Comments on the 12 Tribes-Sept. 2015

Source: Metafilter“I was robbed of my childhood”
September 2, 2015 6:33 PM

Children are defenseless against abuse. They don’t vote. They don’t organize. They don’t have money to hire lobbyists or spin media campaigns to protect their interests. They don’t have a voice. They rely on adults for protection—and sometimes it’s those same adults who violate their rights. Children of the Tribes is a look at child abuse masked as religious practice in the reclusive and controversial Christian Twelve Tribes sect. Some may find the descriptions of corporal punishment of children at these links disturbing.
posted by zarq (29 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite


There’s a 12 tribes group near me, and I often eat at their restaurant (It’s tasty, healthy and reasonably priced). I’m slightly uncomfortable sometimes about the cult-like atmosphere there, but from an outsider’s perspective it seems mostly positive. They now have women working at the restaurant (this is relatively new) and most of them seem quite happy.Of course we never see any children. Everyone is bussed from the restaurant to their farm 20 minutes out of town.

Thanks for sharing this, even if it is disturbing. I wonder how the community here will react to this.
posted by sauril at 7:42 PM on September 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

There’s a Yellow Deli in downtown Boulder. I am told the sandwiches are really good. I’m glad I have never gone in.

posted by brennen at 7:44 PM on September 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

It’s reasonably priced because they don’t pay their labor — that’s a great way to cut down on overhead.

I don’t think I could frequent a joint knowing this.
posted by allthinky at 7:45 PM on September 2, 2015 [34 favorites]

I am acquainted with someone who grew up in and left Twelve Tribes. She doesn’t speak of it much, but she’s deeply conflicted when she does. She suffered, but she continues to see a spark of good in the community. I can’t even imagine.

posted by Ruki at 8:25 PM on September 2, 2015

They’re in Canada as well, unfortunately. Thanks for posting this disturbing article. I’ll be on the lookout for the products at farmers’ markets, etc. so I can avoid them and ask others to do so as well.

I am sick and tired of misogyny, child abuse, and forced labour justified on religious grounds. These communities just get smarter about hiding it. It’s easy to identify Westboro Baptist as a bunch of crazies. Much harder to realize what’s going on with these “positive” and “quite happy” folks.
posted by angiep at 8:25 PM on September 2, 2015 [16 favorites]
allthinky, that had crossed my mind. angiep, that’s where I am too.
posted by sauril at 8:29 PM on September 2, 2015

I’ve never heard of this group before. Interesting and tragic. I am so angered by abuse that’s let pass because it is religiously motivated. That is no excuse and only a broken system with no care for women or children would allow it.

posted by arcticwoman at 9:18 PM on September 2, 2015

Good for Germany. Terrible.

posted by frumiousb at 10:10 PM on September 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

In lieu of a Class V Profane Tirade, I direct persons obsessed with sadistic notions from the Old Testament to the Book of Matthew, Chapter 25, verses 31 to 46.

posted by ob1quixote at 10:11 PM on September 2, 2015

I hope that the group’s former hostages (I will not call them members because that assumes a degree of personal agency) rally together to bring this group down, and I hope this for all groups like it. Human rights trump “religious rights” – always – and this fact needs to be taken more seriously, everywhere, and enforced. Children are human beings and not the property of their parents or religious group.

posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:17 PM on September 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

And also, wtf, USA? You need to get on board ratifying the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. I was flabbergasted to find out the USA is pretty much the only major country that hasn’t when answering another question on the green recently. Check out the map here.

posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:31 PM on September 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

I always got the sense that if you were the type of person that wanted to abuse children, joining an extreme religious community would be the easiest way to get away with it. It’s horrifying.

posted by Arbac at 10:31 PM on September 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

I always got the sense that if you were the type of person that wanted to abuse children, joining an extreme religious community would be the easiest way to get away with it. It’s horrifying.

Yup. It’s also a way for the extremely personality-disordered to rule their own little kingdoms of horror with impunity. It’s sickness all the way down. Why else is there a need for such opacity in these groups?
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 10:40 PM on September 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

I looked up The Yellow Deli in Australia and was shocked to see it had such good reviews. I can only assume the majority of people who go there have no idea what is going on behind the scenes. I really hope articles like this can expose it for what it is.

posted by liquorice at 11:01 PM on September 2, 2015

From the article: “Corporal punishment—which the United Nations defines as “any punishment in which physical force is used and intended to cause some degree of pain or discomfort”—has been banned in 46 nations. The general consensus within the medical-research establishment, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that physical punishment, especially of children, can lead to increased aggression and psychological problems. Hitting a child in the home in the United States, however, is legal in every state as long as it doesn’t leave a mark.

As disgusting as this cult is, how about we focus on the greater problem that SO MANY PEOPLE still think it’s acceptable to hit others. I have seen a truly disgusting number of people defend violence (BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT SPANKING IS) lately. Just make it illegal. That would offer some protection to children in cults as well as everybody else’s kids.
posted by Violet Hour at 12:09 AM on September 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

From the first link, ““You were never abused,” she murmured. “Our life is full of love.”’

…full of a love defined by dishing out as many beatings and as much control freakism as possible, yeah. I puke on her idea of “love.”FYI, if you want to avoid accidentally purchasing their products, their line of ‘lotions, body washes, healing herbal salves, and baby products” retails at health food stores, apparently under the name “Common Sense.” (At least, their soap is called Common Sense, so presumably the other products are too?)

