The Idyllic Restaurant Chain Owned by a Homophobic, Racist, Child-Beating Cult

They don’t exactly advertise their beliefs on the menus.

Source : Vice news

Jamie Lee Curtis Taete

Jamie Lee Curtis Taete

May 1 2018, 2:26am

All photos by author

Cults have always been good at making money. Generally, they do this by forcing their members to hand over huge amounts of cash and all of their worldly possessions. But some groups hustle harder. The FLDS scammed food stamps. The People’s Temple sold merch. Heaven’s Gate members built websites.

But one cult, the Twelve Tribes (who, it should be noted, rejects the “cult” label) has a relatively simple source of extra income: It owns and operates about 20 restaurants. The eateries, which are known by a number of names, have locations in the US, the UK, Canada, Spain, and Australia. Like their restaurants, the organization itself is spread across the world. Members live communally on farms and eschew a lot of the luxuries of the modern world, like TVs and radio and newspapers. The Twelve Tribes identify as Christian but endorse heinous practices like segregation (they say that multiculturalism is “just not reasonable“), misogyny (they believe that women were “created to complete man“), and some pretty questionable treatment of children (they’ve been at the center of controversies relating both to corporeal punishment of kids and underage labor).

But I didn’t know any of this before I decided to spend a day working remotely from the two Twelve Tribes restaurants closest to my house, both in San Diego County. I decided not to read up on them before visiting so I could experience them through the eyes of an average customer, and open myself up to any indoctrination they might try.

And all I knew about the Twelve Tribes at that point was that they’re kind of Amish-y and had maybe been involved in some kind of child labor scandal, and also something about some racism in their past that current members of color were claiming was no longer an issue. All the details I had in my head were vague, though.

The first restaurant I visited was in a tiny town called Valley Center, about 100 miles south of LA.

It was beautiful in a way I wasn’t aware this part of California could be. To get to the restaurant, I drove for miles down windy canyon roads, past lush green fields, herds of cows, and brooks that were literally babbling. When I reached the restaurant, it, too, was stunning. The Little House on the Prairie as painted by Thomas Kinkade.

The vibe of the place is exactly what would pop into your head if I asked you to picture a cult-owned restaurant: Organic vegetables and long hair and vegan cookies and psychedelic paintings and herbal tea and a selection of homemade skincare products. There was an old-timey stove and lots of leather and reclaimed wood. I overheard two separate customers compare it to the Shire.

The staff were also exactly what you’d expect: beautiful, with long shiny hair and blank, smiley faces. Everything had a very Rajneeshees-before-the-poisoned-salsa-and-drugged-homeless-people look and feel. It was almost too on the nose. Like a Mad TV sketch about a cult.

I ordered a veggie burger, a coffee, and a grapefruit juice. It was all almost unbelievably delicious. The burger was one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever eaten.

The second restaurant I visited was 15 miles away, in Vista. It was more of the same, except it was bigger, located in a more urban area, and the people working there were communicating with each other using those in-ear walkie talkies like the bad guys in The Matrix.

Both places were pretty busy, with a typical midweek day crowd. Some cops, a couple of meetings, some people who appeared to be part of a church group. Exactly the kind of vibe you’d expect at a relatively popular restaurant not owned by a cult.

Though I’d been expecting to be bombarded by their beliefs, both restaurants were pretty un-brainwashy. There were some free Twelve Tribes pamphlets and newspapers dotted around each location, but they were as easy to ignore as a concert flier or a missing cat poster or any other piece of paper you’d see in a normal cafe.

In the eight hours I spent between the two restaurants, the staff made no unprompted mention of their beliefs.

So desperate was I for a brainwashing, I even tried to instigate it myself at one point. The menu at both restaurants had a note on the front saying, “We serve the fruit of the spirit… Why not ask?” So I asked.

“It’s… uh… because we’re also a community, we don’t just serve food? We serve the spirit?” my server said before hastily retreating.

Some Twelve Tribes literature in a corner at the Vista location

I decided to read some of the free reading materials.

