Dedicated to the public servants, past, present, and future, who follow their conscience and obey the rule of law, which protects the inalienable rights of individuals to pursue God -
Law reflects but in no sense determines the moral worth of a society. The values of a reasonably just society will reflect themselves in a reasonably just law. The better the society, the less law there will be. In Heaven there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. The values of an unjust society will reflect themselves in an unjust law. The worse the society, the more law there will be. In Hell there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed. [The Ages of American Law, Grant Gilmore, (Yale University Press, 1977), p.110, quoting Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Common Law, (Howe ed. 1963).]
At this worldwide conference on the future of sociology, it is appropriate to consider what kind of social order will facilitate world peace, as we face the 21st Century. Having served as lawyer for individuals and the group called the Messianic Communities or Twelve Tribes Communities, I have something to say about the future, where I believe we are headed and why. I say these things in the context of being a member of the Community Church in Island Pond, Vermont, having faced numerous legal battles in the courts, plagued by the attacks of the anti-cult movement 1 whose exaggerations and misrepresentations seem to never die, despite the fact their false claims are found to be without substance and without credible evidence.
I speak here from first-hand knowledge of these events and from the perspective of being part of a new social order that is beginning to emerge in small communities throughout the world, as members adhere to the Word of God in their actions, as well as their beliefs. Given the constraints of time and space, I will give only a few vivid examples to make my point, but there is a wealth of information to document the truth of what I am about to tell you. It is repeated many times over.
What is happening in the society of the world today reflects the truth of the prophecy foretold in Daniel chapter two in the Bible, wherein he described the present world order as a huge statue collapsing and being replaced by a "Stone Kingdom" that would fill the whole earth. What is significant about this for our purposes here is that in the 2500 years since the vision, what was foretold, has occurred. Historically, we are now in the final phase of the dream. In looking toward the future of society, it is critical to consider the laws which govern its people. As the world shrinks due to technological advancement in this information age, citizens of the world will increasingly be ruled by universal laws, or at least universal approaches to law making. Consider the formation of the European Union.
What role does social science have when its subject, the present world order, is collapsing? There will be increasing social and legal pressure to conform to forsake basic rights and freedoms for the sake of social order and crime control. Remember, for example, when President Clinton, in the hours and days immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing, asked American citizens to simply "forego" their 4th Amendment rights "not to be searched or have property seized unreasonably." The rationale was that it would be worth it "to catch the guy." People agreed willingly.
It is a dangerous approach for a free society to open the door toward violating the fundamental rights of individuals for the sake of a popular cause or an expedient purpose. The State of Vermont justified forsaking the rights of the families of the Church in Island Pond in 1984 when it feared child abuse.
Increasing lack of respect for authority virtually eliminates social restraints. Basic rules of human behavior that have held society together for centuries are rapidly eroding. Alienation and lack of adequate human relationships are ever increasing. In an effort to maintain social control, governments will increasingly be tempted to violate the rights of dissenters and those who are different. The pressure to conform will be enormous. Many will surrender to this control, just to survive or to make life a little easier.
To thwart this collapse of the world's social order will require an alliance, combining the strength and endurance of social democracy as a government, with the brittleness 2 of ecumenism, to forge a stability that offers peace where there is no peace. People will sacrifice their rights to have their basic needs met and will pretend that there is unity in diversity, where there is no unity at all.
You will hear today how these things are already beginning to happen and how we know they are true. Since 1972, in the 25 Communities where we live throughout the world, we have encountered many state and local governments who challenge our right and our ability to live in obedience to the word of God.
Right now, in this paper, I will document for you who we are as a people, as demonstrated by exploring the current social reality of conflicts we face with the government in court and why, and also, how we respond.
On the morning of June 22, 1984, in the sleepy rural village of Island Pond, Vermont, nestled in the Green Mountains just south of the Canadian border, the powers of state government descended upon the 350 believers who lived there as a church community, in an effort to be satisfied that the children who resided within were not being severely abused.
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. They waved papers, as if they had a flag of victory demonstrating the State's conquest over the religious beliefs of the individuals involved.3 A local judge had signed a search warrant to legitimize the round-up of the unsuspecting children, so the zeal of the social workers became unleashed to confidently intrude into the lives of these little ones as if they were doing them a great favor, rescuing them from the abusive clutches of their fanatical parents. 112 children were unlawfully seized that morning because of the religious beliefs of their parents.4
June 22, 1984, was a Friday - a long, but glorious day for the families involved. After being transported, in custody, to the courthouse in Newport, Vermont, some 20 miles away, each family awaited their turn to appear before a judge who would decide if they would be separated or kept together. Happily for the parents, Judge Frank Mahady was a man who respected the State Constitution of Vermont as well as the U.S. Constitution and who did not judge by the barometer of public opinion. As he properly called the lawyers from the State Attorney General's Office to provide evidence of abuse to justify the seizure of each child, the State of Vermont was left with nothing to say, except to speak against the faith of those brought to court, with greater and greater intensity.5
Court continued late into the night, calling each child by name. Each one was sent home with his parents, as there was no basis to keep even one for examination by the state's battery of doctors, social workers and psychiatrists who sat to no avail nearly an hour away at a ski resort, waiting to perform their scrutinizing rituals. At around 9 p.m. Judge Mahady had to decide what to do with the large group of children, approximately 60, whose parents did not give their names, despite the coercion of law enforcement's threatening tactics. After hearing the arguments, he released them all to return home with their parents. He gave the opportunity for any parent who had something to say, to speak. Many passionately told the story of their day and spoke of their deep gratitude for a judge who ruled justly.6 By 11 p.m. a bus of tired, but rejoicing, families headed home to Island Pond, singing the praises of their God and giving thanks for the judge whose humble response was, "I'm only doing my job."
The two judges most intimately involved with the facts and the law in the Raid case, In Re: C.C. (standing for "Certain Children"), found that it was unlawful, unconstitutional and regrettably authorized "under pressure," based upon bad information compiled by government officials who trusted and relied upon anti-cult information and tactics. Even the judge who signed the search warrant agreed.7 In the past fifteen years since the pre-Raid gathering of information, these same lies and misrepresentations have been relied upon repeatedly by government agencies and in courtrooms.
It is an appropriate and socially significant question today to ask, "Why?" The preservation of religious freedom may well depend on how much attention we pay to this question and how we respond to the answer.
The answer is clear. Religious freedom is jeopardized when governments rely upon the mere subjective opinions of anti-religious zealots as true and act upon them. The anti-cult activists claim to be experts in matters of faith and convince government officials that they are trustworthy. It is essential that governments remain neutral in matters of religion.8
This section of the paper will trace selected cases over a 20-year history of conflict in the courts to make the point. A great social problem occurs when the law is not upheld, either by agents of government (failing to uphold evidentiary standards) or agents of religious prejudice (failing to uphold religious freedom and toleration of different beliefs than theirs).
In the case of the 1984 Raid against the Church in Island Pond, the public servants, with all the power of state law enforcement behind them, did not uphold the law themselves. Listen.
Three days before all the power of the state engulfed the 112 children in the Community and their families, an 80-year-old retired Vermont Supreme Court justice, sitting as a juvenile court judge, clearly ruled that unless the state could produce specific names of people and specific evidence, the court had no authority to act.9 The state's perpetual response when Community members stood on their constitutionally protected rights and on their faith was to accuse church members of being "uncooperative" and refusing to respond to legal process, which was not the case. When Judge Keyser followed the Constitution on Tuesday, June 19th, the state simply ignored the lawfulness of his ruling and chose to go past it, instead of obeying it and respecting it. He was the judge of their legality that day and he found the state fell short.
So, with this ruling by Judge Keyser on June 19, 1984, in favor of the Community parents, why did the state authorities not abide by it? Why? Because the ones who exercised the authority to decide, decided they didn't have to. Consciousness of this guilt is self-evident by one State's Attorney's admission that, "If I had known that Judge Mahady was on the bench, I would have called off The Raid."10 That is like saying, "If I knew we were going to be judged by the Constitution, I wouldn't have risked it." And rightly so. What the court told a team of Attorneys from the Attorney General's office that they could not do on Tuesday...Judge Mahady told them again they could not do, and should not have done, on Friday. They simply relied on their own judgment rather than the ruling of the court. They took the law into their own hands; they became a government of men instead of a government of laws and exalted themselves beyond what was lawfully given to them. That is the greatest threat to a democratic society.
