Friday, March 06, 2009

Why we boycott Maté Factor

By permission of the author, here is an unedited version of an article by John Sullivan that originally appeared in the January 2007 Ithaca Community News.

In Ithaca many people consider the consequences of how and where they spend their money. My wife and I have friends who can tell you why they refuse to buy products from several manufacturers as well as from a local big-box retailer or two.

So in the summer of 2006 when we learned about the history, beliefs and practices of the Twelve Tribes religious group that owns and operates the Maté Factor on the Commons, we were surprised that fellow Ithacans had yet to organize any kind of public awareness effort. Knowing little about the Twelve Tribes, we’d eaten there several times and had enjoyed the experience. The proprietors, who in appearance resemble a cross between flower children and the Amish, seemed harmless enough. The food was good, the décor interesting and the ambience inviting.

I’d like to explain why we with other Ithacans have since begun an organized boycott of Maté Factor and why we invite you to join us in this effort.

First some background on the Twelve Tribes. In the early 1970's a former carnival barker named Eugene Spriggs founded the group now called Twelve Tribes in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Spriggs began teaching his own brand of fundamentalist, millennialist Christianity in which followers give up all personal possessions and prepare for the biblical apocalypse in emulation of the first Christians described in the Book of Acts. After wearing out their welcome in Bible Belt Tennessee, they relocated to the small town of Island Pond, Vermont. In the past two decades they have established 24 communities in the U.S., six in upstate New York (including Ithaca), as well as in France, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, and the United Kingdom. According to the Boston Globe, the group has nearly doubled in size in the past five years (to between 3000 and 4000) and has prospered financially from opportune real estate investments. They give themselves Hebrew names, practice Israeli folk dances, and have adopted the name “Twelve Tribes” to reflect their belief that they are God’s newly chosen people. They preach that only they offer salvation and that baptism within other faith communities is worthless. According to defectors, Spriggs still maintains complete control of all communities. He and his wife reportedly shuttle between estates near Twelve Tribes communities in the U.S., France and Brazil and live in considerably better conditions than do their flock.

Our objections to Spriggs and the Twelve Tribes are not directly concerned with their religious claims or belief in an approaching apocalypse. Instead, we object to their promotion of racist, misogynistic and homophobic doctrines that have a long history of hurting people: doctrines that are in fact at the root of the greatest modern crimes against humanity. Additionally, we object to their exploitation of young adults and——to us the most disturbing——their advocacy of child mistreatment.

Spriggs, known as “Yoneq” inside the group, teaches that slavery of people of African descent and the social order of the Jim Crow South were ordained by God, a result of the biblical curse of Canaan. According to Spriggs, “Martin Luther King could not offer true freedom to [African-Americans] when he was a slave of the curse himself” and “Martin Luther King was filled with every evil spirit there is to say [blacks don’t] have to serve [whites]…All manner of evil filled that man.” Race mixing and multicultural society are anathema to Spriggs. Literature the Twelve Tribes disseminates for the public and potential recruits only slightly softens Spriggs’ teachings with more veiled references to race. For instance, in their publication “Multicultural Madness” you will read:
“Let's face it. It is just not reasonable to expect people to live contentedly alongside of others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural, and sometimes forces people to go against what they instinctively know in their conscience.”

From another entitled "Alien Ant":
“Multiculturalism increases murder, crime and prejudice. It goes against the way man is. It places impossible demands on people to love others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural, like trying to love sodomites.”

Spriggs has written that (real) Jews suffer under their own curse for crucifying Jesus and that homosexuals “deserve the death penalty.” He is adamant that women unquestioningly submit to the authority of their husbands. But central in Spriggs’ teachings concern their children. On them all their hopes depend since in a generation or two they must produce 144,000 pure and virginal boys to be the bride of the Messiah as described in the Book of Revelation. Any deviation from devout focus on this goal endangers everyone’s salvation. And so he admonishes his followers to begin beating disobedient children with switches from before they can walk. According to Spriggs, a beating is not sufficient until “blue wounds” appear in the child’s flesh. Punishable offenses include engaging in make-believe.

Children in the Twelve Tribes are home-schooled to only a rudimentary level and are prohibited from acquiring a high school diploma or G.E.D. (After all, what use have breeding stock for an education?) They are put to work at an early age in the group’s cottage industries. We have no information on how children are treated in the Ithaca community other than what the parents tell us. Normally, no one mandated by New York state law to report signs of abuse—doctors, teachers, social workers—ever see the children. However, none of the local Twelve Tribes adults with whom I have spoken have disowned Spriggs’ teachings on child discipline (or those on any other subjects). On the occasions I went to the restaurant, I regularly saw children working behind the counter. New York State fined two Greene County Twelve Tribes businesses for child labor law violations in 2001.

The group largely recruits directionless (but fertile) twenty-somethings, often at rock concerts. They take, and under no conditions return, all the financial resources of those who have any. Accounts from people who have left Twelve Tribes describe a culture based on psychological manipulation, suspension of individuality, and total dependency on “elders,” all of whom are male.

Somehow, because their doctrines and practices come wrapped in religious convictions, they have been immune from the kind of criticism that would otherwise be marshaled against them. We suspect most people eating at Maté Factor on any given day would say that they find nostalgia for slavery and patriarchy, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and child beating rather revolting. We think most would choose to spend their money elsewhere if they were aware that Twelve Tribes exploits people and promotes these things. I see people eating in Maté Factor who are probably among those concerned by sweatshop labor in Bangladesh and who protest human rights abuses in Tibet. We could all benefit by being more aware of what is going on in our own backyard.

Our group, Ithacans Opposed to the Twelve Tribes Cult (IOTTC), came together initially to counter a Twelve Tribes recruiting rally on the Ithaca Commons on August 12, 2006. At that surreal event were treated to a black Twelve Tribesperson (yes, there are a few) explain how the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott of 1955-56 was a misguided effort, among other things. We handed out a pamphlet containing the words of Eugene Spriggs to over 300 passers-by that day and, I think, successfully frustrated their efforts.

The members of the Twelve Tribes who have settled in Ithaca and work at the Maté Factor should not be insulted or harassed. Many are themselves victimized and may have not fully understood all of the Spriggs’ teachings when they joined. As one ex-Twelve Tribesperson wrote us “a lot of them have a hard time stomaching the teachings like the Ham teaching [on race] and the child discipline stuff, however they are between a rock and a hard place, and it's not worth it for them to rebel against those teachings because their survival depends on their submission to authority.” We should feel compassion for these people and offer them assistance to leave TT. Any that choose to do so will need our help since they own nothing but the shirt on their back. However, by eating at the Maté Factor your dollars empower the Twelve Tribes organization to maintain their hold on these adults and their children, and to recruit others.

Some confuse the right to free speech and belief to which we are all entitled with a supposed right to not be criticized. This no one has. When an ideology promotes homophobia, misogyny, racism and mistreatment of children we have an absolute obligation to speak up. Yes, the Twelve Tribes are for now a small group with fringe beliefs. Every one of us has a real interest in keeping things that way. Please help us boycott Maté Factor.


Anonymous said...

You should investigate the community personally before you make judgement upon them. Yes they are different and yes they live a different life than most of us. No, they are NOT racist, there are many families of ALL RACES in the community. They do NOT mistreat their children. Although, they do believe that being homosexual is a sin, and this I disagree with. However they don't turn homosexuals away from their home for visiting and seeing their way of life. I heard about them and their being a "cult" and decided to see for myself what this rumor was founded upon. I lived with them for three months. They are good people with kind hearts, most were on a distructive path or lost before finding the community and themselves. I disagree like I said before with their belief about homosexuals, but beyond that I could not find much else that I didn't think was kosher. I do think that they need more teachers in their community and that they do cut themselves off from the rest of the world too much.

Aloysius Horn said...

I have a lot of sympathy for folks inside the Twelve Tribes communities and have no doubt that many were on destructive paths before they sought refuge there. For someone whose life had been out of control I can believe that the limited degrees of freedom and enforced drug-free living might be an improvement, at least temporarily. My beef is with the "Elders" and the doctrines and dogmas they enforce, many of which are dangerous as described in this article. I think help with addictions and support from community are probably available elsewhere without the burden of having to beat your children and embrace abhorrent doctrines.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for the information you've made available on this page. My friend has recently gone to stay and be baptized there and I was wondering what was going on. It sounds like the people there are mostly nice, but the master they serve is not.

My friend's life was rough and she had many reasons to want to run off to something new, but she also gave up on things she previously cared about, and I am worried she is just going to cut herself off further from the people who care about her. We are trying to get up there to visit her. She seems happy, if only it weren't for the benefit of making some religious tyrants rich; and also it doesn't seem like a very genuine take on religion.
thankyou so much for boycotting them. I am glad that consumers care, and are doing what little they can not to support corruption.

Aloysius Horn said...


Thanks for honestly relating your experiences and opinions and good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who doubts that this group is racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic (to put it mildly) should spend some time reading their teachings which are available at:

Here is a list of their other establishments:

O.H.M said...

i REALLY wanna see some black TT members hear the 120 lessons of the nation of gods and earths. which is essentialy the polar opposite of the TT. it would so blow their minds

Anonymous said...

The TWELVE TRIBES RESTAURANT, the "Yellow Deli" is now located at:
315 E Broadway
Vista, CA 92084 760.630.0040.

You can send them mail (next door to the Yellow Deli), to "The Adobe" office bldg. at 323 E. Broadway. The names below, are collecting mail there:
*Marsha Spriggs
*Marcel E.(or C?) Masse
(Marcel has an additional address at 92 MELVILLE AVE DORCHESTER CENTER, MA 2124-2125)
*Michelle(Michele) A. Masse
*Daniel and Sharron R. Brosseau

How very sad for our North San Diego semi-rural community. This cult has been here since 2003. They now own millions of dollars worth of agriculture/commercial and residential real estate.
The address where they first settled, is 12458 KEYS CREEK RD. VALLEY CENTER, CA 92082. They have named this avocado grove/farmland property of 61 acres, the "Morning Star Ranch".

Anonymous said...

I found an interesting, well written story about a former member's flight

Anonymous said...

Yes, I still think about the Twelve Tribes, and miss it there. Do believe has time plays out, that much more good will come about as the result of the Tribes existence than bad for when they have failed in some ways.

I took a good look at my own life recently, and have come to the sobering conclusion that I'd be a much better person today had I remained with my brothers and sisters in the Tribes.

Would also be interested in what other ex-members have to say about how they see their own life and the Tribes, having been away from the Communities.

Have explored various spiritual paths, but there's something about Yahshua I can't shake, and I just don't find him in so many churches I been in, the way he is at the Tribes.

When I'd go out and pray at the Tribes, it was like he was right beside me, literally at times.

Life without him and daily brothers and sisters and working together, is pretty meaningless to me now in mainstream society.

Am not excusing the Tribes for where they have failed at times, just to be honest about where I'm at, and wonder how other ex-members feel.
thanks, Eric Christopherson

Eric Christopherson said...

