A Father’s Story
The Greene County News
November 12, 1998
Coxsackie – Mike Reichmann looks like any average 57 year old man. With his red checkered tie positioned expertly in a double Windsor knot over a perfectly tucked blue shirt and light khakis, you’d think his life was as normal as Joe Q. Public.
But Reichmann unfortunately needed to realize what many area parents are these days calling their worst fear. His daughter Deborah, now 25, came to him three years ago and said she wanted to join a group called Messianic Community that she met at a Grateful Dead concert that summer. The community she suddenly pledged allegiance to would later call themselves the Twelve Tribes.
Since his daughter was an adult, Reichmann couldn’t stop her and off she went from her family’s home in Minnesota to one of the group’s homes in Harrisonburg, Va. After her departure, Reichmann and his family decided to research the group to see exactly what they believed. He didn’t like what he saw.
“This is a very destructive cult,” he said. “In many ways we lost our daughter when she left.”
Reichmann saw his daughter six times in the following 18 months in locations between Virginia and Vermont. While he met people he said were outwardly pleasant, he also said his daughter wasn’t the same person who left her parents home in Minnesota.
“The mind control that they use totally changed Deborah,” he said, fighting back tears. “Her personality changed so much and she totally lost her sense of humor, all in the name of God.”
But throughout the 18 month period, Reichmann and his other family members continued to make visits periodically, and even became somewhat friendly with the group’s members. “They were wonderful people and they still are wonderful people,” he said. “But we needed to continue the dialogue, or else they would have probably shut us off to her.”
“It is very hard, but we needed to do it,” he said.
Finally, after meeting with several cult awareness groups throughout the United States, Reichmann and his family came to one conclusion. “We knew we could only get her out with some type of intervention,” he said.
Reichmann’s definition of intervention differs from that which is typically associated with the word. They didn’t abduct their daughter nor use deception but employed discussion.
“I only needed to ask my daughter if she wanted to talk with these people,” said Reichmann. “If she would have said no, she would probably still reside in the community.”
After the persuasion, Deborah decided to leave the group. Reichmann said that if his daughter expressed a desire to stay in the community after the long talks, he and his family still would have supported her.
“I just wanted her to have the chance to make her own decision, because the group took that right away from her,” he said. “If she decided to remain with the group, we wouldn’t be happy about it, but we would have supported her choice.”