Through them, I learned the goal of Twelve Tribes communities is to recreate the church as it’s described in the Book of Acts. They like love, children, sharing, and togetherness, the literature explained. They don’t like technology, selfishness, drugs, or being labeled a cult (which they described as “something akin to the Salem Witch Trials”).

The pages were dotted with photos of smiling people of a variety of races pushing wheelbarrows full of apples and feeding baby goats and dancing hand-in-hand in nature. In keeping with the 70s hippie cult aesthetic, there were references to the Grateful Dead, Timothy Leary, Joan Baez, and Haight-Ashbury.

Based on what I’d seen there, my overall impression was that this was a pretty chill cult that I would not hesitate to join were I in the market for a cult. Also that their ideology somehow results in incredible veggie burgers.

But when I got home, I googled them.

It seems the pill their restaurants serve is HEAVILY sugared.

Their attitude towards race is a far more extreme than they make it out to be—one tipoff is that “are you racist?” is included in the FAQ section of their website.

“The reality is that blacks function in responsible positions in every aspect of our communities,” reads their answer. “There are black elders, black apostles, black heads of households, black teachers, as well as whites. Race is not, nor has it ever been, an issue in the Twelve Tribes.”

Which is slightly at odds with other sections of the website. Like the part where they explain that they’re pro-segregation because “multiculturalism increases murder, crime, and prejudice.” Or the bit where they say that politicians who “rally different races to be one are forerunners of the antichrist.”

Women aren’t viewed much more positively than race-mixing. They are expected to submit to the authority of all male members of the community, and shouldn’t “say no to her husband’s physical needs.” Feminism, the Twelve Tribes believe, leads to adultery and homosexuality, and women should stick by their husbands even if they’re being physically abused.

In 2013, a journalist with Germany’s RTL channel went undercover with a Twelve Tribes group in Bavaria. He reported that children were woken at 5 AM for an hour of prayer and forced to spend their days doing farm work. He collected 50 video recordings of children being beaten. “It is normal to be beaten every day,” one former Twelve Tribes member told him.

A journalist who went undercover with a Twelve Tribes group in Winnipeg, Canada, a year later did not see any children being beaten, but reported seeing about 20 rods around the group’s property that he believed were used for hitting children.

“We know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial,” the group writes of spanking on its site. “But we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority.”’

They are, you will not be surprised to hear, not into gays. On the site, they call homosexuality “a great evil” and say it will “lead only to misery and destruction.” They’ve also compared gay people to dogs, writing that “dog” is “the only name that the righteousness of God can call such people, for they have degraded themselves to the lowest of all creatures, dogs.” Which seems unnecessarily mean to both gay people and dogs.

You will most definitely not be surprised to learn they’re opposed to abortion. And probably only slightly surprised to hear that they’re anti-birth control, anti-divorce, and don’t allow their members to have TVs, radios, or newspapers. You might be a little surprised to learn that they’re opposed to children playing, short hair on women, and taking painkillers during childbirth, though.

After spending an entire day in their establishments, I hadn’t come across any of this. Not just the stuff about child abuse that the group obviously doesn’t want publicized, but the Twelve Tribes’ core beliefs on sexuality, women, and minorities. I wondered if perhaps there had been some effort to conceal those beliefs from their customers.

I called the Yellow Deli in Vista and put this to one of their employees, a man who identified himself as Jacob Franks. He told me that while he was aware people found the beliefs of the Twelve Tribes to be objectionable, they were not attempting to conceal them. “I think we live and speak pretty openly about what we believe,” he said. “As far as what I have in my heart, and what I’ve understood, is that we love all people. Every human being. Doesn’t matter who they are or what they’ve done or anything. We would be free to express what we have in our hearts if a customer would come in and ask specific questions on how we feel or what we believe.”

He also told me that the money the restaurant makes goes towards funding the Twelve Tribes and their activities.

Which… doesn’t make me feel great. I guess if you want a nice veggie burger and are looking to financially support homophobia, segregation, the hitting of children, and the subjugation of women, then I would highly recommend this place. Everyone else hit up the Cheesecake Factory. Their veggie burger is better than you’d think.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Jamie Lee Curtis Taete on Instagram.

