I had no childhood. I have toiled.

June 17, 2014

Patrick Guyton

Translated from the German

Life after the Twelve Tribes cult

There are approximately 15 large houses here, and sheds, utility rooms, greenhouses and lots of farm land.

His parents were members of the Bible-based “Twelve Tribes” cult. For years, Christian Reip and his siblings were abused and beaten. Now the young man is looking for a new life.

The group is a Bible-based cult and they erroneously claim to live like the first disciples of the early church. The cult employs anger, fear and mind control on its members. In the Old Testament book of Proverbs it says:

“He that spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him often.” About 80 to 100 people live in the former monastery in Klosterzimmern. Two men enter the room and say, “We do not talk to the press because you only write lies about us.”

The cult rejects the press if they are not favorable to them. They also reject public schools, sex education and the theory of evolution. Since 1979, the cult has sought to teach their children at home in their own private school. During the last seven years the state of Bavaria has given approval for the Twelve Tribes cult to operate their own private school. Christian Reip has a certificate stating that he fulfilled compulsory education. It means that none of the children in the Twelve Tribes cult receive a high school diploma. My reading and writing abilities are very poor, said Reip.

There was a trained high school teacher for a short time. Otherwise the midwives and the brothers and sisters teach the children. Christian Reip laughs, “they were beaten every day on the hands and bare butt.” One of the “teachers” wrapped their rods with scotch tape “so it hurt more.”

Every day there were religious meetings and the group discussed the teachings of their “Apostle” Elbert Eugene Spriggs. They also sought to implicitly obey their leader and founder!

When Reip was living in the cult – he used the name Zakar. Such ancient Hebrew names are common in the “Twelve Tribes.” At the age of 13, Reip refused to celebrate the feast of Bar Mitzvah inherited from Judaism. He rebelled. “I showed them that I had nothing to hide.” The family was therefore “cut off” for months. This meant they could not break bread with the rest of the group on Saturday evenings and they were excluded and ostracized from their brothers and sisters. The feud continued: Reip was forced to grow his hair long and grow a beard. The community considers a man with no beard as gay, he says. His sister Amitsa, who is one year younger rebelled. “We both had enough.”

From the beatings and control came hypocrisy. 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, computers and cars. The “second class” were denied everything! Children’s books or comics, sweets, videos? Reip just shakes his head. These things were not there for him.

Small escapes were what remained. With the approval of the community, the family was allowed to travel 40 km to Aalen where their grandparents lived. The grandparents would give the children a little bit of money. The parents bought “What is What” Knowledge books for their children which the children quickly devoured. At some point, the books were taken out of their rooms at the community.

Repeatedly, the children talked to their parents about leaving the community but the pressure to remain in the sect was too great. The two children who were knowledgeable about the real world felt the community was becoming increasingly rigid. We had gatherings morning and evening and we talked about the teachings of our “Apostle” and leader (Elbert Eugene Spriggs). But Christian Reip did not know what to say. The mother turned to her children because they too wanted to leave. The father was torn because he was afraid of his future in the world.

Two weeks after his older sister left her husband and the Twelve Tribes, Reip also left. One Friday evening he cut his hair completely off. On Saturday morning Reip went to the elders and said: “We want to leave now.” “Let my parents leave in peace.”

After we left the community, some friends helped us to get into an apartment near the town of Heilbronn. At first we bought a CD player and some music by the Scorpions.

He feels lonely in the world but no one knows.

Barbara Kohout who is from the city of Augsburg helps former cult members. She says the “Twelve Tribes are a typical religious dictatorship.” The corporal punishment leaves lifelong injuries. Christian Reip who now earns his living as a 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 stands next to his vocational teachers and says this makes a cold shiver go down his back.

Reip finds everyday life difficult and after he left the Twelve Tribes cult he did not know how he should dress. “In the cult we received only second hand clothes,” he said. In fashion stores they can advise you concerning a purchase. He would like contact with young people his own age. “But how do I accomplish this,” he says. I don’t know anyone. He feels as if he is new to the world and its ways.

The relationship with his parents is bad till this day, says Reip. He says that the cult ruined his life. The parents also know this. There has still never been a debate or discussion.

What happens next in the Twelve Tribes cult, Reip does not know. Since the police and the Youth Office removed children from cult parents – there is excitement. Some say the separation of the parents is worse than the suffering that the children had to endure. 26 of the original 40 children that the German police removed in the Sept. 2013 raid are attending public schools. Five families moved in late April with their children from Klosterzimmern to the Tyrol region of Austria. The five families from the Twelve Tribes cult settled in a small Austrian village near Reutte. The German border is only 9 miles away from their current location in the small village. A married couple whose four children were taken away in the raid eventually left the Twelve Tribes cult. They hope to retrieve the children.

Cult member Klaus T. is viewed as the unofficial leader. He is currently in training in the U.S. The Twelve Tribes cult was founded in 1972 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Twelve Tribes has its headquarters in the U.S. and most of its members. One supposes that T. should take over the European management of the Twelve Tribes after he returns. According to the beliefs of the Twelve Tribes in 2026 the world ends.

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