The years before the Raid were peppered with several attempted "deprogrammings" of adult members, who returned to the Community after the unlawful imprisonment they suffered at the hands of anti-cultists trying to force them to abandon their belief system in the God who created them.11 Shortly after the Raid, in 1986, another family, from Montreal, was whisked away when their family members hired deprogrammers to "change their minds" about having joined the Community.12
In the midst of this anti-cult mentality, in 1982, three women from the Community in Island Pond lost custody of their eleven children, when their non-Community fathers sought custody in Essex County, Vermont.13 The most vocal, Juan Mattatall, was a child molester, who vowed to "destroy the Community" when his wife would not leave the Community with him.14 He told the world that the Community "splits up families" and won custody of his five children, making great press on the front page of The Burlington Free Press.15 Once in the custody of their father in Florida, the children spent a good deal of their childhood in foster care and orphanages, their father being charged with sexual crimes on children. His own mother shot him dead in the head in April 1990 in Oveido, Florida, whereupon the children were finally able to return to the Community in Island Pond, Vermont, where there was much rejoicing.
During the years between 1982 and 1990, these eleven children grew and rarely, if ever, saw their parent in the Community, except for one of the Alexander boys who was able to prevail upon his father to allow his visits. Nine of these eleven children now reside in the Messianic Communities, five are married, and all lament the fact that they were ever taken away.16
In the wake of these custody cases, Gaylen Kelly and Priscilla Coates provided lists to the State Attorney General's Office in Vermont, of defectors who would provide information against the Church in Island Pond.17 They were major activists in the anti-cult movement through their involvement in the Citizens Freedom Foundation (C.F.F.) and the Cult Awareness Network (C.A.N.).18 A defector named Michael Taylor later confirmed that, after his deprogramming by Galen Kelly, he attended a meeting in Burlington, Vermont, where Kelly vowed he had a "fool-proof plan to bust up the Northeast Kingdom Community Church."19 Kelly proceeded to execute it by visits to the State Attorneys General, who received his scheme, while in the weeks before the Raid, the Attorney General himself declined an invitation to spend a day in the Community.20
A Vermont State Police officer and director of the Newport Social Services Office were sent on a mission to travel around the country, amassing data on the church. The only problem was, that by the time they left, they were already poisoned by the untruthful agenda of the anti-cultists, convinced that child abuse and mind control were commonplace in the Island Pond Community. And so they went, at taxpayers' expense, and returned with the necessary ammunition "to get the Church in Island Pond."
The two anti-religious zealots, Kelly and Coates, prevailed upon the Attorney General's Office and the Governor himself, Richard Snelling, to adopt as true the unreliable data amassed by the two state employees, who provided the fodder for local law enforcement to compile a 32 page affidavit, replete with horror stories of abuse 21 and strewn with incredible interpretations of doctrine.22 There were no affidavits from current members as to the accuracy of beliefs actually adhered to or from parents and friends who regularly visited the community, as is the admitted practice of anti-cultists.
Many well-intentioned civil servants were duped into believing that they were doing a good deed to protect innocent children and, to this day, are none the wiser.23 It was a despicable tragedy. Armed with this unreliable and untrustworthy affidavit, a local prosecutor persuaded to believe that the Community was evil, convinced a well-meaning judge to sign the search warrant. Hence, the Raid occurred. The warrant-signing judge later acknowledged publicly in 1987 that he had been "pressured" to believe bad information - from prejudiced sources that he should not have relied upon.24
The most "heinous" crime laid against a church leader was the simple assault charge on Charles Wiseman in 1983. When push came to shove in the hearings after the Raid, and the State was called to justify itself after all the children had been sent home because there was no evidence of any abuse, the State declared that "all the children were at risk because they lived in the same Community as Mr. Wiseman."25
On Tuesday, June 19, 1984, three days before the Raid, there was a Status Conference in the Wiseman case, wherein Wiseman renewed his request to dismiss the case because of extensive - and it WAS extensive - prejudicial pretrial publicity, while the state sought a continuance to find its witnesses. In the course of that hearing, the judge placed a gag order on me (as Wiseman's lawyer) prohibiting me from talking to the press on any "church" cases, because he did not like the fact that I was quoted in the morning paper giving my opinion that the State's pursuit of the Church in Island Pond was "an illegal fishing expedition."26 By Friday, the day of the Raid, that statement proved true. By August, the whole country, and eventually, the free world, would have an outstanding legal decision concluding the very same thing - that members were pursued because of their common faith, not because of evidence of illegal acts - a violation of fundamental Constitutional protections.
Nevertheless, on the afternoon of June 19, 1984, the same judge who imposed the gag order on me, but not on the state's attorney, sent seven church members to jail because they would not provide lists of names of all the children they lived with and knew in Community households in Island Pond.27 Each man was denied a lawyer, sent into a courtroom with several Assistant Attorneys General and a judge, with the door being locked after they entered. In my eighteen years as a lawyer, I have never felt so ashamed of the system of justice I participate in as I did at that moment. One by one, the men went in, spent a few minutes and were led away in handcuffs, all seven of them.28 After several hours in jail, the judge released the seven men, acknowledging there was no legal basis to hold them.
That day, in spite of sending the seven church leaders to jail, Honorable Judge F. Ray Keyser, a retired Vermont Supreme Court Justice and one familiar with Constitutional law, let the State know that , despite their numerous procedural efforts for over two months to go forward with a juvenile petition against all the children in the Church Community, they could not do it. He ruled, and he made it clear to the state's lawyers, that the court did not have jurisdiction because the state could not name the parents and serve them with a copy of the petition about their child and notice as to why they had to come to court.29
This is a basic constitutional requirement called Due Process; it includes notice and an opportunity to be heard. All state efforts "to go after the Community" through the courts should have stopped right here.
Meanwhile, the Wiseman case was eventually dismissed for lack of a speedy trial on June 13, 1985. The reason the trial was not "speedy" was because the State declined to call available witnesses, instead choosing to rely on unsigned depositions of defectors who recanted their exaggerated accounts, explaining how they had been pressured by anti-cultists.30 The trial judge found the state guilty of prosecutorial misconduct for their strategy of appealing to delay the case while the witnesses were ready to testify to the truth. Today, the alleged victim is a 27 year-old mother of three, who has nothing but friendship towards her once-alleged "abuser."
In 1994, ten years after the Raid, there were two significant cases: 1) a child custody dispute in Rutland, Vermont,31 and 2) a child protection case in Hyannis, Massachusetts. Both revealed that the initiators in each case, a private father in one, and a social services' office in the other, had become alarmed about the welfare of specific children, given the anti-cult tactics of generating fear based on unspecific, generalized accounts that are unverifiable, and also distorting and exaggerating specific accounts beyond the information actually given. This was combined with ten-year-old allegations still circulating among state social agencies, and from anti-cultists who refuse to accept the judgment of court decisions. This material seems to circulate, as if by magic.32 The effect of such tactics is very personal and very harmful to the families affected. Rather than promote communication and understanding, it causes hysteria and overreactions, both quite detrimental to the children involved.
In the Rutland case, a couple, already divorced, spent six months in a highly publicized court case, before coming to resolve about their six children. A previous agreement gave custody of the two teenage boys to the father, while the mother had custody of their four daughters, aged 4- 12. Having received alarming phone calls and unsolicited literature, the father refused to return the girls after a weekend visit. Instead he filed an abuse petition in the Family Court and a request for custody. After hearing and by agreement, the abuse petition was dismissed.
After a court-appointed expert, a psychologist, conducted a thorough (70-page) evaluation 33 of the entire family, he found that the Community was a "safe" place to raise children and that their child-rearing teachings were "developmentally sound." He recommended joint custody and contacts that did not in any way interfere with the mother's freedom of religion. Four years later, in 1998, all four girls, now ages 8- 16 reside in the Community with their mother, with the consent of their father, who is a frequent and welcome visitor. In fact, the father has relocated to be closer to the Community.
In Hyannis, Massachusetts, nine children there came under the scrutiny of social services when a worker produced an altered affidavit, based on statements other than the truth. Both parents of one of these children were themselves children who were taken in the Island Pond Raid ten years earlier. The parents and children faced court proceedings for six months, enduring court-ordered evaluations and government intrusions without cause. In the end, the Chief Family Court Judge in Massachusetts dismissed all the cases for "lack of evidence."
