A former member recounts his experiences of violence in the Twelve Tribes cult
June 14, 2014
Translated from the German
The controversial Bible-based Twelve Tribes cult made headlines this past year because of beating allegations.
Once, Christian Reip remembers he stole and ate a bit of sugar. The adults discovered his offense. The baptized adults admonished Reip’s father to discipline his child. His father then thrashed him. “I expect the child to definitely return crying,” says Reip.
Many scenes like this return to 22 year old Christian Reip’s memory as he thinks of the Twelve Tribes and his youth that he spent in the cult. “I had no childhood,” says Reip. From an early age, we toiled for the sect,” he says.
The Twelve Tribes are a Bible-based cult committed to the communist concept of no property. They strictly obey the teachings of their “Apostle” and founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs.
Four and a half year ago, Reip fled with his parents and three siblings from the sects property in Wörnitz. The community also operates a larger property in the Bavarian
district of Donau-Ries.
Reip has spent a large part of his life there. Now the lanky man sitting in the café tells his story. We were pummeled repeatedly if we sang secular music. They also beat us if we imitated an airplane. They constantly watched us, he says.
Christian Reip was born in southwestern France, in the village of Sus where the “Twelve Tribes” has its base. Reip’s father, a machinist, opposed the peace movement
during the Cold War in the 1980s and the alternative and
militant “Christian” community attracted him. His wife, a seamstress, hesitated a long time but eventually followed him into the Bible-based cult.
Now the local community determined where the Reip family should live. It was constant here and there, said Reip. One time we were ordered to go to Bremen, then to other cities.
The married couple produced six children. The Reip family repeatedly suffered isolation. Christian Reip, a 17 year old worked in Sus, France on solar systems because the demand was great.
Attempted phone calls to reach the people in Klosterzimmern was unsuccessful but there is a property in a secluded location, a former Cistercian monastery with a Gothic church in the center.
A footpath leads between the houses. In the back yard the women hang laundry. A woman comes running and shouting. “Stop – What do you want here?” “This is private property.” She has long grey-white hair and she is wearing a coarse, flowing dress.
Last year a RTL-Reporter (Wolfram Kuhnigk) secretly smuggled himself onto the Twelve Tribes property in Klosterzimmern and secretly filmed the various child abuse situations that took place. The Twelve Tribes refuse to send their children to public schools and to teach them about sex education and the theory of evolution. They have received much criticism because of this stance.
On Sept. 5, 2013 the German police and social workers removed 40 children from the Twelve Tribes cult members because of alleged child abuse. The courts stripped the parents of their parental rights and placed the children in foster homes and families.
From 1979 on the Twelve Tribes cult has operated their own private school and to teach their children at home. Christian Reip has a certificate that he has complied with compulsory education but oddly he doesn’t have a high school diploma! He does not know if any of the children have earned a high school diploma. Reip says that currently he is unhappy with his reading and writing abilities.
The community had few professionally trained teachers so the midwives and the brothers and sisters stepped in to teach the children. According to Reip the children were beaten daily. The children feared the woman who taught them daily because she showed no mercy. She often terribly beat the children on open hands or bare buttocks. In the Old Testament book of Proverbs it states: “He that spares the rod hates his son but he that loves him disciplines him often.”
Reip who now earns his living as a professional truck driver says: “If there is a bit of trouble in the company it pulls me down for days. I then fear getting punished.” Reip often admires how his peers “go so easily through life.”
In the cult of equals, there is in reality a two-class system. The elders and those in charge have access to money, cell phones, braces for their children’s teeth, computers and cars. The “second class” were denied everything! Children’s books or comics, sweets, videos? He shakes his head. I was told that chocolate makes one sick. They told us that in Africa where the cocoa comes from the black children poop on it!
Small escapes were what remained. With the approval of the community, the family was allowed to travel 40 km to Aalen where the grandparents lived. The grandparents gave the children a little bit of money. In turn the parents bought “What is What” Knowledge books for their children which they quickly devoured. At some point, the books were taken out of their rooms at the community.
26 out of 40 children who were removed during the police raid are living in foster homes and attending public schools. A married couple whose four children were removed during the police raid has recently left the cult. And five Twelve Tribes families along with their children moved at the end of April to Austria. They wanted to escape the German authorities.