Upstate religious cult alledgedly beats kids, forces them into labour
Source: New York Post
By Laura Italiano
31 May 2018
A religious cult is forcing children as young as 9 to work the assembly line in its upstate factory — packaging fancy soaps and other goods that are then sold by Amazon, Whole Foods, Target and Walmart, a new exposé claims.
The factory, in rural Cambridge — a small town an hour northeast of Albany — is owned and run by a controversial international religious cult called Twelve Tribes.
The cult has been fined by New York authorities at least twice before, in 2001 and 2006, over child labor-law violations.
Its charismatic octogenarian leader, Gene Spriggs, preaches a home-spun fundamentalism that promotes corporal punishment, racism, homophobia, and a return to 1st century Christian values.
“They preach peace and love. But there’s another side of these people they don’t want you to see,” says a promo for the “Inside Edition” report, which airs 7 p.m. Friday on CBS.
The clip shows ponytailed men and women in long dresses holding hands and dancing in a circle.
“Inside Edition” interviewed former members who described childhoods of work and beatings.
Ex-member Sarah Williams, 34, “rejoined” the group to record hidden-camera footage of children, ages 9 and 10, working an assembly line for the factory, which packages soaps for major brands, including Savannah Bee and Acure.
Williams recorded a girl who said she was 11 pulling small white boxes from a larger box and lining them up on a conveyor belt.
When Williams asks one child for her age, the father reassures the kid that it’s all right to reveal that she’s only 10.
“She’s not Secret Service,” he tells the child of Williams. “She’s not Child Labor.”
Investigative reporter Lisa Guerrero told The Post, “It was very clear these kids were afraid to speak.”
Footage from the cult’s nearby Common Sense Farm shows a 6-year-old boy struggling to pull a heavy wheelbarrow.
“They were working hard,” producer Larry Posner told The Post.
Disobedience would be met with a spanking — or thrashes with “the rod of authority,” a sturdy bamboo stick, the exposé says.
“It takes them being disciplined and spanked when they’re not obedient,” a male cult member is caught on camera saying.
Twelve Tribes leaders denied to “Inside Edition” that any of the children worked, insisting, “We don’t have factories.”
“We do have videotape of it, sir,” Guerrero responds on tape. “Yes, you have a factory right over here,” she adds pointing.
“We don’t hurt our children; we love our children,” the member insists.
Twelve Tribes officials did not immediately respond to a request by The Post for comment.
The state Attorney General’s Office and Department of Labor declined to say if they are investigating the group.
A spokesman for the brand Acure issued this statement on Friday:
“The serious allegations raised against the facility in Cambridge NY are abhorrent and go against our values as a company. We are no longer working with Greener Formulas and have pulled all production out of that facility.”