It is worthy to note that several of the court-appointed lawyers for the children and parents gave favorable reports to the court after visits with their clients at their Community homes. It is also worth mentioning that, at the initiation of the proceedings, when I spoke with the social services lawyer that "things were not what they might seem to be," her over-confident and condescending response was "They did it wrong in Vermont, but we'll do it right this time!" Ten years after the Raid, social service agencies were still circulating the same unreliable information, without accountability or responsibility. While presumably done to advance "the best interests of the children" involved, in reality, such intrusion only brought instability and turmoil to their lives.
An observation I have made over the past fifteen years of my acquaintance with the Community is this: if people take the time to know or investigate the Community first-hand, there is a positive response or report; if people rely on hearsay accounts of former members, especially those who have been deprogrammed, influenced by anti-cultism, or on the material generated by anti-cult organizations, the response is fear and horror.34
The Messianic Communities now exist on four continents, focused largely in New England and Western Europe, but also can be found in Canada, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina. With Communities emerging in France, Spain, Germany, and England, the degree of religious protection afforded to non-mainstream religions in the European Community is a major sociological concern, as proclaimed by Drs. Massimo Introvigne and Gordon Melton sounding the alarm in Washington, D.C. last December, 1997. They see reason to fear for religious freedom on the continent as many current denominations are labeled as "cults," thereby falling in dangerous disfavor with governments and promoting unnecessary fear in the hearts and minds of the public, giving rise to government oppression. The future of social diversity depends upon freedom of religion being protected.
One such example of irresponsible social interaction ("dangerous bad-mouthing") occurred when the father of a child whose mother is in one of our Communities in Germany contacted Infosecte Montreal for information. He was sent a detailed three page letter by Michael Kropveld, concluding that the man should have grave concerns that his daughter was "in danger" in the hands of the Community. When Kropveld was confronted with this letter and the documentation that proved his conclusions were biased, not objective; erroneous, untrustworthy, prejudiced and not based upon first-hand knowledge, he was defensive and denied accountability.35 Happily, the father, upon his own personal visits, has come to amicable arrangements with the mother of their daughter, and no longer has fear about the Community.
Perhaps the best example that shows the cost to individuals when governments are not careful to protect religious liberty and guard against religious discrimination, is the story of Edward and Michael Dawson, a father and son. The father became a believer in a Messianic Community in Nova Scotia in 1986, three years after Michael was born in Montreal. Next is the account of his story, as a vivid example of how a Community member was drawn into conflict with the government, what he did, and why he did it.
Isaac Dawson is victorious after ten years of legal battling in the province of Nova Scotia. Government officials in that province discriminated against his religion when it came to who had authority over the life of his son Michael, whom he had sole legal custody of since age 3. The painful part is that Michael, now 15, is not here with him. I will tell you Michael's current status.
Because of the province's unnecessary interference with Michael, caused by unwarranted fear of Dawson's faith, Michael remains with his mother in Montreal. Consequently, he is not properly cared for, is truant, and had been taken temporarily into social services' protective custody. The social worker recently reported Michael's living conditions as "filthy and unsanitary" with no food in the apartment and drugs and beer bottles in Michael's room. His mother is an alcoholic under psychiatric care, although negligent with her medication. Although Michael went with the police willingly into custody, he witnessed his mother "foaming at the mouth," in an alcoholic rage, biting one of the policemen. Michael was returned to her home and the case closed, concluding that "Michael's security and development are not compromised."36
When Michael was three years old his parents split up, both wanting custody of him. Isaac had just became a member of the Community and he surrendered Michael's care to his mother in Montreal in order to avoid a court battle, because neither thought that would be best for Michael. Within a few months his mother was not able to cope and she placed Michael with Isaac's sister and her husband for several months, never retrieving him. When Isaac became aware of the situation he traveled to the eastern townships of Quebec to get Michael. He and Michael's mother executed a custody agreement wherein she agreed to give sole custody to Isaac, as long as she could visit at Michael's residence. Both believed it was best for Michael to be raised by his father, who was ready, willing, and able to undertake the responsibility of parenting him. She already knew that Dawson was in a church Community at Clark's Harbor, Nova Scotia and had visited several times. It was December 1986.
Michael was thrilled to be back with his father and that summer they moved to the Myrtle Tree Farm Community in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, where a new church Community was starting up. One day in September a car drove quickly down the long driveway. It was social workers looking for Isaac and demanding to take Michael for an examination. Social services had received a complaint from a woman visiting the Myrtle Tree Farm who was affected by the cult scare, wanted her sister to leave the community there, and opposed spanking in her personal life. Isaac complied, after being assured that if there was nothing wrong, that would be the end of it. The doctor found no signs of physical or mental abuse and Michael returned home with his father. En route, Isaac volunteered that he believed in spanking when necessary, whereupon the social workers tried to convince him otherwise.37
Several days later he received papers to appear in court with Michael. He was served with an affidavit signed by the doctor who made several charges against his faith, but most were not even related to Michael. At court, the social workers were adamant about investigating Michael further. Isaac objected strenuously and said there was no basis for any further involvement. One social worker testified that "spanking was not allowed in the province of Nova Scotia." The court ordered a psychosocial assessment of Michael and social worker visits with Michael, with the judge saying she needed "a window on Michael's life."
Within a week, when the workers arrived expecting to visit Michael, his father would not allow Michael to be alone with them. They were indignant. He told them he was appealing the court's order. Within two days, on the evening of Sept. 24, 1987, the social workers arrived with R.C.M.P. officers to take Michael into custody. They said they had a warrant, but could not produce it. Isaac could not consent to the unlawful seizure of his son. They ripped the terrified four-year-old from his father's arms and hurriedly loaded him into the back seat of a police cruiser and took off with lights flashing, assuring Isaac that he could see his son the next day. But when Isaac went to the social services' office the next day with homemade bread and yogurt to which Michael was accustomed, along with cards made by his friends, the workers would deliver none of it, much less allow Isaac contact with Michael. Four court hearings were held where nothing happened, except further delays. Forty-four long days passed without any communication allowed between father and son. The government, via social services, had somehow usurped total control of little Michael's life. His father was treated like an unwelcome and unentitled intruder. The social workers did not like or trust his religion and the judge totally followed the social workers. It was a paralyzing and deadly reality. Many parents know the helpless feeling.
On November 6, 1987, a County Court judge saw the injustice of what was happening, called social service to their proof, and having none, he ordered Michael returned to his father that day.38 Social services and their staff were outraged and took an immediate appeal to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, seeking to prevent Michael from going home. They did not succeed and Isaac picked him up that night from the foster parents, whom social services had put up in a first rate hotel, so as to be hidden from Dawson. The court's ruling exposed their tactics.
Upon seeing Michael after the 44-day separation, he was not the same child. He was pale, quiet, and fearful with dark circles under his eyes.39 His mother, poisoned by a lot of misinformation with incredible momentum behind it, aligned with social services and both engaged in all-out war, based entirely on the alleged beliefs of Isaac Dawson's faith. Throughout these hearings, Isaac was never able to even be heard, that the supposed "facts" were malicious misrepresentations. They should not even have been admitted in court, much less relied upon.
After several weeks of hearings in Family Court, in January 1988, Isaac spent 28 days in jail for not revealing the whereabouts of his son for more social service visits. The judge found him in contempt for so doing, but the Nova Scotia Supreme Court overturned the contempt finding when they released Isaac from jail on Feb. 5, 1988, ruling that the Family Court had lost jurisdiction in mid-October when they failed to make "inquiry" as to the well-being of the boy, having failed to give the father a fair hearing despite his repeated pleas for one.40 The Nova Scotia high court rebuked the social service agency and commented that the only feasible reason they could have seized the boy was because his father took issue with social service policy. The court found this to be "hardly credible." The court acknowledged the father's practice of "kind, but firm" physical discipline that was sanctioned by his faith. It is fair to say the decision rocked the social service community.