Still think about the Tribes from time to time. But, think that to go back and live there, I would really need to turn off my brain and conscience on certain teachings and practices that are so very wrong. I like many of the people, the food, and gatherings. It's sad when people are looking for God and enlightenment,there are cult-like groups, like the Tribes saying, "Come home, we are where God lives, and you can finally be forgiven here." If that were true, most of the people who visit and join would stay there and be happy, instead of leaving. If they could just dump the teachings that hurt and condemn others and live by doing to others what you have them do unto you, it could be so much better. If you have the basic teachings of Jesus, do you need all the teachings of Yoneq, the Tribes founder and Apostle?

A said...

Hi there -

It would be great if you can help me spread the following post across your blog and network so as many people as possible will have the chance to see it.

"We are producers partnered with a major news outlet, and are seeking families or individuals who were formerly involved in demanding groups/organizations to share their stories. We are interested in both positive and negative experiences, and hope to hear from those who have separated from the group within the last 9 months. If you would like additional information, please email and describe your current situation. Thank you."

Thank you so much for your help!

Love Hertz said...

Just for clarification, is Maté Factor a Twelve Tribes brand or is the café a franchise owned by them? I am a big maté and Asheville fan and after googling around to find out more information about Maté Factor, I found this blog. I originally hoped I would be buying from a Asheville based tea company and now I am wondering if something more sinister exists behind the brand...

A New Guy in Town said...

I have investigated them very thoroughly, and in several conversations over the course of three years, we have found three beliefs that go against the very Bible they claim to believe.

A. They believe the first church has failed. This goes directly against Jesus' own statement: "Upon this rock [Peter's faith] shall I build my church, and the gates of hell shall NOT prevail against it." If the church failed, then Jesus is a liar and we have no business doing anything in His name.

B. They believe that Jesus is not God, which goes against most of the book of John and many of Paul's own writings. Mainly "in Him was the fullness of the Godhead Bodily" and John 1:1 "In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God"

C. They believe that the Holy Spirit is love and that the Holy Spirit is ONLY in the community, as was stated in a Friday night celebration prayer in the Chattanooga community on Fort Wood and Oak Streets. This goes against the fact that God is everywhere and is spreading His word throughout the land like seed. If His love is not outside of the community, then He is NOT all loving and therefore NOT worth worship or honor or glory.
However, the opposite is true. God loves the whole world so much that He gave His only Son that whosoever believes on Him will never perish, but have everlasting life.

Anonymous said...

we need to get anonymous on this.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with the Twelve Tribes.

nabashalam said...

The Tribes are selling the Melville house in Boston which was one of if not the first star attraction communities all the way back to the beginning after they were kicked out of Chattanooga and started to spread (swarm)from Island Pond VT.

When the Tribes sell such a corner stone of the structure, it points to the whole building collapsing...

Not to mention of the dozens of disciples leaving every which way you look...

Is this the beginning of the end?

Anonymous said...

I really wish you would actually do research before attacking people different from yourself. As a matter of fact there are different races (as well as blacks) who are apart of the commune. If you boycotted everyone or everything that didn't approve of homosexuality then you would be just like them, wouldn't you? Please check again, this is America. We are free to be ourselves. Please don't try to drag someone else's name through the mud only because you don't agree with them.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Very very glad to see ppl are finally realizing their businesses are not to be supported. I find it strange that ppl can go and eat in their cafes as if they are visiting an Amish bakery. Also to the guy who left but has regrets, why did you leave if you were truly happy there? You probably weren't or you would not have left and are looking back at the fond memories only. I also suspect the "peace" you talk about was a result of knowing that you did not have to make any major life decisions and your needs were taken care of. These high demand groups have their own "highs" where everyone is experiencing a sense of brotherhood and religious ecstasy. But that is a false high much like the televangelist "miracles". Again I just want to seriously applaud this group for finally providing info on the TT they are not something anyone off the street would want to support and I hope you get the word out enough that their customer base drops and drops and drops...

Anonymous said...

Also to the first person who commented, it sounds like you went for a visit with the Twelve Tribes, did you HONESTLY think that you would see all of the darker side right up front?? Also I'm sure many are nice sincere ppl and they are of course putting their best foot forward to guests they are in recruit mode. What did you think about their beliefs on spanking, they are surprisingly upfront about that and its sickening. One can only imagine what goes on behind the scenes. Esp. since they encourage the use of actual rods.

Anonymous said...

When I was living in the Tribes, one of the original members told me that a male member hid in the bathroom shower tub with the curtain pulled while she fully disrobed intending to take a shower, then he opened the curtain to see and frighten her. Another "bad fruit" of communalism.

Anonymous said...

While visiting the community I said I didn't believe in black people being slaves to white people. A member then said to me, "If it (slavery) was good enough for Abraham it's good enough for me...Go to a black neighborhood if you haven't and see how great that is."

This is very clear: the Tribes believe that all black people who don't join the Tribes cannot ever be equal with white people and they should still be slaves to white people.

But the Tribes members will say over and over how they love black people, and that they have black elders, and how they are not racist!

In the story of Noah and the Ark in the Bible, Noah's 2nd son Ham/Cham supposedly walked into Noah's tent after Noah was passed out drunk and naked. Then Cham (the father of all black people) went out and told everyone and made fun of his father.

But here's the part I don't understand, why would Noah curse Cham and Cham's son Caanan, when it was Noah who got drunk and passed out naked in his tent? Shouldn't he have cursed himself?

But let's say he did curse Cham and Caanan, why should all of their descendants be cursed for something Cham did?

I give Islam great credit for this. They don't believe God places the sins of one person onto others or their descendants. Everyone is directly and only accountable for their own sins.

Gene Spriggs "Cham Teaching" all sounds like a way for others in history to justify black slavery, like the Southern plantation owners did a long time ago. And those who had some slaves in the North as well.

How convenient that God should honor Noah's curse of Cham and his descendants so that white people could have slave labor.

Somewhere in the book of Revelation it says that slave traders will go to the Lake of Fire and also that one of the sins of Babylon was human trafficking. The Tribes are very silent on this point.

It baffles me that Gene Spriggs "Yoneq" and Marsha Spriggs would release the Cham teaching which has so discredited the Twelve Tribes communities.

Another thing I've wondered about is that if the Twelve Tribes movement is of God, why hasn't Gene Spriggs own son joined? I heard he visited once and didn't think much of it.

Has anyone seen or talked to him?
Will he and his descendants be punished for the sins of his father?

Jerry said...

Here's Gene Spriggs aka Yoneq brand of child training discipline punishment:

"Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God."

This hasn't changed in the Tribes.

Go to this link to see how it used to be, even worse. Some kids got beat for literally hours. This is no exaggeration. They were "scourged." And the Tribes denies it ever happened. But some older members have admitted it to me.

Anonymous said...

Jake, in all fairness, there really is an emphasis now on encouraging children. In fact, encouraging them 99x more than 1x of discipline, and reaching their hearts in love. They now stress never disciplining a child in anger or frustration.

I wish Yoneq would get things headed in a more healthy direction overall before he and Marsha pass on. Am hoping a big divisive mess and power struggle doesn't occur, with exiting members plundering the community businesses and credit cards.

Anyone have any idea about how things are being prepared in advance of their passing?

Sandy said...

my boyfriend, and his very large family come from 12 tribes. they're out of the cult. they were in it 20 years. my boyfriend was beaten so badly that his father and mother couldn't take it. the last straw, after every day beatings, was when he kissed a girl at 17, and the whole community came down on him, beating his back bloody, and locked him in a room for weeks. my boyfriend is an angel for helping his family escape after 20 years.

Yah-weh..yeah rite... said...

unfortunately, my brother has been a member of twelve tribes, for twenty years. i have seen him give up everything, work like a slave, preach on the street, even lose a finger, all the while professing his happiness living in this fools’ paradise. twelve tribes is nothing more than a religious cult that draws its ideologies from a handful of established religions–as long as these ideologies are convenient to spriggs’ dogmatic needs in manipulating his slaves and furthering his empire. and though they think they are novel and annointed, they are, instead, simply another rehashing of the same old story. after all, a cult is a cult is a cult. fear dominates their members in an insipid way –i.e., they are the last to know they are afraid. sadly, they will die old and broke with no legacy but the furtherance of sprigg’s estate. twelve tribes is a true horror show. and, as usual, the innocent children are the ones who will suffer for years to come.

Anonymous said...

Here's what the men in the Twelve Tribes told me about attending college:

"College is stupid." "College is for lazy people who are unwilling to work by the sweat of their brow according to the First Covenant."

Anonymous said...

I love Mate Factor and Yellow Deli food. But I won't buy any of it anymore. You know why? Many of those nice men and women working in the cafe work double-shifts for nothing more than room and board and often no medical care to speak of. I'm not going to support a cult.

Anonymous said...

I've seen children taken from gatherings to be hit with the balloon sticks for things as trivial as refusing to hold a guests or another members hand while dancing.

I feel sorry for the little children. There are no toys to play with and they also get hit for any kind of make-believe, talking to one's self, talking to an imaginary friends, and any kind of make-believe or fantasy play.

I was reluctant for a long time to call this place a cult. But that is what it really is. Because the people's lives are completely controlled, their beliefs, their actions, their conversation, their movement, everything, and they work long hours for no pay and often suffer prolonged medical neglect.

Add to this Gene Spriggs brainwashing that all black people who don't join the Tribes should still be servants and mammies to white people. It's really awful under the surface with this commune.

Barak said...

Think about this. They call themselves the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and most of the members are not Jewish. And who decided where each Tribe would be geographically? Tribe of Benjamin "south of the Mason-Dixon line" United States? I don't think so.

This is what happens when you have one guy and his wife in charge of something who hear a voice and have no idea what they're doing, but want to be religiously better than everyone else in society.

If Jesus were here today, what might he say to the Twelve Tribes of Gene Spriggs?...
"I know of your works, your tireless recruiting efforts, your long work hours, your diligence to hit your children at the slightest foolishness, your rapid expansion and building of new communes, yet I have this against you, You judge and condemn many people outside your own group, yet within your communes there is a double-standard. Shepherds ruling over sheep. Listen to what I say, for I speak the truth I have received from my Father in Heaven, you shall not call any man 'apostle' not 'apostolic worker' nor 'shepherd' nor 'elder' for you are all children of God and brothers. None is to rule over the other. Your hypocritical tribal government is a foul stench in my nostrils and I shall blow you out of my nose until ye shall repent. Ye hypocrites, one man among you commits adultery and he is banished from the commune for seven years, the leaders wife does the same and she remains. Should you not have either chosen justice for each or mercy for each. Nay, ye have shown partiality based upon status and leadership. Unless ye repent and become as little chidlren, and allow your children to play with toys and use their imaginations, I will blow you out of my nose, and you will never rule the world. And isntead of living in the Holy City, ye shall clean it six days a week for double-shifts, just like you worked each other among you, even when ye were sick. Repent now I say, or else I will come to with many rods of correction, and I will begin the beatings upon Gene and Marsha Spriggs first, then Edward and Jeanie Wiseman next, then all the apostolic workers and shepherds to show you what it was like for the children in the communes through the years, while you lorded authority over all the sheep who only wanted to follow me. I desire mercy, not sacrifice. You talked much of loving one another, but you only created work-houses and neglected medical care for your needy. The still-born babies and dead adult members now testify against you before my throne. Repent, I say, and change your corrupt teachings regarding the curse on black and Jewish people. No one is to be the slave of another. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be kind I say, and end all partiality. Lay not wealth at the apostle's feet, let him earn the bread he eats and let him be the servant of all, he and his wife. Let them do the dishes, the laundry, and clean the bathrooms."

