Children of God Sect: Is Theirs the Way?

By Jane Perlez, New York Post

March 2, 1973, North America

On the third floor of a dilapidated shingle house on Staten Island, where the veranda floor boards are falling in & a “for sale” sign hangs forlornly by the front door, the Children of God are seated around the dining room table studying & reciting the Bible.

Today’s session, led by 22 year-old Lehabim (real name Ian Gillis) is aimed at two new converts, both 18 year-old dropouts from city schools. If they remain in the sect after their two-week introductory course on Knowing Your Bible, they’ll give up their personal possessions, assume a Biblical name & join the 12 member “family” at 25 Henderson Av., as dedicated disciples for spreading the Gospel.

These 18-to-28- year-old devotees of the fundamentalist sect founded in California five years ago by preacher David Berg live in apparent communal happiness planning their Jesus takeover of the world. They believe their God-directed existence, based literally on “Bible truth,” can solve everything from drug addiction to the evils of the capitalist world.

At the seven room, $165-a-month apartment the food is bought with gifts of money or is donated by sympathetic store owners, the rent is paid by the sale of worldly possessions & the daily schedule of reading, speaking & singing the Bible is set into rigorous time zones.

Each day, six children leave the house for the Staten Island ferry, riding back & forth asking commuters to open their hearts to God. Sometimes they venture into the Village or the East Village where they used to maintain a house on Av. A. Still “To Save Souls.”

They are all white, from middle to lower middle class families across the country. Many were brought us as regular & devout Protestant or Catholic churchgoers, several were not. Most described a teenage life of heavy drug use, disenchantment with college in the late 60’s & a general malaise of not knowing what to do. The beautiful thing about the Children of God, says Linda Perkins, a 22 year-old blond from North Hollywood, is that God has saved her, now she has a purpose & can travel overseas with a mission in life: to save souls.

“I dropped out of Los Angeles Junior College, used to get drunk every day on a bottle of wine with friends & get high on marijuana. After I got out of jail I visited a colony in the mountains to see an old friend. I’d never read the Bible & hated the thought of it.

There were all young people there, smiling & happy & concerned. They told me to pray & ever since that day it is as though the Lord saved me. I know it’s a miracle of God,” she says, smiling.

Her new name

She’s now known as Bileam (the name of a city mentioned in Chronicles), since married that “friend”- Larry Perkins (known as Huram) & visited her parents several times during her two year stint as a Child.

Her daily reading material is now the Bible and New Nation News (a monthly newsletter attesting to the gifts of God and the worldwide scores of soul saving: 142,503; and witnessing: 444 million). She goes witnessing—telling people of God—and says she’s lost count of the number of souls she’s saved.

With members of the family, she went to see Man of La Mancha , several weeks ago, courtesy of a friendly theater owner, who allowed the group free tickets, She has no money of her own, but when she goes overseas, her parents will be expected to pay the fare.

This week, the State Attorney General’s Charity Bureau reopened an investigation into the activities of the Children of God. According to Attorney General Lefkowitz, parents of children in the organization have charged in sworn testimony that the Children of God preach “hat of parents, schools and government.”

Herbert J. Wallenstein, an assistant attorney general in the Charity Fraud Bureau, says there have been complaints of misappropriation of funds and communal possession of privately sent goods. “We have people who are parents disturbed at what’s happening,” says Wallenstein. “We want to know what kind of books and records they keep.

Their Membership

“The public is entitled to a fair shake of where their money is going.” Wallenstein claims officers of his department had been unable to locate the group on Staten Island. “They skip every address we go to,” he says.

The Children of God, approximately 1000 strong in the U. S., with 2000 more members in South America, the South Pacific and Europe, has been raising religious and parental passions since its inception.

The battle lines are drawn between two sets of parents—FREECOG (Parents Committee to Free Our Children From the Children of God) and THANK COG. …

Both pro and anti parents have lawyers handling libel suits and a Washington law firm, Noble, Man, Scohenfel and Sawyer represent the Children free of charge.

The most bizarre legal case, now in the Washington courts, involves a child of God, Joel Mandelkorn, 22, and a group calling itself Deprogrammers, headed by Ted Patrick, a former consultant on community relations to Gov. Reagan of California.

Damages Claimed

In a suit claiming $100,000 punitive damages, Mandelkorn alleges that early last summer his parents used a lunacy warrant to release him from a Children of God colony at Norfolk, VA., and took him to a “debriefing session” with Patrick, who subsequently took him from Virginia to California.

Mandelkorn returned to Norfolk then traveled to the Children of God colony at Ellenville, where his father and Patrick arrived together for another debriefing …

Mandelkorn is now, according to his lawyer, Ben Noble, at the Washington colony, apparently peacefully, but the Children of God allege that there have been other such incidents and predict more.

Civil rights lawyers like Nobel maintain that the Children of God have every right to operate. He has taken on the children of God work without charge, asking only for volunteer clerical and typing assistance from suitably skilled Children.

He is filing an application for a national charter to establish the Children of God as a corporation, authorized to conduct business as a church and receive tax-exempt gifts.

Holiman, now emerging as a new figurehead and know alternately as Brother Paul or the Disciple of Business Administration has contributed $40,000 to the Children over the last two years.