It turned out that the Nova Scotia social services had a file compiled from social services in Vermont, full of inflammatory news accounts and magazine articles defaming Dawson's faith. The fact that the Vermont Raid had been illegal did nothing to prevent the social workers from relying on the same bad information three years later. Instead, they waited for the opportunity to seize upon a Community child to investigate. Under cross examination, the doctor revealed that, in fact, he had not written the affidavit substantiating Michael's need for protection, but rather that he had "just trusted the social worker and signed it," after reading an inflammatory magazine article she had given him, acquired from Vermont.41
Four years (1988-1992) went by with Isaac and Michael recovering from the ordeal and his mother hardly ever exercising her right to visit, although she did come on occasion.
In the meantime, Isaac for the next several years was fully engaged in the consultation process that resulted from his case, as the province embarked to write a new child protection law that focused on keeping families together. The new law went into effect in September 1991.42 Among the most important aspects of a fair law to Isaac Dawson is the right of a parent and child to an opportunity to be heard early on when there is a problem. He became well acquainted with a citizen's right not to be deprived of a liberty without adherence to fundamental principles of justice.43 This included at a basic level, notice of a hearing and an opportunity to be heard.
On a warm spring day, the afternoon of March 13, 1992, the unbelievable happened. Isaac and Michael were again outside at the Myrtle Tree Farm and a cruiser pulled up driven by an R.C.M.P. officer who served papers on Isaac that there had already been a court hearing about Michael the previous Tuesday and his mother was arriving any minute to take him for a three day visit! After four and a half years that Michael had not been alone with his mother or apart from his father, this could not be happening without him having a chance to speak in court about what would be best for Michael, could it? Within minutes, Michael's mother and her lawyer tore down the driveway expecting to take Michael before Isaac even had a chance to review the court papers.44
Upon review of the documents, there was no mention that her visit had to be unsupervised, so Isaac advised her she could remain at the farm with Michael or he would accompany them anywhere she wanted to go. She refused and left. Isaac called the R.C.M.P. and the mother's lawyer to plead with Michael's mother to consider Michael and the fear he had to be separated from his father, without any notice or chance to be prepared. She did not return. She was seeking custody of Michael and the papers revealed she was squarely coming against Isaac's faith, once again.45 He knew of her association with anti-cult activists and he knew their violent and deceptive tactics.46
Isaac, still having custody of Michael, left the Myrtle Tree Farm and did not go to the next court hearing. Within several weeks, Michael's mother and her lawyer saw to it that Dawson was charged with abduction, unbeknownst to Dawson. Nearly two years later, he was arrested in California. Despite waiving extradition immediately, it took him nearly two months to obtain release from jail in Nova Scotia. In the meantime, Michael was again ripped from his father's side.47 This time he was eleven and it was his father who was put into the cruiser. Michael was immediately put into the hands of his mother who had obtained a temporary order based on the arrest warrant on Isaac. When the court familiar with the case declined to hear her petitions because it no longer had jurisdiction, she found another court who was unaware of the history of the case.48 They have resided in Montreal since.
In September 1994, Isaac went to a judge trial and was acquitted of abduction because he had been the custodial parent of Michael all along. As is permissible in Canada when there is a "not guilty" verdict, the Crown appealed and sought a second trial on the abduction charge! The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia "reluctantly" agreed to another trial, in a split decision with a powerful dissent.49
Dawson took an appeal as of right to the Supreme Court of Canada where in November, 1996, in another split decision (5-2), the Court upheld a new trial, leaving it to the trial court to determine the significance of the agreement between Michael's parents.50 In the dissent, Mme. J. McLachlin commented that the majority's decision was "not worthy of the history or the Constitution of Canada" because it forced the accused to prove his innocence, rather than uphold the duty of the Crown to prove his guilt. Honourable Justice Sopinka agreed with her.
In a two week retrial at which Dawson represented himself and his son Michael testified, not only was Dawson found "not guilty" by a jury of 8 men and 4 women, but the judge found in a pre-trial ruling that he had been discriminated against because of his religion back at the March 1992, ex parte hearing about Michael. He was referring to the March 10, 1992, hearing in Family Court from which Dawson was excluded based upon his religious belief.51 At that hearing Michael's mother and her lawyer called an anti-cult witness, a so-called expert, who really knew nothing reliable of Dawson's faith. The tape of the hearing revealed the Family Court's judge being influenced by the lies. His response to the anti-cultist was "emotionally, I agree with you."52 Dawson was left uninvited to the hearing about his son whom he had custody of. Decisions were made without Dawson having any notice or opportunity to speak. Out of this hearing came an unlawful order and the soon-to-be-filed abduction charge.
At his father's 1997 trial, a calm but sure fourteen-year-old Michael Dawson testified how he had become "terrified" of police visits after his first seizure at four years old. He spoke how the social workers took him from psychiatrist to psychiatrist questioning him about his father's faith, "everything from what we believed to what we ate." He told of how he tried to run from foster care to get back to his father.53
In the meantime, at fifteen, Michael's life has been relegated to the streets of Montreal where he largely gets by on his own. During the four years that Michael has been in the care of his mother, she has done anything and everything to interfere with Michael's relationship with his father, whose faith she does not agree with.54 While the criminal charges were pending, Dawson was subjected to rigid court conditions, further interfering with the relationship between Michael and him. In the meantime, Michael was a young teenage boy needing his father.
Recently, Michael was taken into temporary social services custody for shoplifting and the police are aware of him, seeing him as a boy on the edge of serious trouble. The anti-cultists who were there to throw stones at Dawson's faith in 1987 and 1992, when Michael was four and nine, to the extent of influencing government officials to exert their awesome power to control families, are not there to be accountable or to pick up the pieces. Having been the target of religious prejudice in Canada, Isaac Dawson is well qualified to speak about the need for social workers and governments to learn what authority they do have and what authority they do not have, and the danger when the line is crossed.
Isaac Dawson is especially able to address the reality of what can happen when government servants trust those who are not trustworthy. Beware of those who spread bad reports based upon the religion someone follows, claiming to understand their doctrine! For government agents to make judgments and exert authority over people based on their religion is a seriously unlawful trend, which needs to be recognized and seen for what it is, a world-wide threat to religious freedom, and to a social order that claims to preserve liberty.
Given twenty years of harassment by the anti-cult movement, it is clear that its most dangerous effect is the fact that it influences governments to persecute religions that it does not like and government agents become convinced they are "doing good" in the process. Government officials become unwittingly duped by the religious prejudice convincingly purveyed by the anti-cultists.55
On the day of the Raid, June 22, 1984, upon pointed questioning by Judge Mahady as to "just exactly what is the danger of harm to these children?" State's Attorney Philip White responded "... it's as if the child is living amongst bacteria and the bacteria in this case that jeopardizes this child's health is the teachings and doctrines of the church..."56 It is no concern of the State what people believe.
Meanwhile, a man named Jeffrey Amestoy was an assistant Attorney General at that time. Shortly thereafter, he was quoted to say of the high-ranking state officials who orchestrated the Raid, "I know every person who was involved in the decision-making process and none of them are witch hunters."57 And so he thought, given his personal knowledge of the public servants involved. He, and most of them, were "decent people." Today, Mr. Amestoy sits as the Chief Justice of the Vermont Supreme Court.
In all of the legal conflicts we have encountered over the last 20 years, we see that perhaps the greatest need is for lawyers, judges, social workers, the media, and believers alike, to have a genuine and thorough understanding about authority. It seems most people do not consider very deeply the legitimate authority of government (i.e. the state) and the legitimate authority of religion (i.e. the church). There is a lack of understanding where to draw the line between the two spheres of authority.
It is in this gap, created by a failure in both governments and religions to recognize the authority of the other, that the anti-cult movement thrives.58
Unless individuals come back to a place of obeying the instinctive natural law of conscience, both governments and religions will need an alliance with one another to maintain social order, where the walls of separation are shaky. This will continue to leave room for the anti-cult movement to take advantage of both. This insidious movement tries to convince government that true religious diversity is unnecessary, and at the same time, to convince religion that everything outside the mainstream is dangerous.
The anti-cult movement got its initial fuel from the fear evoked in parents in the '60s, when a whole generation of children began to rebel against their mainstream values, including institutionalized religion. At its inception, the anti-cult movement convinced parents that the reason their children had left the mainstream was because they were under mind control and desperately needed to be "rescued" and brought back to their senses. Their method was deprogramming. Several members of our communities were forced into deprogramming sessions. Their accounts in Appendix E illustrate how the anti-cult movement persuaded courts, the media, law enforcement, and social workers to tread on individual rights, failing to respect the protections of religious freedom.
