Von Claudia Frickel
May 23, 2016
Translated from the German
****Some liberties were taken with the original German text in order to better describe Elbert Eugene Spriggs (the leader and founder) of the Twelve Tribes
****The Bible-based Twelve Tribes cult implicitly obeys the teachings of its “Apostle” and founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs. If they fail to obey, the members risk shunning or excommunication.
Two thousand followers live communally around the world and are strictly organized hierarchically. Male leaders are called shepherds and enforce the will and dictates of the leader Spriggs. The sheep or simple followers are called brothers and sisters.
*****Elbert Eugene Spriggs writes all the child training teachings and child discipline manuals which all baptized members must follow.
No one owns any personal property and everyone works hard and doesn’t receive any rewards ***** such as pay, tips, workmen’s compensation, insurance, disability, health insurance, etc.
They are isolated from the outside world as Twelve Tribes members do not read newspapers, connect to the Internet, watch TV, listen to the radio, or read books other than the Bible because it would introduce them to the devilish modern world. Community members say “worldly (non-community members) are under the influence of Satan.”
The community gathers morning and evening ****where the teachings of Elbert Eugene Spriggs are talked about with a view of strict obedience. These meetings usually last for an hour and even the smallest children must sit still like miniature adults.
The public and the churches classify the Twelve Tribes as a cult. They emerged in 1972 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA. The name “Twelve Tribes” refers to the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles. Former high school guidance counselor Elbert Eugene Spriggs founded the group and called it the “Light Brigade.”
The group isolated itself more and more from the outside world and moved from the south to a remote Vermont town called Island Pond. In the mid 1980s the police raided the Island Pond community and removed 112 children. Authorities charged Twelve Tribes members with child abuse, but the charges were too broad and were later dropped for lack of evidence.
The German branch of the sect
Government persecution drew Spriggs and his followers to southern France where he founded the European branch of the “Twelve Tribes.” In 1994 the German community of Osterholz-Scharmbeck opened up. One member inherited an estate which he promptly gave to the sect. In 1995, the community founded another communal home in the village of Stödtlen-Oberbronnen in Baden Württemberg.
Six years later the two groups moved to a new location in Bavaria at the Klosterzimmern estate in the district of Donau-Ries in Deiningen. This is now their headquarters. There are also two other branches in Middle Franconia and Saxony Anhalt.
The Twelve Tribes reject public education for their children.
The Twelve Tribes children are home-schooled where ****professionally unqualified teachers” instruct the children. The community does not want their children exposed to sex education and the Theory of Evolution which they say is contrary to the Bible. The South German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung) investigated the Twelve Tribes Bible-based cult and found that the children are taught racist theories and that “Africans are cursed.”
The authorities repeatedly tried to force the Twelve Tribes children to attend school. In one instance a bus retrieved the children and took them to a regular school but on the following day they returned home.
The Bavarian Department of Education and Science gave the Twelve Tribes permission in 2006 and 2013 to “instruct” their children at home with their own “teachers.”
Castigations for children
During the children’s home-schooling they incur strokes and buffeting. A 56 year old untrained “teacher” is considered especially brutal and showed no remorse. As a consequence, she must answer before the Augsburg District Court for now. Several other sect “educators” received suspended sentences from the German court. The boys and girls are not only battered with a rod, but also receive cold showers.
Former members also report that young babies and toddlers are wrapped in cloths and secured with safety pins so that they can no longer move.
As a result of this, the sect came under the observation of the authorities. The German police raided two Twelve Tribes Bavarian towns (Klosterzimmern and Wörnitz) in Sept. 2013 and removed 40 children to the safety of foster homes because the children were physically mistreated and abused. RTL reporter Wolfram Kuhnigk crept into the sect and secretly filmed the children’s torture.
The parents defended themselves in court, but some judicial processes are still continuing. About half of the children have returned to their parents in the Twelve Tribes cult. In 2015 the sect announced it would move its headquarters to the Czech Republic where the community has several farm plots. At the former cistercian monastery of Klosterzimmern at least 120 members once lived but now only 20 remain. The other 100 members have already moved to the neighboring Czech Republic.