DURING the late 1960s, David Berg created a little-known movement called Teens for Christ.
Who are the Children of God cult and where are they based?
Initially calling themselves Teens for Christ, it soon evolved into the Children of God movement.
Mainly consisting of runaways and “born again hippies”, it originated Huntington Beach, California.
After coming to the conclusion that the area was imminently going to be struck by a major earthquake, David Berg took his movement and followers on the road.
At its height, it is believed that Children of God had some 15,000 members.
Advocating a lifestyle of “group living” it was not long before the movement had hundreds of communes.
The communities were very isolated and nobody within them would work or leave the commune.
It combined worship of Jesus Christ with the 1960s “free love” era whilst preaching a prophecy that the apocalypse was coming very soon.
As a result, he encouraged members to live a hand-to-mouth existence with no-one encouraged to make long-term plans.
It was claimed that at its peak, the movement had branched into over 50 countries.
What happened to cult leader David Berg and how did he die?
David Berg went into hiding in 1971.
He communicated with his followers through a series of letters which he called “Mo Letters”, stemming from the name he gave himself of Moses David.
A spokeswoman for the movement was informed of his death by his wife in November 1994.
Although nobody even within the group knew where he and his wife were when he died, it is now believed that he was in Portugal at the time.
Maria Berg (also known as Karen Zerby), the wife of the movement’s leader, led “The Family” as it was now known after his passing.
What are the allegations against the group?
The group was known for its “flirty fishing” technique where female members would be ordered to have sex with men as a means of recruiting them to the cult.
Former members of the Children of God movement have alleged childhood abuse as they lived on the communes.
Ex-members have told how the group extended its sexual policies to children, allegedly permitting and even encouraging child sex abuse.
Sadly, many members of the movement have taken their own lives over the years, haunted by memories from their time in Children of God.
Over the years there have been horrific reports from people who used to be members of sexual violence, incest and brainwashing.
Why are the Children of God cult so infamous?
Joaquin Phoenix’s late older brother, River, told Details Magazine in 1991 that he was four when he first had sex while in the group.
While ex-members have come out and spoken about the mental and physical tortures they endured, still plagued by these memories in later life.
In January 2005, the movement was in the headlines when the former leader’s son, Ricky Rodriguez, murdered an ex-member of the group.
The person in question was a former nanny of Rodriguez, who lived on the commune for a number of years.
After stabbing her to death, Rodriguez killed himself. He had left the group in adulthood and had previously said that to The New York Times that he wanted his mother “prosecuted for child abuse.”