In the late '70s the method used by anti-cultists to "bust cults" was through deprogramming. Several members were violently seized from the peace of the community only to be harangued, harassed, threatened, and humiliated for adherence to their chosen religious belief. The most publicized was that of Kirsten Nielsen in 1981, who was kidnapped by her parents and associates of Ted Patrick, the notorious C.A.N. deprogrammer, at the age of 21, on the day of the wedding of her twin sister. Kirsten is now 39 and married with five children, all of whom presently live in one of our communities in Germany. (Appendix E-1)
The anti-cultists used testimony of the "deprogrammed" Kirsten to publicly smear the community in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and in Island Pond, Vermont. When Kirsten came back to the community and exposed the deceitful tactics used against her, the media was nowhere to be found. Thus, the public perception of us as a people was seriously tainted and contributed greatly to the fear and suspicion that surrounded us, especially before the Raid.
If any conscientious members of the media had been educated to the sensational ploy used in this instance, and checked its sources, maybe they would have reported more objectively. Now that many courts have discredited deprogramming as a violation of an individual's fundamental rights, there should be greater caution exercised by the media to check its sources when someone speaks out against a religious group. Sadly, the scholarly knowledge that was available on this issue was either ignored or cast aside by the federal law enforcement authorities before the tragedy in Waco in 1993, where the advice of anti-cultists was given greater weight instead.59
However, it was the attempted deprogramming of Rebecca Westbrooks in 1980 that exposed both law enforcement and the court's involvement with anti-cult activist Ted Patrick. In this case, Rebecca's father, who was a county detective, used a falsified arrest warrant to get his 27-year-old daughter into "protective custody." The social consequence of this deprogramming is recounted in Rebecca's own words, written in 1995:
It's been fifteen years since I was taken in an attempt by my father to have me deprogrammed. Since my arrest by the police was just a means of getting me into the hands of the deprogrammers, I thought that the process of prosecution would end that day. However, I was wrong. They actually had planned to follow through with the process, take me to court, find me guilty and put me on probation where I would be under the covering of the state-needing to get a job, not go outside of Chattanooga, live with my parents, thus not be able to return to the community. Since the deprogramming is usually accomplished in three days, they had a trial date set for me a few days after I was taken. But since I was not deprogrammed but still held in Alabama, they said I was sick and put another day for my case. That time I was also still not deprogrammed, so they said I was undergoing psychiatric treatment in a hospital and again set a new date for the trial.
But the third time, I had already returned to the community, so they proceeded with the hearing with me not present. The court found me guilty and sent a warrant for my arrest to the Vermont state police. Some brothers from the community had actually gone to all three hearings and witnessed the lies that were said about the whole affair. Since I was being falsely accused and sought after by the police, it was impossible to let my family know where I was. We hired an attorney in Chattanooga to look into the court record to try to expose the injustice that had happened to me in the court. We discovered one court order for a continuance of my case on which the presiding judge had scribbled a note to another judge saying, ". . . Doug, this is the case of Detective Westbrooks' daughter that I told you about. He is having her deprogrammed in Alabama and she won't be here for the hearing." Upon finding out this information, one of the leaders in the community went to one of the judges involved and confronted him with the conspiracy we had uncovered. Once the judge knew that we really knew what had happened, he ordered the court record expunged and the records destroyed.
By this time I was living in one of the communities in Germany. Once my name was cleared, I was able to communicate with my family again, and this made me very happy. However, my father's attitude toward the community never changed. Because of this, I could never fully be restored to him. Although I was able to tell him on the phone that I forgave him shortly before his death three years ago, I never saw him after the deprogramming in Alabama.
Two and a half years ago my mother and two sisters came to Europe to see me. It was the first time in fourteen years that I had been in the community that they had ever come to see for themselves the life that I had. They came a little apprehensive, but it wasn't long before they saw that all the things they had heard were wrong. They saw clearly that my husband loves and cares for me, that the children are happy, healthy and much loved, and that everyone in the community are normal people and not brain-washed, hypnotized zombies. My mother said that now she sees what I had been trying to tell her for fourteen years. My sister said that she now gets so angry to think of all the lies that she had heard and believed about us. She sees that the result of believing those lies was that our once close relationship was broken and undue harm came both to me and my family. As we took them to the train station for their return home, they said that they were sorry that my father had never come to see because if he had, they know it would have been different with him. I am so thankful for this visit, that now my family can have peace about my being here. I felt like I had been fighting a battle for fourteen years and the battle finally ended.60
If the courts had known the heinous nature of deprogramming, perhaps they would not have gone along with such a scheme that robbed Rebecca Westbrooks of her rights under the Constitution.61
By 1982, the strategy of anti-cultists shifted from accusations of mind control to accusations of child abuse. C.A.N.'s forerunner, the Citizens Freedom Foundation, held several meetings in Barton, Vermont, to "educate" local people about the "dangerous cult" in Island Pond.62 Part of this so-called education was to spread inflammatory statements about the community and to have these statements reported by the media. The purpose was to create suspicion and to sway public opinion against the community. In the wake of Jonestown, the locals of the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont were easy prey. The media, led by the Burlington Free Press and The Chronicle in Barton, Vermont, opted for sensationalism and personal prejudice against spanking.
The next step was to use a willing apostate with a personal vendetta to launch a legal attack for custody in the courts. The C.F.F. found their man in apostate Juan Mattatall. In the three custody battles launched in the early 1980s through the influence of C.F.F., the community members found their religious beliefs being viewed as criminal instead of being protected by the courts. In the Mattatall case, the religious beliefs of the mother, who was in the community, was a weightier "crime" than the proven pedophilia of the father.
Similarly, in the case of Isaac Dawson, on day one in court, September 17, 1987, a social worker testified that "spanking is not permitted in the province of Nova Scotia," a statement on which the Family Court judge erroneously relied to justify the unlawful intervention into the lives of Edward and Michael Dawson. It was not a righteous standard, nor was it even the law, but the social worker had become convinced, by anti-cult propaganda, that there was child abuse at the Myrtle Tree Farm where Dawson and his son lived in their religious community. Given that deceived belief, the social worker influenced the judge to fear it was true, and thereby impose the power of the government full-force into the lives of the Dawsons, without demanding any evidence first.
Despite the fact that the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal found this conduct unlawful in 1988,63 the pursuit of Isaac Dawson on account of his faith continued until 1997. This was religious persecution and it took the courts of Canada ten years to recognize it.64 Literally, the date of Michael's testimony exonerating his father, November 5, 1997, was ten years after the date when Judge Donald Hall ordered Michael returned to his father, November 6, 1987, after his first unlawful seizure. Another moment of true justice in that trial occurred when, during the course of Dawson's presentation of evidence to the jury, he called the former social services director to the stand. He testified that the reason his workers kept pursuing Michael despite the fact that they had no evidence of abuse, was because "we weren't convinced there was no abuse!"65 At this point, the Crown Attorney himself stood up, banged on the table and shouted, "Alright! Alright! There was no abuse at the Myrtle Tree Farm!"66 A point well-made after ten years of religious persecution...
But what about the involvement of anti-cultists in countries where the separation of church and state is not mandated by their Constitutions? Perhaps in these countries the alliance between church and state will cause the protection of religious liberty for others to be minimized or jeopardized entirely, given that countries like Germany and France are so entrenched in their national religious roots (Lutheranism and Catholicism). The dynamic relationship between the state and religious influences in Europe, given the confederation among numerous countries with differing religions, will dominate the social and political landscape for the next 50 years. Ecumenism will flourish as the European Union matures. Minority religions will be in serious jeopardy unless social awareness of their legitimacy is recognized politically.
We see, for example, how it is more difficult to rely on the fact that freedom of religion will be protected in Europe. While in the U.S., our communities have found the freedom to home-school our children, according to our religious belief and practice, our parents in Germany are being pursued by the government on this issue. In Germany the government has never allowed home-schooling. The educational authorities in Germany can find nothing wrong with our life or our children, except that the narrowly drafted education law makes no provision for parents to accept legal responsibility in this area. In this instance, we find the state not knowing the legitimate sphere of authority that parents have to educate their children according to their religious beliefs. It is an inalienable right, meaning it is God-given and no government has the authority to usurp it. This is a present conflict. However, Messianic Community parents have an amicable and working relationship with the German educational officials, who have visited their homes, observed and tested the children, and found no problem, except for the limits of the existing law. Therefore, this presents a legal problem, not a social one, but it will become a social problem if no accommodation is made for the believers.
