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The Family International

Children of God, Family of Love, The Family, The Family International Fellowship; Fellowship of Independent Missionary Communities


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This entry provides a brief look at The Family International. For indepth information we refer you to our collection of research resources.

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Murder-Suicide Brings Renewed Focus

In January, 2005, ex-member Ricky Rodriguez, the one-time heir apparent of The Family, murdered his former nanny and then committed suicide:

Police in Arizona and California said they are investigating an apparent murder-suicide involving the son of Maria David, the prophet and spiritual leader of the Family, an international evangelical sex cult previously known as the Children of God.

Early Sunday morning, the body of Richard P. Rodriguez, 29, was found behind the wheel of a car in an industrial area in Blythe, a Riverside County town in the Mojave Desert on the Arizona border.

Rodriguez, known as "Davidito" when he was growing up in the Children of God, had been groomed as a child to be the heir apparent of the sect, founded in the late 1960s by the late David "Moses" Berg.
[...]

Those familiar with the Children of God know that Rodriguez had one of the most infamous upbringings in the sect, which in its early years encouraged sex between minors and between minors and adults.

Critics of the cult have long pointed to a booklet published by the Children of God titled the "Story of Davidito,'' which describes in glowing terms how Rodriquez was sexually abused as a toddler by his nanny, Sara.

"He was the prince,'' said Daniel Roselle, 29, a Los Angeles man who was also raised in the Children of God. "He was put on a pedestal as the future leader of the Family.''

Roselle, who says he was sexually abused by sect members when he was 7 years old, left the group in 1995, about five years before Rodriguez defected in 2000.

"I knew Ricky (Rodriguez) well, and talked to him about four months ago, '' Roselle said. "He had a lot of rage.'' The two lived at a Children of God commune in Japan in the late 1980s.

In a statement released yesterday, the Family International confirmed that Rodriguez was the son of Maria David, and that Smith was a member of the sect for more than 30 years.
[...]

Berg died in 1994, but his movement lives on today as "The Family."

Other survivors of the Children of God include hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of "Jesus babies" born in the 1970s and '80s. Their mothers were young missionaries who followed Berg's call to share sexual favors in order to bring young men to Christ.

They called it "flirty fishing.''

Steve Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, said the highly sexual climate at Children of God communes "did real damage to that second generation.''

Kent and Roselle said there have been suicides in recent years among children who grew up in the Children of God.

"While no one can justify what he (Rodriguez) did, you can understand his frustration and rage,'' said Kent, who has spent years studying the movement.

"He and others from that generation have never seen justice from all the abuse they suffered.''
Source: Murder-suicide case in desert evangelical sex cultOff-site Link San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 11, 2005
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The murder-suicide has brought a renewed focus on The Family:

Growing up in the 1970's in a religious cult known around the world as the Children of God, Ricky Rodriguez was revered as "the prince." The group's leaders were his mother and stepfather, and they taught that their son would guide them all when the End Times came.

He was so special that his unconventional upbringing - by a collection of often-topless young nannies - was chronicled in "The Davidito Book," which was distributed to cult members as a how-to guide for rearing children. And children the cult had in multitudes.

Last Saturday in Tucson, Mr. Rodriguez, now 29, invited a former nanny, Angela Smith, to go to dinner. He took Ms. Smith to his apartment, stabbed her to death, went to his Chevrolet, drove west across the California border to a small desert town, Blythe, and called his wife on his cellphone to explain why he had killed Ms. Smith, the police in both states and Mr. Rodriguez's wife said.

Then with one shot from a semiautomatic handgun, the police said, he ended his life.
[...]

Mr. Rodriguez's murder-suicide is reviving accusations by former members about routine physical, emotional and sexual abuse that they say they experienced as children.

There is evidence of the practices in documents that the cult's leaders consider so damaging that they acknowledge they twice sent out "purge notices" to their followers with explicit directions about which pages to burn, which photographs to white-out and which to excise with Exacto knives.

Mr. Rodriguez recorded a videotape the night before he killed Ms. Smith and committed suicide. The video, which was provided to The New York Times by Mr. Rodriguez's wife, was taped in his apartment in Tucson and shows him loading a gun and showing off other weapons.

He said he saw himself as a vigilante avenging children like him and his sisters who had been subject to rapes and beatings.

"There's this need that I have," he said. "It's not a want. It's a need for revenge. It's a need for justice, because I can't go on like this."

Mr. Rodriguez is not the only suicide among people reared in the Children of God. Some former members who keep in touch with one another through a Web site, movingon.org, say that in the last 13 years at least 25 young people reared in the cult have committed suicide.
Source: Murder and Suicide Reviving Claims of Child Abuse in CultOff-site Link The New York Times, Jan. 15, 2005
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About This Page:

• Subject: The Family International
• First posted: Dec. 1, 1996
• Last Updated: Apr. 5, 2005
• Editors: Anton and Janet Hein
Copyright: Apologetics Index
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