Anonymous said...

I am thankful for this blog because i have been a tourist to Ithaca for years and would always make it a priority to eat there because of the beautiful atmosphere, celtic music and wonderful food. I love mate because of the anti oxidants and energy boost it gives.

Shortly after moving to Ithaca, i began hearing the rumors. How can something so beutiful be so corrupt beneath the surface? I have been dedicated to getting to the truth. I have been reading the papers and noticed that they ask a lot of questions. At first i thought that they were just another peaceful community that chooses to stay separated from modern society. ( I had once visited a Quaker community that was simple and beautiful that inspired me to simplify my life so why should i judge the twelve tribes for the same kind of lifestyle?)

First hand experience of cruelty and witness reports of child abuse however isnt judgement but a cry for compassion.

I now buy Mate at the health food store. NATIVA is very good and can be brewed in a coffee maker.

Rakam said...

They told me to "stop reasoning and stop thinking." "We will tell you how to think. Where did you learn to think anyway? In the world?" "You need to repent and give up your rotten filthy life in the world."

To be able to remain in this group long-term with a good conscience and satisfaction, you really need to leave your brain and conscience at the door. And overlook the frequent harsh hitting of babies and children. It really is child-abuse.

Week by week, you will introduced to the Teachings. And you are "to receive" all that is presented to you without a hint of disagreement because everything you're taught is from the Anointing, the Apostle Yoneq (Gene Spriggs). Yoneq cannot be replaced as long as he is alive.

I really like many of the people and certain aspects of their life like the music and food and sharing at gatherings, but that is where like ends and fear and the brain-washing begins.

I really began to lose my mind after awhile, but that was okay with them, I was beginning "to take on the Mind of the Body" (the Tribes), and that is crucial to be saved in many ways.

By the way, you cannot be saved and go to the Holy City Heaven for God's children unless you join their group and give them all your money and property. They take everything.

They try to get to join as soon as possible, and then it's not long before you're asked how much money you have!

Believe it or not, part of me still wants to be there. To have that great eternal "purpose" and "true friends." I think about it everyday, and I been out of there a long time. Somehow something was done to my mind. I haven't been right since. It's been a challenge to hold down a job, but I have for about a year now. They say it's because I "was never meant to live in the world."

They say "You've been touched by Satan" for my returning to "the World"/mainstream society, but could it be the other way around.

Could there be Satan or a demon hiding behind the Twelve Tribes?

They can keep their fur-face ugly beards and pony-tails for the men and clown-pants for the women. Now they even have to wear special headbands to the gathering that God will someday put crowns upon.

By the way, where in the Bible does it say the Tribe of Judah will be in the northern US States and the Tribe of Benjamin south of the Mason-Dixon line?

A long time ago, Yoneq thought the Holy City would someday be centered in Chattanooga, Tennessee! And 1200 miles square around it. I guess that's because he was there?

Whatever happened to that stunning revelation from God? When he or wife Ha-emeq Spriggs make a mistake, sin or blunder of some kind, it never happened. It becomes a "lie or slander." Just like her adulterous affair with a young disciple. Denied. "It is good to conceal a matter" they say.
If it's their matter! But Christianity they will put down tirelessly, yet they are no better. In fact, worse in some wways!

Anonymous said...

I hope brothers and sisters and Gene and Marsha will read this. The best thing the Tribes leadership could do right now is just be honest about past mistakes and injustices that have happened in the Tribes. Instead of denying they ever happened. The one place they've never reached yet, is where you are a group that's willing to admit when you've failed as a group in various ways. That's true humility which has been lacking for years.

Anonymous said...

I don't like it that they still circumcise male babies in their homes.

Anonymous said...

One of the last straws for me was being told that they are glad that Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. were shot dead. That it was good and righteous they were killed for causing black people to rise up from their God ordained place as slaves.

I would like to ask this, though, if Jesus died for people's sins, to take away the curses of God, then why do the Tribes want all the previous curses to remain? I should say, why does Eugene Spriggs want them to remain?

They also want every woman to go through all the pain of child birth. They have a Gospel of pain and suffering. Jesus' death for the whole world wasn't enough, and his death is only for them.

What troubles me the most is this: I have hundreds of solid reasons to never return to the community, but I miss it there everyday. And I almost go back.

What happened to me?

Anonymous said...


i've been staying with the TT on and off for 6 months on and off and going to the yellow deli for years . i am in upstate ny , recently ... 2 weeks ago today , someone i was secretly seeing in the community went back and told his family that he planned to leave the community and marry me . he's been missing since . all i've found out is that his father took him away telling him they had a job in vt. his father is a shepard . i'm in shock and concerned .not sure what to do . his cell phone he used for work was turned off that day . ive been in contact with his father on and off . he said he'll never allow his son to speak to me . i'm pregnant and he offered me to just go away and he'd pay me , i am shaking my head in disbelief at this point . if anyone has any ideas please contact me .
thank you ,

Anonymous said...

I worked like a dog all day and all evening except the Sabbath for no money. Then one day I woke up and realized this was not God's Holy Nation.

Flower said...

This blog is hardly worthy of a response but I have to set a few things straight.I live with The Ithaca tribe,I moved in 2 months ago and have known them for almost 5 months.They are such an amazing group of people,their only desires are to love others and each other as their master Yashua loved,and to serve Yashua.They raise their children to do the same.These allegations of being a cult and of child abuse is ridiculous and completely unfounded!! There is no pressure for me to join,they are not asking for my net worth they are just loving me unconditionally and sharing their life with me.

Flower said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Corem said...

My wife was called a witch, because she didn't want us to live in the Twelve Tribes. We did move in. My polyester clothes were burned in the woodstove without my permission. Her teddy bear was forbidden and also burned in the woodstove. You're not allowed any reading material except there own literature for the most part. I was told I could not be saved from Death and the Lake of Fire in any other church or any other place on earth. I was told that black people outside of the communities should still be slaves to white people. Yes, everything at the Tribes is "amazing" because they "are the only ones on earth doing Our Father's will" and everyone else will live just outside the Holy City/Heaven or be thrown alive into the Eternal Lake of Fire to be tortured by God forever. They claim to be nothing like Christianity, but most of their beliefs come from it and they use Christian Bibles. For every way their life is "amazing", I'll show you another way it is pretty terrible. And that's why most of their children leave, and most of the members eventually leave!

Corem said...

It all comes down to being used and abused in the name of God and love. All your freedoms are taken away in the name of love and God. They ask you to surrender everything. Your family, your relatives, your money and possessions, your mind, your aspirations, everything. And if you don't, you cannot be saved. I was told to take off my head and put it on a shelf. I was told that I learned to think in the world, so my thoughts were no longer valid. I need to take on the mind of the Tribes so I could be faithful and be saved. I defended the Tribes, and worked like a slave as a member. Of course they have their good points and good intentioned members. But the end conclusion for most is a broken life of pain and suffering, supposedly for God and oneanother. In good conscience, all I can do is warn people about this place.

Anonymous said...

Concerning the girl who is pregnant, they have again proven how rotten and hypocritical they are. If they followed their God's laws, they would want the girl and the young man to be married, versus offering to pay her to go away. They may represent their religion, but they sure don't represent a loving God. My wife has had one of the greatest revelations of all, "You don't have to join anything." As human beings we are already children of God and belong to the way. It's called humanity on earth, learning to live and love. I can only imagine what Jesus would call the Twelve Tribes if he were alive today. He might start out saying, "You whitewashed tomb, you who travel the earth to win a single sheep..."

Cris said...

BEARDS WITH MUSTACHE are required for all males who can grow them.

BICYCLES are usually not allowed. In some communities they are allowed for the adults only for transportation, not recreation.

BIRTHDAYS are not celebrated. More recently some children have been instructed to bake a cake for their mother. The cake is not for the child. Birthday parties are not allowed. The child’s age is recognized, but “glory is not to be heaped upon a child.”

CHILDBIRTH usually occurs within the community, and giving birth in a hospital is often considered “lacking faith”. Midwives and other sisters assist in delivery and love the new mother.

CHILDBIRTH PAIN is not to be lessened in any way. It is considered good to bond mother and child, and as the consequence of Eve bringing God’s curse on humanity by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It is believed that if pregnant women avoid pain, they will not really love their children.

CHILDREN’S TOYS are mostly not allowed, including all dolls and stuffed animals. More recently lego’s have been allowed for some of the children. Board games such as Scrabble are allowed.

CHRISTIANITY & ALL OTHER RELIGIONS are condemned as demonic and Satanic.

CHRISTIAN SONGS are still being sung, even though Christianity is condemned.

CHRISTMAS is not celebrated and Christmas gifts are not allowed.

CIRCUMCISION is mandatory for all male babies, and teens and men who haven’t been circumcised.

CLOTHING REQUIRED FOR FEMALES are dresses or baggy bloomer pants. Women wear headscarves to the daily gatherings and some events. Prior to approx. 1993, women wore the headscarves most of the time. Now, most of the time, they do not. The headscarves are a symbol of “women being covered” by men and “submission” to men and their husbands.

CRITICISM of any kind against the Tribes, and especially against founders Elbert Eugene “Gene” (Yoneq) Spriggs or his 4th wife, Marsha Ann Duvall (Ha’emeq) Spriggs is not allowed. If you “oppose the anointing, God may cause you to become ill, experience an accident, or die.” “You need to cling to the anointing.” All negative reporting is considered “malicious lies and slander.” “Those who spread lies and slander will go to the eternal lake of Fire.”

DEPENDENCY upon the group for everything is considered “normal” and healthy. “We make it so people can’t survive and stand on their own two feet in the world.”

HEALTH INSURANCE doesn’t exist, and is sometimes spoken against.

MEDICAL CARE is a last resort. Doctors, hospitals, and medications are usually avoided.

Naba said...

If only the life was a good as it looks in the pictures. The Twelve Tribes is full of loving men, women and children who have given up everything to live for God. The problem is they were manipulated into denouncing their former faith and following a man who demands loyalty without question. In fact, Yoneq (Gene Spriggs) suggests they not think (reason) for themselves at all because he and elders will do it for them. Elbert Eugene Spriggs has built a multi-million dollar industry on the backs of these people who gladly work 80-90 hours per week for no pay.

James Bilbao said...

That's your side of the story , I'd like to hear their's . You TT haters often exagerate , even fabricate events out of resentment .

You didnt like living with them anymore , for whatever reason , maybe you found their religious lifestyle to restrictive or had a problem with someone and left . People should visit the TT , meet them , get to know them , then make your decision as to whether their lifestyle is for you .