3 Comments On “The Idyllic Restaurant Chain Owned by a Homophobic, Racist, Child-Beating Cult”

  1. Jacob Franks is a bold faced liar. I was a member of the Vista community and know his ways very well. He is one of their “Shepherds”, ironically enough. They call him Yakol. The very first interaction I had with him was a deceitful lie, which proved to be a lie the moment I cooperated with him. Every time I wanted to talk to him about an issue, he would lie to my face to smooth things over. When trying to talk to him about something twisted that he himself said just moments before, he would deny ever saying it.

    As an ex-member, under Jacob Franks leadership, let me expose the lies that exist in the things he is quoted on in this article.

    1) They do not speak openly about what they believe. They keep you in the darkness on all things and under endless false impressions. What they present to you is bait to lure you further in.
    2) They do not love all people. I have never been more hated in my life, than during the 16 months I lived with them. One guest who was leaving told me that he saw them showing love to a few people but they are very selective on who gets it and who doesn’t.
    3) They are not free to express what is in their hearts. They use handlers, like every true cult does. Their handler tells them what they are supposed to think, feel, do and say. If there is any resistance, the pressure is turned up. The high stress and trauma from the pressure puts the member into self-preservation mode and the member begins to conform in ways that eases the pressure. This is what you call Trauma Based Mind Control. In the end, the member is only repeating what the handler has instructed.
    4) The money also goes to the leaders to enjoy regular nights out on the town while the slaves remain locked in the plantation sleep deprived, food deprived and set at odds against each other by the leaders. Oh, and according to a local senior pastor their highest leader (Yoceph Rodriguez) in the Vista area has a huge house in Carlsbad where he enjoys the good life with his wife.

    When you talk to these people they are using loaded language. They have redefined words and meanings to phrases which causes you to be endlessly misled.

    • Steven, I met yakol! I visited the communties down there a number of times to visit my friend Armen (Abad). Maybe I met you too? The last time I visited was 2017 I think. I was going to stay, possibly forever, but only lasted 2 weeks … for a number of reasons.

  2. I visited a Twelve Tribes community in northern Kansas around the beginning of 2016. I was coming from a different Christian community that lived together, the Fellowship of the Martyrs. I no longer live in a Christian community. Anyways, in terms of the feeling I got while I was there for two days, I felt that the Twelve Tribes was the most loving Christian community I’d ever come across. Not only did they treat you with kindness and take care of each other’s needs but they lived life together. Most churches and Christian communities still expect you to grow as a Christian on your own and the practice is that it’s every man for himself. But, the Twelve Tribes took care of each other, worked together, ate together, prayed together, and committed themselves to the physical and spiritual growth of each person. The atmosphere I experienced during those two days was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from any other Christian group.

    As for the reason I decided not to join them, they have some very controlling practices and beliefs and they told me they wouldn’t allow me to stay there if I didn’t believe what they believed. While I was there, I noticed that all the men wear these headbands on their heads. I was told that required and is a sign of being a brother in that group. I also observed them eating with aluminum chopsticks rather than forks. I was told that also was required but that they’d give me a fork since I was a guest. They said the chopsticks had something to do with the guy that created the group. One of the most disturbing things I heard was that they believe they, the Twelve Tribes, are the only true Christians on earth and that no other Christians existed from the time of the Early Church until the founding of the Twelve Tribes in the mid-1900′s. When asked how people become Christians, they said it was only possible through a Twelve Tribes member and that a person couldn’t even become a believer through a supernatural encounter with God, like Paul the apostle had. They told me they were the ones who had to bring Early Church Christianity back to life before Jesus Christ could return. Somehow, they believe they will form the chain that will bind Satan in Revelations 20. They believe Jesus is not deity and they believe that Jesus must be called Yahshua. Anyone calling him Jesus is worshipping someone else. When I asked if I could stay there without believing what they believe, they told me that wasn’t possible.

    I don’t know anything about the child abuse accusations or about their manipulation and brainwashing, but I wouldn’t be surprised, considering the little I learned about their beliefs. These type of groups don’t rely on God to lead them but on man-made structure. For that reason, they’re no different from any other Christian group that’s existed in the past. Any Christian group that controls people through rules and requiring everyone to believe the same thing is not of God but of man.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>