John 7:12 records an interesting detail from the life of our Master Yahshua. It says: “There was a great deal of talk about him in the crowds. Some said, ‘He is a good man;’ others, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’” Controversy surrounded our Master, and it has always surrounded those who follow Him. That was certainly the case in the first century. In fact, our Master promised that "[his disciples] would be hated by all nations on account of me," (Matt 24:9) and the Apostle Paul reaffirmed that "everyone who wants to live a godly life will suffer persecution" (1 Tim 3:2).
Acts 28:22 tells of a controversy that caused the Jews of Rome to come to the Apostle Paul to find out the truth from him directly, “We want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” We're thankful that you are taking the time to come to our website to hear what we have to say. For the sake of such fair-minded inquiries, we’ve attempted in this section to address some of the controversies that have cropped up regarding our twelve tribes.
We make no apology for our way of life. We believe it to be the best thing on earth, and we are all so grateful to live this way. Yet, many misunderstand our words and our actions. So we invite you to read this article stating why we live the way we do.
These letters were written in response to an accusing letter sent to the management of a chain of health food stores that sells products made by the Twelve Tribes communities. The writer of that letter wanted to “inform” the store management that we are racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic bigots who oppress women, and that by selling our products they were endorsing our beliefs. The accusation of "hate-speech" is often used as a tool of hate and harm against us, used to hurt our livelihoods and ultimately our very existence. A short visit to our communities would show you that our communities contain many races, Jews, men and women (all who have some kind of background). We love all people of all kinds, both in and outside our communities.
In 1984, Ninety Vermont State troopers in bulletproof vests and fifty social workers, armed with virtually unlimited police power, raided 19 homes in the pre-dawn hour demanding the names of the children and the children themselves. 112 children were unlawfully seized that morning because of the religious beliefs of their parents.
In response to slanderous articles in the New York Post accusing us of using child-labor, being anti-Semitic and racist, we hosted a Press Conference in the Common Sense soap shop in Cambridge, NY. Seven members of Twelve Tribes Communities spoke. Afterwards, there was a time for questions and answers, followed by a tour of the facility.
On October 18, 2004, seven fathers from our Community in Klosterzimmern, Germany were taken to prison for their beliefs. The children responded by carrying signs asking for the release of their fathers. Even though home-schooling was and still is illegal in Germany, the German officials graciously found a way for us to raise our children according to the commandments of our Father in heaven, while still conforming to the laws of Germany. We are so thankful for public servants who have helped us to do good.
On Yom Teruah, September 5, 2013, all of the children in the communities of Klosterzimmern and Woernitz were taken away from their parents by court order and given to foster parents. The specific names of the individuals were not mentioned in the court order, nor were the parents notified in advance or given opportunity to see their children. There are allegations of child abuse. In Germany (since July 2000), corporal punishment of any kind is called abuse.
When our members first leave their old life behind and become new creations, their family and friends may not understand this radical action. We encourage people to come and visit their friend, and to find out the good reasons behind such a choice. Sadly, some have refused to take us up on the offer, and instead have paid thousands of dollars to hire people to intervene. The intervention ranges from an exaggerated aggravation of public opinion (known as "moral panic") to full-scale illegal kidnapping and brainwashing from convicted felons. This section describes our history and response to the "anti-cult movement."
During the summer 1994, Bob Pardon of the New England Institute for Religious Research (NEIRR) visited several of our communities in New England, saying that he genuinely wanted to get to know us. They said they were writing an analysis of our communities that we could review when finished. Months later, we were shocked by the contents of the 90-page document. It was so far from portraying the life we actually live and what we actually believe! We wrote a response of over 100 pages to Mr. Pardon. Mr. Pardon, however, did not give it much regard and kept his report essentially the same, distributing this information to people looking for a help against us.
The year was 1976. Kirsten was a rebellious seventeen-year-old Californian who had just run away from home. She hit the road, hitchhiking across the country, looking for love and a place to belong. She found what she was looking for in a community in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Two years later in 1978, the infamous Jonestown mass suicide happened in Guyana. Mass hysteria and a “cult scare” analagous to the anti-Communist “Red Scare” of the previous generation began springing up everywhere. In the late ’70s, the method used by anti-cultists to “bust cults” was through deprogramming. Several members of the Chattanooga Community were violently seized from the peace of the community only to be harangued, harassed, threatened, and humiliated for adherence to their chosen religious beliefs. The most publicized deprogramming was that of Kirsten Nielsen in 1979, who at the age of 21 and on the day of the wedding of her twin sister, was kidnapped by her parents and associates of Ted Patrick, the notorious Cult Awareness Network deprogrammer. This is Kirsten’s story, published as paperback or viewable online.
This is a short excerpt from Jean Swantko's article in Social Justice Research that describes some of the history and motivation behind the anti-cult movement
Our Master Yahshua said that he came "to bring not peace but a sword". That sword is not a physical weapon, but something that would even divide families. He said, "a man's enemies would be those of his own household." When someone becomes a disciple, we hope that the spouse and children would also follow. But this is not always the case. When a spouse leaves and decides not to follow, it is their choice freely made. This is when our Master's words come true, and family is divided. The resulting pain and trouble is experienced by both sides, and especially the children. In some cases, the non-disciple parent channels their pain into an attack against the other parent in the form of an attack against the community, fueled by accusations. Some of the cases mentioned in the press are Steve Wooten and Isaac Dawson.