Don't base your decision on someone elses bitter grapes .

Anonymous said...

Just because children are home schooled, does not mean they do not go to school, you do have that one wrong. Balloon sticks with cushion grip handles sound familiar to anyone? Hows about being forced to work 12 to 16 hours a day to come home to nothing but a plate of Pasta because Yoneq needs a new fishing boat and there is not enough money left to feed the help properly. But hey, those turkey cheddar melts kick ass .

Freaking Friend said...

I lived with the 12 tribes for a long time and they are wonderful loving people and all the stuff people are posting bad about the is false the people posting these things are the same people who commit hate crime and bully everyone who doesnt live there way.

neheshtun said...

these are my People and I live to serve with them when you accuse them you accuse me and I will help Judge if necessary

Kiwi said...

These are peaceful, creative people with a sense of humour, a good work ethic, happy, healthy children and a commitment to living together cooperatively. Perhaps some communities have suffered from a few bad apples coming in, but I haven't met any of them.

esagewa said...

I have lived voluntarily on a 12 Tribes farm for 2 1/2 months doing some farm work for them. Never ONCE do I personally believe they intentionally injure or harm their children. when I see a 4 yr old in that community, they are learning to chop food and do math. when I see a 4 yr old in every day life, I see them learning to shoot zombies and harm others. These children's lives are so enriched by love, while our families are separating. I would not personally join them however.

Aloysius Horn said...

I am really curious. Why the sudden rash of comments (both pro and anti-TT) that are suddenly flooding into this blog? How did all of you simultaneously come to start posting comments after all this time? Was this blog advertised somewhere? Do you keep track of these comments via an RSS reader? Please fill me in!

David Allen said...

Exploiting your fellow man, child abuse, mass manipulation, cult programming and manipluation, racist hidden doctorines. If only you knew how bad a deal the kids caught up in this cult are getting. These people work like slaves while Eugene, if he's still alive gets ALL the money!
These people get little sleep. And believe me the food there served is a far cry from the scrumptious meals they serve up in there country kitchen restraunts.
It's very very sad. I pray that if you are a true believer you take it into your heart. To pray that these people get released from bondage.

Jonas said...

Big lies David Allen! I can tell you from firsthand experience that Yoneq does not get all the money. He gets a very tiny fraction of it for necessary food, clothes, travel, and needed medical care.
Most of the money goes to paying everyone's bills, for clothing, food, and medical expenses.
You make the life there sound like some kind of hell. You paint a very misleading and false picture of things in a few words. Do a reality check and visit there sometime. I lived there over 7 months. They love all their children very much.

Ann Phelps said...

If you ever really met Yoneq or Ha'emeq you would know they don't live much different than anyone else. I didn't see any difference. All I can say is that they loved me, and some of the haters here on this blog are not any different than the rest of the world. Some people want to see a beautiful life like the community people are living together, and others want to destroy it. Oh, and about black people, they love and welcome black people. It's one of the reasons they were first rejected in Tenn.! Every ethic group has their own problems. Go to a black neighborhood and find out. Live with poor white people and find out. The Tribe people love all the ethic groups. Don't be Tribe-phobic and Tribe-bashers unless you've met them and gotten to know them.

KiwiGirl said...

I spent 3 months living at their farm, working in their cafe, helping out with chores and kids. They spent hours listening to me, talking to me, and helping me whenever I needed them. They taught me (through their ACTIONS, not their doctrine) what it means to be loved, and what's important in life. And when I decided to leave, they made me a pancake breakfast and drove me to my grandmother's house, where we parted on good terms.

I would call this a "Heart Reform" group.

KiwiGirl said...

Also: while I chose to leave, these people changed me.

A preacher can talk about love, but what if you really needed some? Would they take you home, feed you, clothe you, help you to become a more loving person? Would they have a limit after which you were on your own again?

I called these people at 7:00 on their Sabbath morning, and without question they immediately drove three hours out of their way to pick me up and bring me to their home, where they gave me food, clothing, a bed....

Anonymous said...

17+ hour work days while standing most of the time.

All believe and do what the founder Gene Spriggs has taught.

All of Christianity and the Christian Jesus is condemned as

demonic, and the satanic scarlet whore of the Bible book of Revelation.

Birthdays, Christmas and other holidays are not celebrated.

Children are frequently hit with balloon sticks by any adult

member for any form of disobedience or “foolishness.”

Childrens toys, dolls, and stuffed animals are not allowed.

Claim Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. deserved to die.

Claim black people should still be slaves to whites unless they join.

Claim to be the only people forgiven and being saved by God.

Claim to be the only people who have the Holy Spirit.

Claim to be the only people who will bring Jesus back to earth by

eventually birthing 144,000 celibate male evangelists and being

perfectly obedient to God for 49 years.

Claim to be the only place on earth where anyone can be saved by God.

Founder Elbert Eugene Spriggs “Yoneq” is unquestioned Prophet Pope.

Home births and home circumcisions are required.

Childbirth pain is God’s will and is not to be lessened in any way.

Males must wear fur-face beards, short ponytails, and untucked shirts.

Medical and dental neglect is common with no health insurance.

Medications of any kind are generally not allowed.

Non-Tribes reading material of any kind is not allowed.

Shaving any part of the male of female body is not allowed.

Telephone calls to non-member family and friends is by permission.

Television, radio, personal music devices and internet aren’t allowed.

Women are not allowed in any leadership positions.

You can leave, but you’re damned to Death for 1000+ years or eternal Hell.

You’re rarely be able to visit friends and family “in the world.”

Your whole life is scrutinized and completely controlled everyday.

“It is through many trials and tribulations that we enter the kingdom.”

“You just need to die, and give up your rotten sticking life in the world.”

“Where did you learn to think anyway? In the world?”

“You just need to die and take off your head (personal reasoning),

and take on the mind of the Body (Twelve Tribes).

“You just need to die, and receive your brothers and let them handle you.”
(If the Twelve Tribes is not a cult, then what is a cult?)

mammie said...

There is a very strong and baffling spiritual presence within this group by which many have been deceived into thinking that it's from God, but it is not. There is a great wresting of scripture that takes things out of context causing the followers to believe teachings which are disproven in other areas of the Bible. This is a dangerous sect of deceived people being led by a man that believes that he is the Elijah prophet.

Tim said...

You'll really have no idea of what life is really like in the Tribes, unless you join - "enter the covenant" and live there for a year as a member. There is much talk of love and unity, but when it gets right down to it, it's about uniformity. "We do it this way..." "We dress this way." "We raise our children this way." "We eat these foods." It's always about "we" because "me" "has died in the waters of baptism." The "me" has gone from being free to bondage or death. Death in a covering called love and unity. But the real name is uniformity. "You are to come when you are called and go when you are sent." "You are no longer your own, you have been bought with a price." (And, you shall work for free!)

Anonymous said...

Where's Yoneq when you need him? Trying on another pair of expensive hiking boots while some of the "sheep" are wearing plastic flip-flops?

john said...

very little sleep when i lived there. they are trying to fulfill one man's interpretation of the end times. if they only knew how messed up the book of revelation in the bible is to begin with. the anti-christ etc. was simply the roman empire of the time. and the book had several unknown authors. unknown authorship is a common problem in the bible in general.

Johnny L. said...

A few days ago, I went to see Bob Dylan play in Charleston, South Carolina. As I was leaving the show, I walked by a trio of hippie-ish young guys who were enthusiastically passing out newsletters to people as they left the venue. One of them thrust some paper into my hand, so I stuck it in my bag and quickly forgot about it.

It wasn't until the next day that I realized I'd been given 23 pages of religious craziness written to/about Bob Dylan by some cult called Twelve Tribes who were trying to recruit Bob and his fans.

I'm writing about it now, a week later, because as much as I wanted to read through it and make fun of it right there and then, it was so poorly written and flat-out insane that it took me three days to make it all the way through.

Johnny L. said...

It seems that the cult's obsession with Bob stems from a rambling, 1985 interview he did with SPIN, which was so fucking crazy I assumed they must have made it up themselves. But I looked into it, and it turns out it's legit. Here's some weird stuff he said about "the messianic thing":

"The messianic thing has to do with the world of mankind, like it is. This world is scheduled to go for 7,000 years. Six thousand years of this, where man has his way, and 1,000 years when God has his way. Just like a week. Six days work, one day rest. The last thousand years is called the Messianic Age. Messiah will rule. He is, was, and will be about God—doing God's business. Drought, famine, war, murder, theft, earthquake, and all other evil things will be no more. No more disease. That's all of this world."

He then went on to say some confusing stuff about Jews:
"There will be a run on godliness, just like now there's a run on refrigerators, headphones, and fishing gear. It's going to be a matter of survival. People are going to be running to find out about God, and who are they going to run to? They're gonna run to the Jews, 'cause the Jews wrote the book, and you know what? The Jews ain't gonna know. They're too busy in the fur business and in the pawn shops and in sending their kids to some atheist school. They're too busy doing all that stuff to know."

Johnny L. said...

Jeeeeez, Bob. I didn't know you was like that.
The Twelve Tribes address Bob directly in a section appropriately titled "To Bob Dylan," in which they kiss his ass pretty heavily. Here's the (totally not creepy) intro:

"Your songs from the early years were anthems for generations to come. They are prophetic in so many ways at many different levels. They touch the complex and deep longing of the soul for a real answer... your lyrics bring the ills of society and the pain and suffering of our individual lives to the surface."

That's ordinary, teenager-who-just-started-listening-to-Dylan stuff, but then they move into a section where they take a ton of his greatest hits and make completely unfounded, nonsensical speculations as to their lyrical meanings.

For example, did you know that "Blowin' in the Wind" was about Dylan recognizing "that if hope for a better life in a better world dies in the human heart, evil will reign forever over the human race"? Or that "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" lets us know that "a day of reckoning is coming for all the injustice and cruelty and selfishness that fills humanity"? Or that Bob wrote "I Shall Be Released" because he knew there must be "a real King who could lead us into a real kingdom"? Me either.

Johnny L. said...

Then they give up on Dylan for a while and ask, "What would God's house be like if he lived on my street?" Answer: It would be big and nice (but not like, new nice) and he would invite everyone over to hang out. Even "the lame boy with the funny legs." Cool.

And then, for the next few thousand sentences, it just says... stuff. I have no idea. Here are some select quotes, maybe you can work out what they mean:

"The Messiah's words, 'no man can work,' rang true in Bob Dylan's mind. These remarkable words caused him to wonder. It is so significant that he wondered because his wondering helps others wonder. There is a shortage of wonder in the world today. But one thing you never have to wonder about is where what you heard came from."

"It's only in the darkness that someone could show up at a building to listen to one man ramble on, week after week, and think that matches up to Paul's instructions to the churches... For 1900 years, the institution called Christianity, which supposedly has something to do with God (but nothing to do with true love), has held center stage. Maybe that's why Bob didn't stick with Jesus for very long."

