and beliefs do not appear to accord with mainstream thinking.6

The Federal Appeals Court of San Martin, Argentina, on December 13, 1993, meted out harsh words for the investigating judge of the lower court over his prejudiced mishandling of the case:

It is evident that an illegal investigation violating the clear rules of public order has been initiated. This manner of proceeding represents an arbitrary use of penal power, by removing the case from the framework of rationality inherent in the fundamental right of the defense to a proper trial. This panorama puts in evidence an anachronistic continuation of the most severe system of inquisition‚ one in which people were summoned only to confess their sins‚ being considered "witches" or "heretics."7

In conclusion, the Argentine magistrates make a resounding statement regarding the importance of preserving religious liberty:

By adopting intolerant attitudes based exclusively on ethical perfectionism, we allow penal punishment to enter the realm of individual privacy and open the door to a subtle form of authoritarianism; especially when freedom of belief and the liberty to express that belief are restricted. By no means can a judge meddle in the evaluation of that which is thought to be correct morally, politically and/or religiously.8

The Aftermath

There has been no regard for the heart-wrenching and traumatizing effects that such violent separations from their parents and loved ones have had on our little ones. Rarely has the press publicized the legal vindications of the Family, despite having had the original allegations and intrusive actions of law enforcement occupy front-page headlines for days during and after the raids. As one candid Argentine journalist lamented:

Those implicated in this judicial operation have been portrayed as fanatical and depraved. However, once they are acquitted, the press often pretends not to notice! This habit of provoking the judgment and condemnation of the public through sensationalist media coverage distorts the judicial principle of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Our children had to live through a nightmare. The psychological damage and emotional scarring that such offensive and traumatizing kidnappings by so-called welfare authorities have caused our children have mended with time, love, prayer, and a lot of reassurance. We know that God greatly loves and cares for each of the precious children He has blessed us with.

What Is Behind the Charges?

When our tiny group or other minorities become the center of controversy in large-scale hostile media campaigns, or the target of strong-arm police raids and extensive government investigations, the public can't help but wonder‚ "If you're not guilty of these heinous allegations being leveled against you, then why are so many people maligning and attacking you?!" Or "Why do you claim that this is 'religious persecution' when the charges against you have nothing to do with religion?"

While it's true that the actual charges leveled against us usually have little to do with religion per se, careful scrutiny of the sources of these accusations reveals distinct anti-religious undercurrents. As a minority religion, we openly recognize that mistakes have been made in our 35-year history, mistakes which we have worked vigorously to correct and rectify. And while we freely acknowledge that some of our beliefs and practices differ from those of the more traditional mainstream religious establishments, the investigations carried out by the courts and their consequent rulings speak for themselves. They are ample evidence of the Family's commitment to continual betterment of our quality of life.

As Dr. Introvigne stated in his report "Religious Liberty in Western Europe:

A primary cause of concern is the public sponsorship of private anti-cult movements. It is abundantly clear that these movements are responsible for spreading misleading and often simply false information about religious minorities and an intolerant worldview.

Persecution as Prophesied in the Bible

We view these attacks against our communities as a foreshadowing of the global persecution that the Bible predicts will come upon not just Christians, but all people of faith just prior to Jesus' Second Coming.

The Bible explains that a powerful united world government will arise, founded on seemingly good principles to help solve the world's wars and inequality. But this entity will soon be under the rule of a megalomaniac dictator such as the world has never seen. After establishing his rule, he will demand total loyalty and attempt to crush all dissent. The Bible calls him the "Antichrist," as he will oppose those who follow Christ or any other prophet or deity other than himself. He will ultimately demand the entire world's submission, loyalty, and obeisance.

Once this New World Order has control over the nations, the Bible says that its leader will outlaw and abolish all faiths‚ blasphemously declaring that he himself is God‚ and that anyone who dares to observe or practice any faith or religion, other than the worship of the Antichrist, must be eradicated.

This will plunge the world into the darkest and most horrendous nightmare of religious persecution it has ever known‚ a time that Jesus described as "Great Tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be!" (Matthew 24:21). (See also Daniel 11:21-45; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Revelation 13:1-18.) But God will miraculously protect and provide for those who look to Him-and Jesus' Second Coming will establish righteousness, truth and love on the earth.

Although the Bible warns that this anti-religion, anti-faith, anti-God power will take over the world for a time before the return of Christ‚ how soon and how easily such forces come to power will largely be determined by what choices people make today, and how easily they allow themselves to be persuaded to relinquish their freedoms, such as the freedom of religion. If people turn a blind eye and passively ignore or acquiesce when the rights and freedoms of others are trampled upon, whether adherents of a traditional religion or a minority faith, then be sure that the resolve of the aggressors is strengthened. Whereas if people vigorously protest such acts of intolerance and injustice, the aggressors will realize they must give account for their deeds, and their persecution of innocent believers will be more easily halted.

Respect for human rights should be extended to every man‚ woman, and child, regardless of his or her choice of faith or religion. Yet some civil authorities, even in democratic countries, are condoning the passage of laws and other measures that contribute to a climate of increased discrimination‚ particularly of minority religions. International treaties that declare freedom of religion to be a fundamental human right are a reflection of spiritual consciousness. The millions of believers throughout the ages who have refused to denounce their faith in the face of persecution likewise attest to the inherent importance of religion throughout history. Imposition of restrictions regarding freedom of conscience, the promotion of intolerance towards minority religious groups, and even active persecution will not eliminate religion. It will only foster a climate of intolerance and hatred.

When civil authorities in democratic countries can be manipulated and pressured by anti-religious groups to bully and barge their way into the homes of peace-loving, law-abiding members of a tiny religious fellowship, terrorizing the occupants, then rounding up and carting away their children without evidence to justify such an assault, we feel a very dangerous precedent is being set. Every freedom–loving citizen should take notice. If such blatant violations of human rights are permitted today, who will be the victims tomorrow?

We appeal to you, whatever your personal beliefs, to stand up against intolerance. Beware of and speak out against flagrant religious discrimination and persecution.

May God bless you and your loved ones with the precious gift of religious freedom.


1 Nina Shea, In the Lion's Den (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1997), p.1. Shea is the director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Religious Freedom.

2 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948. Article 18.

3 Copies of the original untranslated documents available on request.

4 Judges: Miguel Rodriguez-Piñero Bravo-Ferrer, Fernando Garcia-Mon Gonzalez-Regueral, Carlos de la Vega Benayas‚ Vicente Gimeno Sendra, Rafael de Mendizabal Allende, and Pedro Cruz Villalon, Appeal numbers: 1561 to 1567/1992, Verdict dated October 3, 1994.

5 Judges: Enrique Ruiz Vadillo, Jose Antonio Martin Pallin, and Justo Carrero Ramos, Appeal number: 3032/93, Verdict number 1669/94, October 30, 1994.

6 Magistrate Gregory Levine of the Senior Children's Court, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Ruling on April 27, 1993

7 San Martin Court of Appeals, Case 81/89 "Cavazza, Juan C. and others, on Inf. Art.125‚ 139‚ 140, 142, Par.l, 142 bis, 210, 293 of the Code of Proceedings and art.3 of Law 23‚592," Federal Court of San Isidro, 1 Sec.2 Office II, Reg. 443. Federal Judges: Horacio Enrique Prack, Alberto Mansur, Daniel Mario Rudi, Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 13, 1993.

("Religious Persecution" was first published in June 1992 and updated January 2004.)