Excellent article that provides a good introduction to the group’s history, controversial teachings and practices. The focus is on the Twelve Tribes’ emphasis on spanking children for a wide variety of ‘offenses.’
The Tribes continues to be dogged by negative press in England, Spain, and Australia, but the biggest blow to the group came in Germany, where corporal punishment is illegal. In 2013, a reporter for RTL Television infiltrated one of the sect’s communes and, over a two-day period, secretly filmed 50 instances of adults spanking children, including one small girl whose offense was refusing to say, “I’m tired.” After the footage aired, police seized 40 children and placed them in foster care, where most of them remain today. In France, a few months ago, a police raid of a Tribes community led to social workers rescuing four small children whose bodies bore evidence of recent beatings.
Shuah and her siblings are bewildered that the authorities have not taken similar action in this country. Despite the media expose´s that Noah triggered, Tribes members who have left the group in the years since have claimed that the Tribes continues to beat children, exploit them as free workers, and deny them access to education and modern medicine. “Where do our human rights as children begin and their religious rights end?” Shuah asked me during our time together.
Massachusetts has long been fertile ground for religious sects like Twelve Tribes. The group has already settled in Plymouth, Dorchester, Hyannis, and Athol. Newton, Wellesley, and Harvard Square may be next for a group that requires members to give up their possessions, follow the Bible word-for-word, and prepare for the end of the world. They may be coming to your street next – and might just be the friendliest neighbors you’ve ever had.
Shuah Jones is an ex-member of the Twelve Tribes; her father was a founding member, helping to launch the group in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1972. Today, the organization has compounds all over America and in several countries around the world. A 28-year-old insurance agent based in Florida, today Jones offers informal support to other former members of the cult, which she escaped when she was only 15 years old.
Note: some older news articles on the Twelve Tribes, up to January, 2002, are located in another archive.
Our objections to Spriggs and the Twelve Tribes are two-fold and have nothing to do with their beliefs about who they are, about God, and about an approaching apocalypse.
Firstly, we object to their promotion of racist doctrines that have a long history of hurting people, doctrines that are in fact at the root of the greatest modern crimes against humanity.
Secondly, we object to their exploitation of young adults and, most disturbingly, to their advocacy of child mistreatment.