And: "A people is being gathered.... The prophetic voice of a new millennium is faintly heard.... No longer separated... no longer alienated.... Living together in tribes… a commonwealth is being formed. This new commonwealth is not like the 'British Commonwealth' or the 'Commonwealth of Massachusetts.' This one is really a 'common wealth.' It goes by a whole new set of rules! It is a place where we have all things in common, and our highest law is LOVE."

Johnny L. said...

I've read through this stuff like, 30 times now and have no idea what they're talking about.

The pamphlet ends with some letters the cult members have written to Bob. Like this lady, Rose. Here's Rose being crazy about her relationship with her husband and Bob:

"The deep passion of our romance was radiated through every word Dylan uttered. It says in scripture that a cord of three strands is not easily broken. He was our third strand.... We couldn't go on without him. We needed him. What was life anymore without him!... When I first met Messiah, I prayed for Dylan every day. I had such a deep kinship to him in my heart. When I heard that he got 'saved' I was ecstatic. But I know that we were so far removed from being Christians.... I knew that if Dylan could just come and see this life, he'd fall in love as I had. I'm still waiting for this to happen."

This is pretty much the only reference in the whole thing that Bob Dylan doesn't share their religious views. She goes on to say more batshit things, like a story about the time she drove over 500 miles to give Bob a letter but showed up too late and missed him (whoops!). Luckily she printed the letter here so he could see it:

"If someone took the time to write a letter straight from her heart to yours... would you take the time to read it? And if that same person traveled 500 miles that very day, to stand face to face with you, eye to eye, to express something to you from the depths of her heart.... Hey Bobby (that's awfully informal) there's this lady outside who wants to tell you something. She said something about a place to belong, to be... long."

Not sure I would've driven 500 miles to deliver that...

Then, convinced that they've made a compelling argument, they ask if you would consider joining them, claiming it's what Bob Dylan would want you to do:

"You can come for a day or to stay. This is the answer that Dylan could only see dimly. This is what he wanted. Please come."

After reading this ENTIRE FUCKING NOVEL, I still had no real clue as to what these guys believe. So I ended up consulting their website and trying to work it out. After getting sucked into a another vortex of bullshit for several hours, I think I've figured it out: They're essentially Christians who take the Bible literally, live in communes, and do stuff like whatever-is-happening-in-the-picture-above. And, oh yeah, they're pretty open about being racist, antisemitic, sexist, and homophobic.

To conclude: I really regret reading this thing. Why did I read this thing? I think I wanna punch Bob Dylan in the face now.

Cassey said...

Just recently (Tribes still lying about child abuse, this time in Germany. I lived in the Tribes and yes they do believe in child abuse, hitting babies and children until "blue wounds." Yes it is true. But they will lie and say anything to protect the cult.) At least Germany has enough sense to really investigate. It took me years to function again fairly normally in mainstream society. The Tribes took everything away from me, almost my mind).

Forty children have been taken from a Christian sect in Bavaria, southern Germany, following police raids at a monastery and a farm after accusations of child abuse.

The children, aged between seven months and 17 years old, are members of the Twelve Tribes sect, which has its roots in the US. They have been placed with foster families while the group is being investigated.

The group, whose teachings are based on the Old and New Testament, is known to believe in corporal punishment. It had been under observation by authorities for some time, particularly for its refusal to send its children to school.

Teaching licences were recently withdrawn from the sect's own school near the town of Deiningen, near Augsburg, with inspectors declaring its teachers unfit.

The sect's two complexes were sealed off on Friday as officials explained that Thursday's dawn raids, carried out over three and a half hours by 100 police officers, were prompted by "fresh evidence indicating significant and ongoing child abuse by the members".

Police said they were looking to press charges against the parents and the sect's chief, 54-year-old Detlef Markell, who has professed his innocence.

By their own admission, parents of the Twelve Tribes, which has around 100 members in two locations in Bavaria where it has had a base for 15 years, are instructed to beat their children "with a small reed-like rod which only inflicts pain and no damage".

On its website, the group declares itself to be an "open and transparent community that does not tolerate any form of child abuse. Our children grow up in a loving environment and are educated in the spirit of charity."

But Helmut Beyschlag, head of Noldingen district court, said: "We suspect that parents were exercising abuse."

According to initial reports, the disciplinary rods used were soaked in oil to make them more pliable during a beating, when children were allegedly struck on their bare feet, arms and backs, inside the former Cistercian monastery.

Eyewitnesses to the police raids said no resistance was shown, and that as the children were removed they showed no emotion towards their parents.

The Twelve Tribes lives a self-sufficient existence, producing its own food and electricity. As well as resisting the state education of its children, it also rejects sex education and the women (known as "sisters") of the sect are subservient to the men (known as "brothers"). The members believe themselves to be descended from early Christians.

Following a magazine investigation last year in which the abuse allegations were raised, the sect strongly denied allegations of abuse, declaring: "We are an open and transparent community which does not tolerate any form of child abuse."

Cassey said...

In Germany's Twelve Tribes sect, cameras catch ‘cold and systematic’ child-beating
A documentary revealed the torture inflicted by a religious community on its young
The little blond-haired boy is about four years old. He simpers as a middle aged woman drags him downstairs into a dimly-lit cellar and orders the child to bend over and touch the stone floor with his hands. Another little boy watches as the woman pulls down the first boy’s pants and then draws out a willow cane.
“Say you are tired!” commands the woman in an emotionless voice. The swoosh of the willow cane is audible as it strikes the screaming child’s bottom three times. The little boy refuses to say he is tired so he is hit again and again – a total of ten times – until, in floods of tears, he finally says “I am tired.”
Within the space of a few hours, six adults are filmed in the cellar and in an underground school central heating room beating six children with a total of 83 strokes of the cane. The graphic and disturbing scenes were shown on Germany’s RTL television channel last night.
They were filmed by Wolfram Kuhnigk, an RTL journalist equipped with hidden video cameras and microphones, who infiltrated a 100-strong religious community run by the fundamentalist “Twelve Tribes” sect in Bavaria earlier this year. Kuhnigk claimed to be a lost soul to gain entry. “Seeing this systematic beatings made me want to weep, it made me think of my own two children,” he said. He collected 50 beating scenes on camera.

Cassey said...

In Germany's Twelve Tribes sect, cameras catch ‘cold and systematic’ child-beating
A documentary revealed the torture inflicted by a religious community on its young
The little blond-haired boy is about four years old. He simpers as a middle aged woman drags him downstairs into a dimly-lit cellar and orders the child to bend over and touch the stone floor with his hands. Another little boy watches as the woman pulls down the first boy’s pants and then draws out a willow cane.
“Say you are tired!” commands the woman in an emotionless voice. The swoosh of the willow cane is audible as it strikes the screaming child’s bottom three times. The little boy refuses to say he is tired so he is hit again and again – a total of ten times – until, in floods of tears, he finally says “I am tired.”

Cassey said...

The Twelve Tribes frequently claims it is the victim of systematic persecution by the authorities. Similar allegations at a Vermont community prompted the police to seize 112 children in a raid in 1984. However, no charges were brought and the children were released.
Kuhnigk’s film ends with the police raid on the Bavarian Twelve Tribes community and the attempts by two elderly and bearded male sect members to counter the allegations that they beat children. “We do not abuse our children,” insisted one repeatedly. He appeared unwilling to respond directly to the allegations of child beating. Bavarian state prosecutors said they were continuing their investigation into the sect’s activities.

Rakam said...

My experience living with them is that on the one hand, they are generally kind and loving people, but on the other hand, they are very strict, bordering on abusive (in the name of God and love) with the children (even the babies!, and they will definitely lie and distort the facts and truth to protect the image of the Tribes. They will do anything, including lie in court under oath, to protect their sect.

Rakam said...

My name is also Rakam, is that really your name also? If not, you shouldn't use it, especially if that name was given to you in the Edah and you left. Why don't you spend your time doing something nice for others instead of attacking our life?

Scott said...

German Police Raid Christian Sect For Alleged Child Abuse: (FROM NPR)
By Scott Neuman

Two communities affiliated with a U.S.-founded Christian sect have been raided by German police, who removed 40 children after allegations of abuse.

Officials say they acted after receiving evidence of ongoing child abuse at the two communities in Bavaria belonging to the Twelve Tribes, according to .

, more than 100 officers were part of the operation to remove the children, who were placed in temporary foster homes.

The BBC writes:

"The US-founded sect says it believes in spanking children if disobedient.

"But it said a 'small reed-like rod' was used intended only to inflict 'pain and not damage' and was not abusive.

" 'Desiring to be good parents, we do not hit our children in anger, nor with our hand or fist,' .

" 'We know that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial, but we have seen from experience that discipline keeps a child from becoming mean-spirited and disrespectful of authority.' "

An article in the from last year features a Tennessee branch of the Twelve Tribes and describes members living communally: "We live together and share everything we own," one of the adherents of the community in Pulaski, Tenn., told the website.

The group, on its website, :

"We love working with each other on our farms and in our cottage industries, doing folk dances and playing music, building, teaching our children at home, and caring for one another. Our desire is to live as naturally as possible by being close to Creation and to people. Our vision: not a lifestyle, but the forming of a new nation – the twelve tribe nation of Israel. We want to be restored back to what we were created to be."

In the 1970s and '80s, the Twelve Tribes was labeled a "cult" by other Christian denominations. The sect now reportedly owns a deli in Island Pond, Vt., and a tall ship named the Peacemaker, which it uses to promote ecological causes.

, coincidentally published just Wednesday, writer John Clarke says about 20 members of the "Amish-style hippie group" traveling in a bus called the Peacemaker have, Deadhead-style, been trailing iconic musician Bob Dylan's latest tour:

"Critics contend that the Twelve Tribes is a cult that actively recruits at concert venues by preying on the heavily inebriated and highly vulnerable — basically, stoned kids. Dylan concerts appear to be the group's latest hunting grounds."

[An earlier version of this post included a photo of a sailing vessel that was misidentified as the tall ship the Peacemaker that belongs to the Twelve Tribes sect]

Cassey said...

In 2000 in Connecticut a couple belonging to the group pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and cruelty for disciplining their children with a 30-inch (76-centimeter) fiberglass rod. All parents i've know in the Tribes love their children, but the Teachings and child-discipline is very very strict, i'd say severe and because of the frequency of it for trivial matters and because "blue wounds show you love your child" it's abusive. Yoneq could wake up tomorrow morning and change this, and all the members would have "to take on the mind of the Anointing." But it's not likely to happen.

I guess all this makes me appreciate non-religious people and science, because the whole world of religion can become as dark and murky at times as organized crime. It's sad. Some people are looking for genuine love, and friendships, and to know God, and sometimes religious groups take advantage of this. When I lived as a member in the Tribes, I had to go along with everything. Everything. Whatever was decided, that's what you believe, that's what you think, that's what you tell others is the truth, whether you really believe it or not. Personally, I don't think it's right to worship Jesus/Yahshua, but of course they do that and bow down to bread and wine weekly. If they'd lighten up even a little on the child punishments and get even an extra hour or two sleep each night, it would be a far more healthy lifestyle, but they still would be taught they are the only ones pleasing to God.