We are also presently faced with the report of an anti-cultist, Michael Kropveld, director of InfoSect Montreal, having surfaced in the hands of a member of the German Parliament to build a case against us, when our reputation with education officials is favorable and communicative. This report is based largely on misrepresentations from pre-Raid days. We have documented for him the errors and the data that undermines his negative conclusions about us. Government officials using this unreliable information is a problem that demands social accountability because many community parents' and childrens' safety and security are in jeopardy. The unfounded suspicion generated from the use of this misinformation in Germany has led to unnecessary intrusion into the lives of a dozen community families by social workers. It could cause these innocent parents to be punished as criminals or for "social problems" created by living out their religious beliefs by training their own children at home.67
Quite contrary to the claim of anti-cultists that we seek religious exemption as a justification to commit crimes,68 what we seek is not to be accused of crimes merely because of our religious beliefs. It understandably creates quite the public uproar when anti-cultists claim that a particular group uses "religion" as an escape valve to condone what is really criminal activity (child abuse, abduction, truancy). From there, the public is rightly fomented to call for "government action to get those criminals!" Government officials, being human, and often political creatures, are often not above responding to public pressure.
In the Wiseman, Dawson and In Re: C.C. cases cited herein, members of the Church in Island Pond were accused of crimes because of their religious affiliation, rather than because of evidence.69 This is reflected in the judicial decisions. In each of those cases, when the State was called to their proof in court, they did not prevail because they had no evidence. The reason they had no evidence of crimes is because there had been no crimes committed. The only "crime" committed was the fact people were presumed guilty by their association with the Church in Island Pond, whom the State government decided they didn't like the religious beliefs of, as interpreted to them by the distorted perspective of anti-cultists. I want to be abundantly clear here that often the government officials are unaware how they are being used by the anti-cult agenda. Many do not intentionally practice religious discrimination, as Mr. Amestoy, quoted above at page 22, so aptly put it. But religious discrimination exists nevertheless, whether it is intentional or unwitting. This is the very reason that government officials must be educated, so as not to become the tools of an anti-religious lobby and thereby being inadvertent participants in the erosion of the sacred wall of separation between Church and State.
The stated agenda of C.A.N. (Cult Awareness Network) points out this fact. Their activities have been researched and documented as follows: 1) Deprogram ex-members; 2) Co-ordinate ex-members meeting with the media to stir up public opinion;70 3) After sufficient fear is instilled in the general public, arrange for ex-members to give affidavits to social workers to begin court proceedings; 4) Use courts to get judgments against the group that will eventually destroy them; 5) Use the exaggerated and untrue information to further promote their agenda which in turn causes more people to seek their very expensive services; 6) This information is used to raise funds from an unsuspecting public.71 As described herein, all of these methods have been used in an effort to destroy the Messianic Communities.
I would like to interject a word of caution here, to lawmakers and lobbyists alike, to those who form public opinion and influence social policy. Social order would be well served to make laws that addressed the actions of people, and not their beliefs. New laws to combat cults are not needed. Enforcement of existing laws against individuals, regardless of their religious association or beliefs, should be vigilant when there is credible, reliable, first-hand evidence that a person is likely to be guilty of a crime. It is bad business for governments to conclude that people either are guilty, or might be guilty, of crimes based upon what their religious beliefs are. Unbelievable as this might sound, this rationale was the basis for the seizure of the 112 children from the Church Community in Island Pond on June 22, 1984.72
No government has the rightful authority to control the religious beliefs of its subjects. Conversely, no religion has the right to control the government and force belief by coercion. From this foundation, a right understanding of the spheres of authority for church and state can be discerned and distinguished. It is the purpose of civil government to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil. This serves the social purpose of maintaining order so that people can enjoy basic freedoms - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is not the purpose of governments to control thoughts. The purpose of religion is to grope for God and to seek Him, without compulsion and according to the dictates of one's own conscience, free from government pressure or direction. This is the essence of the wall of separation between Church and State, on which the U.S. Constitution is premised.
But if laws are made that do not protect fundamental rights and freedoms, or if they are made under the persuasion of any particular state religion or ecumenical consensus, then discrimination, oppression, and outright persecution will result. History has taught us this sad but true reality.
The invidious nature of the anti-cult movement, however, is to destroy the delicate balance by breaking down the boundaries of rightful authority separating government and religion. Their tactic is to deceive governments to believe that certain religious groups are a social menace because of what they believe. That accomplished, the stage is set to pursue individual members on a selective basis, because of their "dangerous" faith, without reliable evidence that criminal activity has even happened. This is the essence of the legal prohibition of "guilt by association." In America, there is a famous quote from a U.S. Supreme Court opinion that states, "In our jurisprudence, guilt is personal."73 To do otherwise is to fail to promote the toleration of diversity and respect for differences so necessary in a free society.
Discerning the boundaries between religious freedom and the limits of government control is not always easy. Since 1990, at least, the United States Supreme Court has been groping to carve out a right standard to protect religious freedom while not favoring religion, while at the same time, leaving governments room to govern in their rightful sphere of authority. In that year, they decided in Oregon v. Smith that infringement of the religious freedom of two American Indians who smoked peyote (as part of their religious worship) was irrelevant in the context that they were denied unemployment benefits when they lost their jobs as drug counselors for violating Oregon's drug laws. Religious scholars were alarmed and outraged at the court's "disregard" of religious free exercise.
However, I believe the decision was a right and righteous one and a good one to exemplify my point about rightful spheres of authority. The state of Oregon has rightful authority to enact laws regarding drug use, unemployment benefits, and to make qualifications for its drug counselors. Enforcement of those laws did not violate the Indians' free exercise rights. Reality was the Indians did not qualify for the drug counselor jobs because of their free exercise of their religious beliefs. So they should have gotten different jobs because of their faith, and not blame the state, expecting them to pay unemployment benefits. The state was in its rightful sphere of authority and the Indians were not hindered in the free exercise of their faith. The fact is the Indians wanted the free exercise of their faith and government benefits at the same time. This type of thinking is commonplace among sectarian complaints against the government for "violating their religion." However, it is important to note that the Constitution does not say religious liberty will not have any social cost.
This case is a useful example because, in response to this Court decision, religious lobbyists prevailed upon Congress to pass a law called "Freedom of Religion Restoration Act" of 1993, which reinstated the standard in effect before the Oregon v. Smith decision. However, in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court found this law to be unconstitutional and invalidated it.74 The tension and battle continues on.
We can only hope that the First Amendment jurisprudence, which the U.S. Supreme Court fashions during the next several decades, is vigilant to maintain the delicate balance between church and state so that the wall separating them remains. As a people we are grateful for the public servants who exercise due care in upholding the Constitution in the execution of their duties. We rely upon them and appreciate the judges we have encountered so far who were faithful to rule justly, despite the ungodly influence of the anti-cultists to advance religious prejudice. Honor to Honorable Frank Mahady, Honorable F. Ray Keyser, Mme. Justice McLachlin, Justice Sopinka, Honourable Justice Malachi Jones, Hon. J. Davison, and even Judge Wolchik, who had the integrity to admit that he made a bad mistake.
Immediately after the Raid on the Church in Island Pond by the State of Vermont in 1984, there were predominantly two responses:
1) Praise for the Judge that upheld the Constitution - by calling the interference "the worst state-sanctioned violation of children since Herod" and by protecting the reputation of the State, by failing to condone and uphold the actions of several despotic and reactionary officials, who caused many Vermonters to fear that their leaders were reminiscent of Nazi Germany, and
2) Lingering doubt as to whether or not the children in the Island Pond Community Church really were abused, given the fact that the faith of their parents embraced the teachings of the Bible regarding corporal punishment.
Both of these impressions have stood the test of time over the past fifteen years. Therefore, despite the public approval of Judge Mahady's decision soundly criticizing the State's "grossly unconstitutional scheme," members of the group continue to live under the cloud of the public's impression that "well, maybe the children are abused."
By1994 if not before, the well being of the children became evident to the public.75 Ten years after the Raid, we held an Anniversary Celebration where we invited all the State's players to come meet the children that had been seized, now aged 10-28 years old, so that they could see for themselves.76 We included the State troopers, social workers, court clerks and officers, judges, high-ranking state government officials. Not one came, except one reporter and several academics who were researching us.77 It was a great time, a weekend of festivities, including the children sharing the recollections of that fateful day and proclaiming the faith of their fathers.
