Caning punishment in secret rooms
If they drive through town, they look so friendly. A little spun perhaps, the men with long beards, women with long skirts, but harmless. Their website – Twelve Tribes or community of faith is a group of people from different backgrounds who have found themselves “in the search for life’s meaning, the truth and even God.
They lead a simple life in Bavarian Deiningen in the former Cistercian monastery (Klosterzimmern). They work and live together and share almost everything. We are a Bible-based cult and we follow rules and regulations and the teachings of our leader Elbert Eugene Spriggs. (Editor took some textual liberties for the sake of truth!)
But for more than ten years, rumors were flying around that the world of the Twelve Tribes is not as free and healing as it appears. The Twelve Tribes raised a controversy when they refused to send their children to public schools.
Beatings suspected a year ago
After a long legal dispute, many fines and incarceration the Twelve Tribes finally opened its own private supplementary school in 2006. But the school was closed in the summer of 2013 because the community was unable to provide a professionally trained teacher.
A year ago the authorities had reason to deal more specifically with the Twelve Tribes cult founded in 1972 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A former member told the news that behind the monastery walls children are abused. The Bavarian Ministry of Culture, however, lacked credible evidence. The Augsburg prosecutor terminated the investigation.
Last Thursday something unexpected happened. At six o’clock in the morning the police removed 40 Twelve Tribes children from their parents in Klosterzimmern and Bavarian Wörnitz.
Wolfram Kuhnigk spent two weeks with the Twelve Tribes cult secretly installing hidden cameras. He presented himself as a paramedic with an identity crisis. This was a lie which allowed him to gain insights into the daily life of cult members.
Kuhnigk has spoken with former members who told him of beatings with willow branches. He claims that he learned that children are systematically excluded from their families, if they refuse to obey. He experienced the endless religious rituals, even a two year old had to participate even if they were overwhelmed.
The Reporter was in tears
The reporter installed hidden cameras in monastery rooms that were clearly used in Kuhnigk’s judgment to thrash children. Kuhnigk – the father of two children said – “I almost cried because the scenes that I recorded were so cruel and inhuman.”
According to Kuhnigk’s research, a Twelve Tribes child does not need to commit a big ‘offense’ to be beaten. Play is not encouraged because the community members see fantasy as evil. They feel incompatible thoughts could arise from fantasy. If a child daydreams during school classes or talks during meals they are subject to discipline from baptized Twelve Tribes adults.
According to Kuhnigk’s research, any baptized Twelve Tribes member can discipline children. The members are also highly encouraged to do so! Often women would just beat on the bare bottoms of the children with rods. The cries of the children failed to affect the women. Kuhnigk reported the beating of a three year old.
The children are now in foster care.
On Friday the district court of Ansbach begins an oral hearing of the parents and the 10 affected children. The district court of Nördlingen deals with the fate of the other children. The parental custody rights of Twelve Tribes members has been revoked and their children placed with foster families. It’s quite possible that their children will learn that the free world is not as spoiled as their Twelve Tribes parents want them to believe it is.