I still have love in my heart for the Twelve Tribes. It was better when we simply called ourselves the Communities. It definitely became more cultic with the Twelve Tribes label and branding. A big mistake. They will not "bring about the end of this wicked age." Humans have been here for a very long time, and are likely to remain here a very long time, regardless when Jesus returns. The Tribes won't bring him back, no matter how harshly they discipline their children to try to produce 144,000 male celibate evangelists ("the Male Child"). The Tribes worldwide membership is about 4000 and half the children leave when they get old enough. It could take as many as 300,000 adult members to get enough male children to fulfill Yoneq's prophecy. Will take a very long time before "The Race" begins to be a perfectly obedient People for 49 years and have Jesus return on year 50. I surmise by then, the Teachings will change, when Jesus doesn't return when they think he should. The Teachings will change to protect the image of the group. Because the group image is far more important than any individual member or individual health and happiness. I wish it could be the life of love they talk about. But as one brother recently told me, "We're not really here to make the world a better place."

Aaron said...

After talking extensively with them, I realized they mandated that all who would follow God live their same lifestyle. The legalism with which they mandated this lifestyle contradicts Scripture. They take descriptions from Acts, a historical book, and turn them into commands from God. They take a historical expression of the faith and turn it into a trans historical command. They do not merely say that the early church is an example we can learn from, but rather a paradigm we must emulate.

Furthermore, their understanding of how the early church lived is also flawed. There is no indication from Scripture that all believers lived in the same house or farm, did not have regular jobs, were separate from society, and ate with chopsticks. Rather Acts indicates that these believers had regular jobs, lived in separate houses, yet still lived their counter cultural lifestyle. The early church is a group of people that simultaneously engaged and confronted the culture while also living counter-cultural lives.

In addition to their legalism described above, they also hold unscriptural beliefs such as their belief in the three eternal destinies of man, their belief that they are the tribes of Israel, and their belief that all believers must call Jesus by his Hebrew name. They take obscure beliefs and make them the main thing. Furthermore, they do not think that Christians are truly following Jesus, instead seeing Christians as “the bloody whore of Babylon” in Revelation.

Their explicit beliefs put them on the fringes of orthodox Christianity, but the culture of the communities put them in the frontier of a cult. From just spending two days with them, I could already feel the culture of control that they create. They want everyone to do everything together and they want to know where you are at all times (it was quite a process to get them to let us go to a café so we could use the internet!). From reading testimonies of ex-members, my suspicions were confirmed. They create an environment where you do not think for yourself but the community thinks for you.

Though the website makes the group seem like a harmless religious group, this is not true. This group distorts the teachings of Scripture and enforces it in a controlling environment in which people cannot think for themselves. I would encourage you to stay clear of this group and steer anyone away who is being enticed by their teachings.

Aaron said...

If you want to follow Christ on a commune, go for it! Yet it is imperative that you do not lay that lifestyle on everyone else. The Twelve Tribes are right in saying that many Christians are not “giving up everything” to follow Jesus as they should, but they are gravely wrong in creating a narrow interpretation of how to follow Jesus and rigidly laying it on others while ignoring countless commands and passages from Scripture. As we are seeking to live “radical” lives for Jesus, may we learn from this extreme example and not create a legalism out of one type of “radical” living.

Andy said...

Spanking sect: German police seize 40 children over 'suspicion of abuse'
By Andy Eckhart and Henry Austin, NBC News

Allegations of beatings and abuse prompted police in Germany to raid a U.S.-linked religious group and place around 40 children into protective custody, authorities said Friday.

Around 100 officers stormed two locations associated with the “Twelve Tribes” sect in the towns of Klosterzimmern and Woernitz, around 150 miles west of Munich, as investigators looked into whether the children were being beaten and physically punished.

“We have started a preliminary investigation after sticks and rods were found, which could be evidence for offenses such as dangerous bodily harm and the abuse of [children],” district attorney Christian Engelsberger told NBC News on Friday.
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He added that “rooms were found that add to the suspicion of abuse.”

In a statement on its German website, the “Twelve Tribes” sect wrote that the children, aged between one-and-a-half and 17, were still asleep in bed when police launched the raids.

The older children were placed in public foster homes and the younger ones with foster parents, Gabriele Hoidn, a spokesperson for the district office in Donau-Ries, told German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine.

"Where is the legal basis here?" the statement from the group said. "People cannot be found guilty based on their association with a religious faith ... there was no direct evidence against any individual provided."

However, in an earlier posting the U.S.-founded sect said its members do believe in spanking their children, according to the Associated Press.

“We love our children and consider them precious and wonderful,” the AP reported them saying. “Because we love them we spank them. When they are disobedient or intentionally hurtful to others we spank them with a small reed-like rod, which only inflicts pain and not damage."

However, the group, which claims to have 3,000 members across the globe, admitted it knew, “that some people consider this aspect of our life controversial.”

The sect, founded by a Tennessee high school teacher in the 1970s, has previously come under investigation in Germany for violating laws on homeschooling of children.

In Connecticut, a couple belonging to the group also pleaded guilty to assault after disciplining their children with a 30 inch fiberglass rod, in 2000.

However. in 1984 Vermont a judge returned 112 children from the group to their parents after ruling that a raid on the group was illegal.

German broadcaster RTL said Friday's raids were launched after one of its investigative reporters handed secretly-recorded evidence to police.

Cassey said...

Several teenagers told us that children used to be locked in closets, boxes, and basements as punishments, so they "could experience Death". The Tribes deny all of this.

Anonymous said...

17+ WORK DAYS for most members on their feet most of the time, working for free.

144,000 MALE VIRGIN EVANGELISTS (“THE MALE CHILD”) need to be born and raised up and sent out, in order for Yahshua (Jesus) to return to Earth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN is called an evil man who deserved to die.


AIR-CONDITIONING is not allowed, except in the public area of the Cafe’s and restaurants.

AMBULANCE is not to be called without permission.

AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (AMA) is often denounced and condemned as evil.

ANIMALS are not to receive affection, such as being petted or talked to.

APOSTLE & SHEPHERDS rule your life. “You just need to receive your brothers.”

APOSTLE ELBERT EUGENE SPRIGGS “Yoneq” is the Anointing, Prophet, and Elijah.
He and 4th wife Marsha Ann Duvall Spriggs “Ha’emeq” lead the Twelve Tribes communities.
All members must “Cling to the Anointing (Spriggs)” and obey his Teachings.
Spriggs’ adult son has visited, but never joined, and says “my dad is leader of a cult.”

If you "oppose the Anointing" (Spriggs, his Elders or Teachings), “God may cause you to become ill, experience an accident or die." Mary Wiseman, who died of cancer, told another sister, "You don't know Yoneq (Spriggs), he can have real anger." Following her death, the Elders remarked, "Our Father removed Mary from His Body (the Tribes), because she opposed the Anointing (Spriggs).”

“APOSTOLIC” means you need to obey, because “It’s Apostolic” from Spriggs who said,

ARROGANT ELITE RELIGIOUS MENTALITY is common with some members.

AUTO INSURANCE POLICY applications are lied on, not listing all the drivers.


BAPTISM is required to be saved by God, and must be outside, even in Winter ice water.

BASKETBALL is usually not allowed.

BEARDS must be worn by all men who can grow them.

BELIEFS are a mix of Old Testament Laws, Christian Gospel, and Spriggs’ Teachings.

Anonymous said...

BIBLE, they say, has been written for only for them, and only they can understand it.
"In order to understand the Scriptures one must connect himself to the Vine (the Tribes).
"The Bible is written to confound the wise and meant to be misunderstood, unless you are under the Anointing (Spriggs)." (Stone IV 6/18/89)

BICYCLES are to be mainly used for necessary adult transportation and not play.

BIRTHDAYS are not celebrated.


BLACK PEOPLE need to be slaves to white people, unless they join the Tribes.

BOWEL MOVEMENTS are to be produced by standing on small wooden stools.

BOWEL MOVEMENTS must be buried outside, because God might step in it.

CAFE’S & RESTAURANTS are established as “Courts of the Gentiles” to recruit “sheep”.

CANCER PATIENTS can’t receive professional treatments, since there's’ no health insurance.

CENSORSHIP of various kinds is practiced.

CHALLENGING AUTHORITY is punished by shunning and banishment.

CHESS is usually not allowed and is considered “a waste of time.”

CHILD ABUSE has occurred, but is routinely denied.
Several teens reported being locked in closets, boxes, and basements “to experience Death.”
"If our children can't learn obedience, Yahshua (Jesus) will not return." (Spriggs)

CHILD EDUCATION only reaches approximately the 8th grade level.
GED’s or High School Diplomas are not obtained.


CHILD MEDICAL ATTENTION is avoided so doctors will not see child punishment marks.

CHILD PLAY is to be “covered: by an adult. They are not allowed to go outside and play by themselves.

CHILD PUNISHABLE BEHAVIOR includes any type of bad attitude, being too loud, participating in “underground” anti-Tribes talk, foolishness, having too much fun, imaginary play such as imitating trucks or airplanes, making silly faces, not eating all your food, playing house, playing pretend, running around the house, or the slightest disobedience, or negative facial expressions.

Anonymous said...

CHILD PUNISHMENT is frequent and painful for even the slightest attitude or foolishness.
Corporal punishment may be applied by any adult member with love.
“The blueness of the wound drives away all evil.””
(October 1980 Child Training -Notes from Teachers Meeting - Page 5)
“Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a
standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about
his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.”
(No date – Execution of Justice – Page 1)

CHILD SEX ABUSE has occurred, but is usually denied. Child predators sometimes join.
One single brother repeatedly exposed himself to the small children in our bathroom, and after the second offense, was asked to leave the Tribes. Worse incidents have happened.

CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS are usually not paid. “The children should come here to live.”

CHILD TOYS including dolls, stuffed animals, little cars, and tricycles are not allowed.

CHILD VISITATION (Visiting Your Children “In The World”) is by permission.

CHILDBIRTH AT HOME is required, unless the sister lacks faith in God.

CHILDBIRTH PAIN is viewed as God’s will, and is not to be lessened in any way.

CHILDREN are very much loved and encouraged by their parents and most other adults.

CHILDREN’S HOME TEACHERS are often under-educated and professionally uncertified.

CHRISTIAN SONGS, surprisingly, are still sung in the Twelve Tribes.

CHRISTIANITY is condemned as "the bloody Whore” of the Revelation Bible book. “Her ministers are liars, thieves, and draw glory to themselves while destroying the sheep."
If Christianity was your religion, it usually must be renounced at your Tribes baptism.

CHRISTMAS & CHRISTMAS GIFTS are not allowed and are judged as “pagan.”

CLEAN SHAVEN MEN are viewed as “emasculated” and “Roman.”

COFFEE is not allowed. Members are required to drink Mate’, whether they like it or not.

CIRCUMCISIONS AT HOME are required for all male babies, and uncircumcised men “who should desire circumcision." One uncircumcised teenage man tried to do it on himself, because he didn’t want someone else to do it to him.

COLD SHOWER RINSES are required for everyone before finishing each shower, as a reminder of the cold response they may get when they share the Gospel with others.