This gathering occurred about one year after the Waco tragedy in April 1993, where 86 people lost their lives, mostly Branch Davidians, including numerous children whom the Attorney General of the United States, Janet Reno, claimed she "did it to protect." The day after the Waco inferno, as I read an editorial in the New York Times, I was gripped by the fact that there were many similarities between the government's actions at Waco and the tactics of the government nine years earlier at Island Pond. Although the Island Ponders have a different belief system, one that does not condone violence ("If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.") and one that respects and honors governmental authority, comparing the governmental approaches in the two raids against religious minorities, it was evident that there was a distinct and familiar parallel. The violent, military approach to exercise control over a small religious group was more than a mere coincidence.
We began to look deeper behind the mere knowledge we had that the Attorney General's office in Vermont had consulted before the Raid with Galen Kelly and Priscilla Coates, two noted deprogrammers and active anti-cultists. For our own purposes we prepared papers researching the history of how the Raid happened.
Another example of how we respond to conflict with state government is to approach them and negotiate, as we did in Vermont in 1990, where several members had been charged with truancy for twelve years. We worked together with the Department of Education to propose an amendment to legislation that would allow us to educate our children according to our conscience and our sincerely held religious beliefs. The staff there treated us with respect and dignity. They were willing to listen to what we had to say and they did listen. The law in Vermont now accommodates us and it doesn't hurt anybody else. The state has determined a way to know that our children are being educated without violating our faith. The Commissioner of Education there, Richard Mills, came and saw. He spent a day going through our classes and watching our children learn and recreate. He served us and he served the State of Vermont. We wholeheartedly appreciate him and his staff people who annually visit our communities; for their care, their attitude and their approach.
Simultaneously, the Vermont Supreme Court recognized the sincerity and integrity of our beliefs and our practices based on those beliefs. Also in 1990, in a truancy case involving a couple from the Church in Island Pond, the Vermont high court acknowledged their commitment to safeguarding such cherished Constitutional guarantees, and to respecting the delicacy of the balance when in conflict with competing state interests such as education.78 We honor and respect such authority that honors and respects the citizens it judges. We are thankful for rulers such as these.
The most difficult people to approach are the anti-cultists themselves whom, by and large, we have found to be unaccountable and unwilling to listen. They seem vested in not wanting to hear the truth, since it undermines their theory. Social workers are the second most difficult group to communicate with, as most seem to believe they already know the truth, without having met even one group member. Most often they have received their viewpoint from the anti-cultists. There have been some exceptions. We continue to hope this will change and we hope that what we have said here will help bring that change about.
We lead open lives and answer people's questions about us. We strive to maintain peaceful relationships with local and state governments in the places where we live. Periodically, we publish Freepapers and pamphlets about who we are and what we believe, sometimes focused on a particular social issue. In 1993, we put out a pamphlet called "What We Can Learn from the Tragedy at Waco," wherein we explained that we lead open, visible lives near neighbors, that we welcome visitors, that we do not practice violence, and also that we are not anti-government. Recently we had an open forum for local townspeople in a small New York town in the Hudson Valley where we are getting established. Nearly 100 people came, full of questions and of support, for what they had experienced in knowing us so far. We make ourselves available to speak to any interested group or individual who wants to know what we're all about. We would welcome the opportunity to speak with any interested party in government.
As individual members have been brought before the courts over the years, in cases ranging from custody conflicts to criminal charges, each decides where he takes his stand in obedience to his conscience and his faith, according to the Word of God which is our guidepost. As a people, we call nations to obey their Constitutions, calling them to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil. Every day, we strive to lead tranquil and quiet lives, while gathering to pray twice a day wherever we have a Community, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension, interceding for leaders to rule wisely and righteously. In the end, we entrust everything into the hands of our God, who protects us or corrects us, according to His will.
We know that the Bible is not the stuff that the social sciences are made of, but nevertheless, for historical purposes, there is a particular part of scripture worth noting for our purposes today, as we look toward the future of the world's social order. In the Book of Daniel it is recorded that the King of Babylon had a dream around 500 B.C. In the dream was an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was pure gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. He called for all his wise men and magicians to tell him the dream and to interpret it.
At that time in history, the Jews had been taken captive and were slaves under the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. There was a young Jew named Daniel who because of his knowledge and understanding, and his connection to the God of Israel, was the only person in the entire kingdom who could tell the king what his dream was and then give its interpretation. He explained to the king that he was the head of gold and that after him would come a kingdom inferior to his. Next a third kingdom would come and rule over the whole earth. Finally there would be a fourth world kingdom, strong as iron (for iron breaks and smashes everything), which would crush and break all the others.
Whether you believe the Bible or not, history bears out Daniel's interpretation. Three empires followed Babylon in world domination: Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Each one was inferior to the one before it in terms of authority of its ruler. Each ruler had greater checks and balances on his power. Each government, however, was tougher and more enduring. Knowing this, it may serve us well to pay attention to the next part of the dream, which reveals a future event in history: the emergence of the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay, and the stone. For Daniel made it clear that the Stone, whoever it is, would not emerge until the time when the iron and the clay would mix ... as Daniel put it, "in the days of those kings." It seems prudent and worthy of pursuit to look for the three today ... the iron, the clay, and the stone, which brings an end to the existing social order that the statue represents.
The iron represents the character of the 4th world empire, whose political system is based on the democratic principles rooted in the ancient Roman Empire, one whose substance was tougher and more enduring than any world empire before it, and brought the others to ruin. We see the oldest, most developed model of the iron in the emerging European Community. It has the political, economic, and cultural strength to become a modern day world empire. The relationship between this confederation and the ecumenical movement in Christianity is the most important and profound sociological dynamic of the next half-century.
Social scientists across the globe would do well to turn their attention to this dynamic because it is foretold in the 2nd chapter of Daniel. This prophecy has great weight in light of the fact that Daniel foretold in the same chapter the four world empires from Babylon to Rome ... an historical fact documented in history books which trace the development of Western civilization. As this confederation is developing, there are already the signs of religious persecution in numerous countries across Europe. This was documented well by Dr. Massimo Introvigne and Dr. Gordon Melton in their December 1997, press conference in Washington, D.C. These signs of intolerance are the beginnings of the shaky alliance between church and state (religion and government) that historically has led to oppression, brutality, and mass murder at the hands of the Roman Catholic church, as well as many of the sects of the Protestant Reformation (e.g., The Crusades, Inquisition, 58 executions in Geneva under Calvin's influence, Holocaust, etc.).
At this stage of its development, the European Parliament is playing an ever-increasing role in defining the place of religious freedom and the policy of the confederation concerning "new religious movements." There is a tremendous need for education and understanding to be given to the Parliament by the academic community and especially to social scientists, so that the laws that govern the nations of the European Community will protect religious freedom and diversity for all.
The academic community must notice that the governments in Europe are headed toward an alliance with established religions. One of the most essential aspects of the nature of the iron is that it needs this alliance with Christianity (the clay) to get established, and this will happen slowly and very subtly. Without it, the extent of the lack of moral restraint would result in a society that is so devoid of social control, that it could not survive. This "marriage"79 between government and religion will eventually give the state authority to enforce the "accepted" religious doctrines as defined in ecumenical councils. It will seem good, but the result will be the quenching, ostracizing or elimination of any new religions that do not conform to the "right" doctrine.
It will take decades for all of this to unfold in a way where its true nature can be seen, but it is precisely this dynamic between government and religion, that now gives fuel to the anti-cult movement. Anti-cultists work back and forth between government agencies (especially social services agencies and law enforcement) and fearful parents in the religious mainstream (by propagandizing in pulpits) to convince both that new religions are evil and dangerous and therefore should be eliminated, even at the expense of people's fundamental rights. It is especially at the expense of peoples' right to choose who their God is and how they worship. As it happens, the religious freedoms of those outside the mainstream will become less and less protected. But most importantly, from the vast diversity of "new religions," will emerge the Stone - which is outside the ranks of Christianity, is separate from the iron and clay, and must be given the room to exist. Remember, it was the alliance between Rome and the established Jewish religious leaders that crucified the man, Yahshua, the Son of God. In fact, it was the established church of his day that called for his death, while the civil government let it happen. Individuals must have the freedom to grope for God and to find Him without governments' interference, deciding what religions are acceptable in their land and what ones are not.