There’s a group in California too (“selling produce at farmers markets in Escondido, San Marcos, Valley Center, Leucadia, Ocean Beach and San Bernardino”). From that link, “”We discipline with love. We don’t have any intention of hurting the children”" …because your unquestionable religious beliefs insist that non-corporal discipline equals hurting them, and multiple-times-a-day corporal punishment equals helping and loving them.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:15 AM on September 3, 2015

They are also in Australia and run a food cafe called Common Ground at all the big festivals – Big Day Out, Woodford, Royal Easter Show, even the Olympics which must have raked in a fortune 15 yrs ago.

I saw them first at Woodford and they looked so wholesome, even amongst Woodford’s folky funky wholesomeness. I thought they were creepy and disliked their uniform of plain cotton and headscarfs and beatific smiles. All that projected goodness? Had to be something awful at the core, methought.
posted by Thella at 3:09 AM on September 3, 2015

I live in the same town as sauril. My wife swaps yarn for meals at the Yellow Deli. I don’t know. Do they beat their children? I was disturbed by the concept that children will naturally try to be bad (so it needs to be thrashed out of them) but this is an ancient debate about human nature where I am on the other side. So many cults have set up in this region, most are gone now. The worst was probably the Catholic Church which operated a pedophile ring here for years. Every adult should be a protector of children. I will be looking further into the Yellow Deli/Twelvers here.

posted by CCBC at 3:29 AM on September 3, 2015

I don’t know. Do they beat their children?

posted by milk white peacock at 5:49 AM on September 3, 2015 [12 favorites]

I’ve walked by their cafe often – it was always packed since it was located in a touristy area – and wondered why the children were so….somber. They would congregate around the park next to the cafe (probably waiting for family who were working), but wouldn’t play or smile and avoided eye contact. It was an unsettling experience, especially when juxtaposed with the crowds of kids laughing and tearing around, having fun around them. This is so, so terrible.

posted by tanuki.gao at 6:49 AM on September 3, 2015

The reason the USA hasn’t ratified it is the psychotics in Congress who think that every UN motion is trying to take over the world, and the psychotics in Congress who think that not letting parents hit their kids is, in fact, taking away their rights to parent as they see fit.

Thus proving again that if ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con’, then the opposite of progress is Congress.
posted by mephron at 10:04 AM on September 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

We have one here, along with something called Preserved Seed, and they’ve set up a commune near the river which the cafe supports. They fit right in here with all the other religious zealots this place seems to attract.

posted by redindiaink at 10:16 AM on September 3, 2015

They ran a really lovely(-seeming) little cafe down the street from where I grew up. It was a beautiful room – it felt like you were walking into a fairytale forest when you entered. And as others have said, you’d often see them selling healthy snacks at town fairs and festivals around New England. There was a lot of chatter about it being a cult, and you always got a bit of a weird vibe from the people who worked there, but I had no idea how terrible it was – it really just seemed like some sort of back to the land kinda thing.

I’m horrified The way they treat the children seems like beyond even the typical understanding of abuse to me. To not allow children to play, or fantasize – this seems utterly dehumanizing.
posted by lunasol at 10:58 AM on September 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Congress even ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities after former Sen. Bob Dole, who was 89 at the time, showed up in his wheelchair on the Senate floor to lobby for it. There’s absolutely no way they would think about ratifying the Convention on Rights of the Child, which really gets the zealots up in arms. Pathetic.

posted by zachlipton at 12:13 PM on September 3, 2015

I don’t know. Do they beat their children?

You could ask them. It’s not secret knowledge or anything.This is terrible. How can they keep moaning about the Devil when they do such an unequivocally evil thing? I don’t get it.
posted by Omnomnom at 4:19 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Holy shit, the Twelve Tribes-run tea company Maté Factor (google it, I can’t do donotlink on mobile) claims to be fair trade and to have never used child labor. Dude, NO.

posted by nicebookrack at 4:23 PM on September 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

They seem like they’re very active on their Wikipedia page:

One of Patrick’s last deprogramming cases in Chattanooga occurred in 1980; it involved a police detective who, according to Swantko, had his 27-year-old daughter arrested on a falsified warrant in order to facilitate her deprogramming, with the support of local judges.[20] Kirsten Neilsen continued in the community of her own free will, with respect to her right not to be assaulted by so-called “deprogramming” to program a person into popular society.The whole page is…very, very whitewashed.
posted by pseudonymph at 5:46 PM on September 3, 2015

This is horrific. Praise to Noah though for getting out and then helping most of his siblings escape as well.

posted by biggreenplant at 6:22 PM on September 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

They opened a Yellow Deli in my then-unhip, then-somewhat-poor hometown. It was one of the first places to help revitalize downtown and absolutely one of the first restaurants to be open 24 hours (except for their sabbath day) in that area. We went a couple of times when they first opened but my friends–who are evangelical Christians and who engaged the adults in conversation–were very uneasy about them. So I haven’t been back in years, all credit to my friends’ wisdom, but I am still horrified that I supported that community in any way.

It only took a little research back then to find out about their misogyny but that’s super common in our area (lots of conservative religious types) so it wasn’t as big a red flag as might be. Child abuse? I had no idea. Unfortunately, child abuse alone wouldn’t get them shut down in my hometown. Too many people would see it as the slippery slope to government interference with their own children. But I will let friends now about this and make sure that we don’t eat there again. It’s the least I can do.
posted by librarylis at 3:13 PM on September 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

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