COLLEGE EDUCATION is called “stupid,” “for lazy people who are unwilling to work hard.”

Anonymous said...

COMPUTER USE is by permission.

COSMETICS & MAKEUP are not allowed.

COMMUNAL LIVING is required in order to be able to go the the Holy City of Heaven.

COMMUNALISM - COMMUNISM makes most members dirt poor and dependent.

CRITICISM OF SPRIGGS OR THE TRIBES is called “untrue, malicious lies, and slander.”

DAILY GATHERINGS are meaningful times of sharing, music, folk dance, Bible, and prayer.

DENTAL DECAY is common due to calcium deficiency and a ban on fluoride toothpaste.

DIFFERENCES are usually worked out between members, and mediation is available.

DIRTY DISHES that need to be washed are unending. “Disciples do dishes.”

“DISCIPLES, JUST LIKE WHEAT BERRIES” “need to be broken down and ground up,
to be made into the finest flour, to be baked together into the most delicious Loaf (Nation).”

DISHWASHING MACHINES are discouraged for use in the homes. “Disciples do dishes.”

DISOBEDIENT MEMBERS are “cut-off” and shunned, until they repent and are restored.

DOCTOR CHECK-UP’S are not usually allowed for babies, children, or adults.

DOGS are viewed as especially “unclean” animals that will not be allowed into the Holy City.

DOUBLE-STANDARDS exist between Shepherds and the Sheep.


DRESSES OR BAGGY “SUS” PANTS are required for women and girls.

DURING WIVES MONTHLY PERIODS, husbands must sleep on the floor at night.

DYING TO YOURSELF is commanded. “You just need to die, and give up your rotten life.”

ESTEE LAUDER COMPANY found that Tribes’ child labor was manufacturing their products.

EASTER is not allowed, and is regularly denounced and made fun of.

EATING FAST IS A SIN. “No one who eats fast- even when you are alone – will enter the kingdom… If we eat hurriedly it means we don’t know God or our brothers and sisters.”

EATING FOOD WHILE STANDING UP means “you hate your brothers and sisters.”

Anonymous said...

EATING FOR PLEASURE “is greed.” “Eating when you don’t need to is an act of the flesh.”

ELECTRIC GUITARS are not allowed, but electric mandolins are now allowed.

ENTERING A CHURCH is not allowed, except for evangelism, “because evil spirits are near.”

EVANGELISM (Recruiting) is required, whenever you’re called upon to do so.

EVENING GATHERINGS are being missed by more members now than ever before, due to members required to remain working at the Cafe’s and restaurants all evening.

EVERYTHING YOU SAY AND DO AND WHERE YOU GO is monitored at all times.

EX-MEMBERS are called “liars and slanderers.” “You just can’t believe anything they say.”

EXHAUSTION is common, due to long workdays, lack of sleep, and lack of work rest breaks.

EYEGLASSES must now have completely round shaped lenses, “since eyeballs are round.”

FACEBOOK, YOUTUBE, TWITTER, and MYSPACE use are not allowed on the Internet.

FAMILY & FRIENDS “IN THE WORLD” are to be “cut-off” “if they are enemies of the Edah.”
If they remain friendly, contact is maintained, with the hope that they will join the Tribes.

“FAMILY NIGHTS” are a couple’s evening to enjoy room service, and intimate time together.

FARM ANIMAL CARE can be greatly lacking, due to not enough money for veterinary care.


FIRE DEPARTMENT is not to be called without permission.

FOOD THAT IS SERVED TO YOU must be all eaten.

FOOTBALL is not allowed.

FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT is curtailed and by permission.
“When we are in the Body we have no independent action or movement. (AWM 6/12/88)

FREEDOM OF RELIGION does not exist. “We all believe the same.”

FREEDOM OF SPEECH is allowed, so long as you say only good things about the Tribes.

FUNERALS FOR FAMILY “IN THE WORLD” are by permission. Usually, not allowed.
I could attend my parents funerals, if I conducted the services from the Tribes point of view.

GAS TANK FUEL LEVELS always seem to be near empty on Tribes cars and trucks.

Anonymous said...

GIRLFRIEND OR BOYFRIEND relationships are not allowed.

GOD’S SALVATION “is a free gift, given to those who will obey (a Tribes ‘Sent One’).”
"The sheep will obediently receive, hear and obey a 'Sent One,' giving up wealth, jobs, friends, relatives and inheritance to enter the One Sheepfold (the Tribes)."

GOING OUT TO EAT is usually not allowed, and the average member has no money.

GROUP DEPENDENCY IS CREATED. My Shepherd told me, "We make people unable to survive and stand on their own two feet in the world."

GROUP THINK prevails. Members give up the right to make value judgments of their own.

GUNS, THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS is not allowed.

HAIR DRYERS are not allowed.

HEALTH INSURANCE is not provided, and is often denounced.

HEADBANDS (Diadems) must now be worn to the Morning and Evening Gatherings.

HEALTHY SIMPLE FOODS are lovingly prepared and served.

HEBREW NAMES are often given to new members after their baptism into the Tribes.

HOLDING HANDS WITH THE OPPOSITE SEX is not allowed for single people.

HOSPITAL MEDICAL CARE is avoided, to the extreme of serious medical neglect and death.

HOUSE ARREST (Custody) can happen to any seriously disobedient, rebellious member.

HOUSES are very cold in the winter and very hot in the summer.

HOUSES tend to be overcrowded, somewhat run-down inside, and not properly maintained.

“HUMANS WERE NOT MEANT TO LIVE WEST OF THE US MISSISSIPPI RIVER,” Spriggs told us in the early 1990’s, and no communities were to be established in New York State.

HUSBANDS IN OUR HOUSE would stare at a buxom single girl’s chest at Daily Gatherings.

ICE CREAM is a rare treat to be enjoyed.

IF YOU DON’T LIKE A CERTAIN FOOD, more of it may be given to you to eat.

IF YOUR SPOUSE REFUSES TO JOIN OR MOVE IN, then he or she “is not your spouse.”


Anonymous said...

IMMORAL ACTIVITIES DO SOMETIMES HAPPEN, such as fornication and adultery.

IMMUNIZATIONS - VACCINATIONS are not allowed for babies, children, or adults.

INCOMING MAIL is sometimes questioned, like if the writer is friendly toward the Tribes.
INFORMATION CONTROL is practiced. I had no idea what was going on in the world.

JESUS is called a demon of Christianity. Messiah must be called “Yahshua.”

JEWELRY is not allowed.

JEWISH FESTIVALS are now celebrated “the way they should be.”

JEWISH PEOPLE are much loved, but “remain cursed by God,” until they join the Tribes.
“Real Jews suffer under their own curse for crucifying Jesus.”

KISSING THE OPPOSITE SEX is not allowed for single people.

LABOR LAWS are violated every day in a variety of ways.

LEARNING TO LOVE AND FORGIVE is a continual goal of daily living together.

LEAVING THE TRIBES is allowed but, "Whoever has the Holy Spirit and leaves the Body (the Tribes) is turned over to Death. You will not live long.” “You may have an accident.”
“You may become a sodomite (homosexual). “You may go crazy or kill yourself.”
Young adults trying to leave the Tribes have sometimes been locked up or sent overseas.

LEGALISM has strongly developed through the years. Attempting to obey the many Old Testament laws with additional Spriggs’ traditions, the Tribes attempt to follow many rules in order to remain forgiven. They ignore the many warnings of the Apostle Paul/Shaul and the Jerusalem Council. In Acts 15 Paul said, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: To abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality."

LEISURE TIME is discouraged. Life is about work, except on the Sabbath.

“LEMON FIGHTS” were times when you’d stand in a group center and be criticized by all.
Sometimes children would stand naked, while the household specifically criticized them.

LIBRARIES are not allowed to be visited without permission.

LONG HAIR & PONYTAIL BRAIDS are required for women and girls.

LYING is allowed when needed to protect the Apostle, the Tribes image, or members.
The Tribes insisted that they never helped Steve Wooten, a member wanted by the FBI for kidnapping. We were present at the Morning Gathering when the FBI arrested Steve Wooten in Florida. The Tribes lied. They knew his locations. His sons said so. Member's called his former wife who left the Tribes, a witch, a prostitute, a liar, and an unfit mother.

Anonymous said...

We saw leaders in the Tribes repeatedly outright lie on national television regarding Steve Wooten.

“There is a difference between bearing false witness and concealing a matter (not telling the truth) that others have forfeited their right to know because of their hostile and evil attitude toward God.” “Sometimes we make a stand with the truth by not revealing the truth or by our answers that are or are not true.” (November 29 1988 Phase 2 Teaching – Yoneq page 1)

MAKING LIFE HARDER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE is part of Tribes’ lifestyle.

MARRIAGE is only with the consent of your household, and must benefit the Twelve Tribes.

MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. is called an evil man who deserved to die.
“Martin Luther King could not offer true freedom to [African-Americans] when he was a slave of the curse himself” and “Martin Luther King was filled with every evil spirit there is to say [blacks don’t] have to serve [whites]…All manner of evil filled that man.” (Spriggs)

MASTURBATION is allowed for single men, “Only if it’s really necessary, and if it’s done without lustful thoughts, in a clean way, and wash hands well.” Masturbation does not seem to be allowed for single women, since one woman was banished for it.


MEDICAL DOCTORS & NURSES are avoided due to lack of money and no health insurance.

MEDICAL NEGLECT resulting in the death of stillborns, babies, and cancer patients occurs.

MEDICATIONS OF ANY KIND are usually not allowed. “There’s no pills here.”

MEDITATION is not allowed. I was accused of “communing with evil spirits” and “witchcraft."

MENS & BOYS SHIRTS must be worn untucked at all times.

MILK is not served anymore. Am not sure why. Lack of money determines many decisions.

MONEY is always tight, except for evangelism, property buying, and Spriggs’ world travel.

MOST OF THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS left the Tribes a long time ago.


MOST TRIBES’ TEENAGE MEN leave the communities.

MOVIES & MOVIE THEATERS are not allowed.

Anonymous said...

MULTICULTURALISM is condemned. “Let's face it. It is just not reasonable to expect people to live contentedly alongside of others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural, and sometimes forces people to go against what they instinctively know in their conscience.” “Multiculturalism increases murder, crime and prejudice. It goes against the way man is. It places impossible demands on people to love others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural, like trying to love sodomites.”

NAPS are not allowed. “What do you think this is, a holiday?”

NATIVE AMERICANS, I was told, were wicked for coming to North America, because God wanted them to stay in Asia.

“NEW LIFE” & NEW IDENTITY are available to any sincere willing person.


NUMBER OF CHILDREN TO HAVE is “at least seven. If you’re able to.”
“Women are designed to have babies, a lot of babies.”
“One couple needed to repent, because they said they were content with their one child.”

OBEDIENCE is a way of life. “Our obedience will cause Yahshua (Jesus) to return.”
“Everything we hear in the Teachings, we are required to obey.”

“OUR COMMUNITY IS STRETCHED” means there aren’t enough people for all the work.
The Tribes try to expand too quickly, and leave too few people in each community.