As we approach the 21st century, the iron represents the reconstitution of the Roman Empire whose cultural, social, and political influence has dominated the world for the last 2000 years. But we are now in the time period represented in the feet and toes of the statue, made of iron and clay, which, although they try to mix, cannot adhere to one another, thereby making the foundation of the statue (world empires) the weakest it has ever been. Therefore, one of the greatest missions of sociologists into the 21st century is to be on the alert for religious persecution, sound the alarm, and defend the separation of church and state, in order to uphold the rights of religious freedom all over the globe, but especially on the continent of Europe.
Freedom for all is in jeopardy, when governments listen to those who claim to be the sole arbiters of orthodoxy and heresy, which is not the domain of government.
The clay is the Ecumenical Movement that is working to establish a unity among all the diverse sects of Christianity throughout the world, that will attempt to unite all nations, bringing about peace on earth. This ecumenical Christian unity is the clay that mixes with the iron, the emerging political confederation in Europe. Eventually, the power of ecumenism will influence the political leaders to assimilate every "fringe" group that can be drawn in and eliminate groups that do not conform to the parameters of this alliance.
We see this tendency from the conflicts we as a people have had with governments over the last 20 years. Let me show you how this dangerous dynamic actually works, by giving you a few examples of our experiences.
First, in the pre-Raid days of 1983, a then professor at a Baptist college in Moncton, New Brunswick, James Beverley, prepared a publication called "Kingdom Concerns," in which he criticized our beliefs and practices. He relied heavily on defector Juan Mattatall as a major source. His "concerns" were widely circulated around the South Shore of the province of Nova Scotia, to the extent that people were worked into a frenzy of hysteria over this "cult" that invaded this parochial fishing community. The consequence of such work was to make people afraid of us without cause, suspicious of us with no good reason, physically violent with us on a few occasions, and to make us have to overcome the prejudice of being social outcasts.
To Mr. Beverley's credit, once he realized that he had been duped by defector Juan Mattatall,80 he admitted his error, recanting some of his criticisms at an S.S.S.R. conference in Philadelphia in 1995. Nevertheless, the faulty brochures still circulate to our detriment.
Second, in 1992, the investigating R.C.M.P. officer in the Isaac Dawson case, Constable Wendell Murchison, participated in a national documentary called "Missing Treasures," in which the Myrtle Tree Farm Community was grossly misrepresented. Dawson's faith was maligned and the officer relied on information from unreliable sources, while making Dawson and his fellow believers out to be criminal. As you have just heard, indeed, it was the government who engaged in unlawful activity, not Dawson.81 The court had denied Dawson fundamental justice in its process and Dawson was finally acquitted of any wrongdoing.
Third, another continuing source of terrible misinformation about our communities is Rev. Bob Pardon at the "New England Institute of Religious Research." While equipped with a professional, objective-sounding title, Rev. Pardon is actually a one-man operation, functioning in a one-room office in a church building with one assistant. What is dangerous about Rev. Pardon is that he amasses voluminous amounts of data and then uses it to support his subjective analysis, thereby making him the sole decider between heresy and orthodoxy. Relatives and friends of community members contact him (or he contacts them) hoping for help in their ignorance and confusion, and are often left ill-advised, fearful, and in the throes of family turmoil as a result of their "help" from him. He labors to foment prejudicial controversies in court.
The problem arises when, as in the examples given above, a subjective "anti-cult" bias about a religion is injected into the social service realm where it does not belong, thus subjecting an individual's religious belief to government judgment. The damage most often arises when such misinformation provides the basis for government intervention or court involvement. It is a serious social problem to be prejudiced in court because you have a religion that doesn't conform to the religion the government prefers.
While the philosophy of the free world acknowledges the need for religious freedom, in practice, governments (of states and nations) are quick to eliminate or discriminate against religions they do not understand. The government is increasingly putting great pressure on individuals to conform to a preferred religion or vice versa, with religious interests attempting to control government.
Consider the present social and political reality in the land of two great world powers: France and the United States. In France, the magnitude of the anti-cult movement82 and its influence on the national government is a serious threat to religious liberty there. As an individual you are in trouble if you are aligned with a religious group that the government does not like.83 Historically, the roots of a comfortable alliance between Catholicism and social democracy may be threatened or challenged.
In the United States, a nation founded on a belief that a wall of separation between church and state is absolutely necessary to preserve freedom, the "religious right" is hard at work trying to rewrite American history to erase the wall of separation between church and state, claiming that this country is and was a Christian nation, a theocracy of sorts, contrary to historical truth.
Ecumenism (religion) maneuvers its way into the sphere of authority given to governments. A primary avenue to this end is to run for political office and then introduce legislation that favors mainstream religion, which favors the status quo. Another avenue is to campaign for such legislation among the "faithful." The recent proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the "Religious Freedom Amendment," is a prime example of legislation that appears to promote religious freedom but in effect fosters religious tyranny.84 Another movement of the religious right to "Reclaim America for Christ" labors to make the government rule according to Christian beliefs, thereby betraying America's heritage of religious liberty and church-state separation.
Consider the historical context. As the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches split in the fourth century signaling the fall of the ancient Roman Empire, so the coming together of the sects of Christianity in the next century will signal the coming together of the nations of Europe into a unity that will dominate and lead the entire world. We see the signs of this in the warming trend between the Pope and the Patriarch, between the Pope and the Archbishop of the Anglican Church, and between evangelicals such as Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II.
As Carl Bernstein documents in his current book, His Holiness, chronicling the life of Pope John Paul II, he credits the Pope with being the most powerful political figure of the 20th century, citing such achievements as his influence with President Ronald Reagan in bringing about the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of communism in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
The social and political consequences of such a political and religious alliance to those outside the mainstream cannot be overstated. This apparent unity will appear to be the best solution to the many social problems plaguing society to the uttermost, caused by casting off the moral restraint of conscience. Ecumenism, in the guise of toleration and acceptance, will in reality be the demise of religious freedom worldwide for those whose religious views dissent from the boundaries of ecumenism. The challenge of the 21st century for social scientists will be to resist any temptation to agree to solutions that combine the church and the state in an ungodly alliance.
The Stone is the new social order that comes into existence only once in history ... at the same time as the formation of the confederation of kings spoken about in the 2nd chapter of Daniel. The Stone Kingdom has enormous weight and is the most critical sociological event in history, for it ushers in the age of peace all mankind is longing for. It is separate from the political structure of its day (the iron), and is also separate from the ecumenical unity of religion (the clay). It will not mix with the iron or the clay, and this is why it will endure and replace the existing social order that the iron and clay represents.
It is made up of tribal communities from every nation and language under the sun. Its people will come out from every other belief and lifestyle to become a part of the Stone. Its foundations are ancient and its concepts are not new, but what is new will be the restoration of human relationships which enable the people to live together in unity, starting in each nuclear family, spreading from fathers to their children, and expanding out from clan to clan and from tribe to tribe.
The Stone will not be seen as distinct from the clay at first. They will look like other fringe groups and be identified as just one new religious movement among many. But as more and more fringe groups or new religions are either eliminated or assimilated into the ecumenical unity of the clay, it will become clear that the Stone Kingdom is separate, hewn from the mountain of the world, of a different substance than either the iron or the clay. Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, understood that the Stone Kingdom would emerge outside the ranks of Christianity.85 Given the religious persecution he witnessed in Massachusetts and suffered himself, he saw the need for a system of government to be established that would ensure the future protection of religious freedom so that the Stone could have the opportunity to form in the "days of those kings."86
It was upon these principles of religious freedom that the state of Rhode Island was founded. It became a model that influenced the founding fathers a century later to institute a government that kept the authority of the state out of the affairs of religion altogether (a wall of separation) and visa versa, rather than one of mere accommodation of religion by the state.87 Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, relied on the understanding of Roger Williams as evidenced in his noteworthy letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.88
It would serve social scientists well to reflect on this line of thought when influencing social order as we face the 21st century. For as the existing social order seems to come together through the mixture of the iron and the clay, it will be clear to those who can hear, that the Stone Kingdom is ushering in the new and lasting social order, that will bring in the rule of the Prince of Peace.