PAIN & SUFFERING is God’s “discipline.” “Our life hasn’t changed any, it’s excruciating.”
“The community is a torture chamber for the flesh, who would want to live this way?”


PEOPLE LIVING OUTSIDE THE TRIBES “have another spirit.”’They are of the world.”

PERFECT OBEDIENCE for 49 years is required, before Yahshua (Jesus) can return.

PERSONAL COMPUTER OWNERSHIP is only for Shepherds or others in “Government.”

PERSONAL DEBT OF NEW MEMBERS is sometimes paid off, but usually not.

PERSONAL FREE WILL is surrendered as “giving your free will back to Our Father (God).”

PERSONAL MONEY OR CREDIT CARDS are not allowed for most members.

PERSONAL MUSIC DEVICES (Ipod’s etc.) are not allowed for most members.

PERSONAL NEEDS are met as money becomes available. Sisters always looked after me.
But, one poor sister did wait over two years to receive a bathrobe. Meanwhile, our Shepherd just purchased a new and expensive computer system. Another sister spoke with me about feeling guilty to request a long overdue eye exam and new glasses, so she could see normal.

PERSONAL OPINIONS are to be set aside and forgotten. “Dead men don’t have opinions.”

Anonymous said...

PERSONAL PRIVACY is hard to find when you’re a single person.

PETS are not allowed, except as farm animals, and those I saw were poorly cared for.

PHOTOGRAPHY CAMERA’S & EQUIPMENT is not allowed for most members.

PHYSICAL AFFECTION is to be kept completely within the realm of marriage.

PLAYING CARDS are considered “a waste of time, with so much work to do.”

POLICE are never called when they should be, and they cannot be called without permission.

POLYESTER & OTHER SYNTHETIC CLOTHING is not allowed to be worn against the skin.
Without my permission, sisters took my polyester shirts to the wood stove and burned them.

PONYTAILS short in length, are required for all men and boys.

PORNOGRAPHY VIEWING sometimes occurs. Newer members caught are asked to leave, unless they are Apostolic Workers or more important Shepherds.

POTATOES bought old and cheap for our meals were sometimes maggot infested.

PRAYER POSITION is usually standing up during the Daily Gatherings, or outside walking.

PRAYERS must be said aloud to reach God. “It isn’t a prayer until it leaves your lips.”

PRAYING OUTSIDE is recommended, so angels can better take your prayers to God.

PREACHING THE TRUE GOSPEL they say, can only be done by a Tribes “Sent One.”

PRIESTLY ROBES for the daily Gatherings are on the way, once Spriggs’ gives final say.


RATS & MICE love the Twelve Tribes’ often unprotected vegetable produce and grains.

“REASONING” is not allowed. “It’s not necessary to question, in order to love and obey.”

REPORTING ON ONE ANOTHER IS REQUIRED. “We tell on each other.” True friends.”

RETIREMENT FOR THE ELDERLY is denounced and not allowed.

ROBERT REDFORD’S SUNDANCE COMPANY which formerly had the Tribes make products for them, has cut off all dealings with the Tribes, due to the Tribes using child labor.

SABBATH REST is usually from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, but various labor is performed on the Sabbath, even occasional Cafe and Stores construction jobs!

Anonymous said...

SAXOPHONES that are curved are not allowed, and said to be “shaped like snakes.”

SCRUTINY about your words, actions, or whereabouts is a regular part of life.

SERVING OTHERS is more important than making money and material success.

SEXY LINGERIE is not allowed. One couple had to repent for “unnecessary burlesque” attire.


“SHEEPLIKE” QUALITIES are desired in recruits and members, such as being easily led.

SHEPHERDS rule over the household “sheep” disciples.


SINGLE MEN are crammed into small bunk bed rooms with broken spring mattresses.


SLANG LANGUAGE & USA SOUTHERN DIALECTS (“Lazy Speech”) is not allowed.

SLAVE LABOR is what Tribes life can seem like at times.

SMOKING is not allowed for members. Guests can smoke outside away from the house.

SOCIALIZING WITH NON-MEMBERS is curtailed. You aren’t to be “over familiar” with them.

SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY is sided with in the United States Civil War.

SWEARING & CURSING are not allowed.

TALKING TO ONESELF is not allowed. “If you talk to yourself, you are talking to a demon.”
One African-American brother was banished for repeatedly mumbling to himself.

“We just don’t ‘call’ our relatives in the world. We have a ‘mind’ about the telephone.”

My household coordinator secretly tapped into phone conversations when I spoke with my wife. He said, "I pay the telephone bill, and I have the right to know if she is affecting you.”

THE HOLY CITY OF HEAVEN, according to Spriggs previously, was supposed to come down to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where the community was at that time.

“THE NATIONS” are “good people” who will live just outside the Tribes’ Holy City Heaven.

Anonymous said...

“THE TEACHINGS” are Spriggs’ instructions and Bible interpretations for the communities.
Only Spriggs is allowed to give original Teaching. Spriggs and his Teachings are the final authority within the Twelve Tribes.
Attendance at the daily Teachings is required for all members and all household guests.
If you fall asleep during the Teachings, you may be asked to stand up for the remainder.
If an Elder questions Spriggs’ Teachings he can lose his place of authority.

“THE TITHE” is Spriggs’ 10% “evangelism” income tax on all Twelve Tribes businesses.

-God’s army which will someday erase evil from the earth.
-God’s only Chosen People, the People He’s always desired, but never had.
-New Israel, the true Jews. the true believers, the true Church.
-The grandparents of the 144,000 male virgin evangelists of Revelation in the Bible.
-The Bride of Yahshua (Jesus).
-The only light and hope of the world.
-The only ones who can reclaim this earth for its Maker.
-The only people for whom the Bible has been written.
-The only people who are able to understand the Bible.
-The only people who are being faithful to God.
-The only people who are being saved by God from their sins.
-The only people who have been called by God.
-The only people who have been chosen by God.
-The only people who can now bring Yahshua (Jesus) back to earth.
-The only people who can preach the True Gospel.
-The only people who have God’s Holy Spirit since the 1st century.
-The only people who have and who can understand objective Truth.
-The only people who really love each other.
-The only people who see and understand life objectively.
-The only place where forgiveness, love and restoration can occur.
-The only place where you are really loved.
-The only place where you have a real family.
-The only place where you have true friends.
-The only true work of God on earth since the Apostles.
-The people God will use to bring about the end of the current world system.
“We are the only ones whose lives of love and pure devotion, like a bride for her groom, can bring heaven to earth, all other attempts to do so are not merely futile, they are evil..”

“THE WILDERNESS” is where the Tribes plan to go when “the world system” rejects them.

THINKING FOR YOURSELF is condemned. “We were taught to think wrong in the world.”
“You just need to take off your head, and put on the ‘Mind of the Body’ (the Tribes).”

THRIFT STORE CLOTHING is what members wear, except for the dresses and “sus” pants.

TOTAL CONTROL OF MEMBER’S LIVES is a way of life. “A brand new culture.”


Anonymous said...

UNBELIEVING SPOUSES are usually divorced.

UNEMPLOYMENT does not exist. Everyone has more than enough work to do, for free.

UNIFORMITY is strictly enforced. “This life is about following a pattern.”
“I’ve seen people asked to leave, because they were not willing to follow the Pattern.”

UNITY is strictly enforced. “It’s much better to be wrong together, than to be right alone.”
“We are to agree perfectly about all things. We are One as Yahshua (Jesus) commanded.”
“We are to believe the same, act the same, and speak the same.”

UNSAFE WORK CONDITIONS have contributed to serious injuries, such as members falling several stories from high ladders, wet roofs, and off the mobile cafe roof.

VACATIONS are not allowed, although Shepherds and their families tend to get away some.

VEGETARIAN & VEGAN DIETS are considered “unhealthy” and not allowed for members.

VIDEO GAMES are not allowed.

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS are by permission, and discouraged.

VOLLEYBALL is cooperative sport enjoyed by the Tribes.


WAGES are not paid. All members work very long hours and only receive room and board.

“WAITING PERIODS” are approved courtship times and must “bear good fruit”. No kissing.

WAL-MART STORES are avoided, often denounced, and called “Wal-Beast.”

WASHING DISHES IN THE HOMES tends to be done more of the time by single men.

WATER DRINKING is frequently encouraged as a free means of maintaining good health.

WATER DRINKING FOUNTAINS are not allowed, because it would lessen dishwashing.

WEIGHT LIFTING is not allowed.

WIVES MUST OBEY THEIR HUSBANDS within reason. If the husband is being unreasonable or mean, the wife is free to seek help from the Shepherd or other brothers.

WOMEN ARE UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF MEN. All Tribes women are to be under the authority of other men, whether it be the Apostle, the Apostolic Workers, Shepherds, Elders, husbands, or any married or single baptized male members.

Anonymous said...

WOMEN IN UNREPENTANT SIN OR REBELLION lose the right to wear their head scarf.
WOMEN POSITIONS IN TRIBES GOVERNMENT do not exist, and are not allowed.


WORK HOURS are typically from 8am-11pm, on your feet most of the time.

WORK TIME-CLOCKS “IN THE WORLD” are made fun of and denounced.

WORKING TOGETHER each day can be very meaningful with deeper genuine friendships.


WRIST WATCHES are not allowed. Spriggs crushed one brother’s watch under his foot!

YOUR “COVERING” is another member who watches over your life at all times.

"I am so thankful and not ashamed to declare we're it! We're it! God's only people!
“The longer you’re in the Body, the harder it is to remain.” (Spriggs)
‘“We really missed it with our children for years.”
“We’re really not here to make the world a better place.”

"Rev 1:6; 5:10 — He has made us to be kings and priests — that’s who we are! We will rule over galaxies. When people of the nations see us, it will be just like seeing the Father (Jn 14:9). We will bear His name, His character, His image, His authority."
("Salvation is a Free Gift, But Who Does He Give It To?" December 1997. Coxsackie, NY.)

Cassey said...

CHILD PUNISHMENT is frequent and painful for even the slightest attitude or foolishness.
Corporal punishment may be applied by any adult member with love.
“The blueness of the wound drives away all evil.””
(October 1980 Child Training -Notes from Teachers Meeting - Page 5)
“Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a
standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about
his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.”
(No date – Execution of Justice – Page 1)

Anonymous said...

Zahar, if you're on this site, you need to repent to our household at the next gathering. Yoneq has forbidden us to be on these sites reading the lies and slander of ex-members, without permission. I am correcting you, because you so arrogantly like to often correct the rest of us, and you will never find out who I am, until I leave the Edah when I get old enough. I like John Sullivan and Bob Pardon better than you. Too bad you couldn't have grown up in the Edah.

Daniel said...

You can't believe anything ex-members say. Lying has become their native language.

Cassey said...

Do you call Yoneq's Teachings a lie?
They speak for themselves, that's why you keep the Teachings from the general public. Can you argue with this? Whose is the liar, ex-members whose share their genuine experiences in the Tribes, or current members who are not allowed to? I have nothing against you, but to call all ex-members liars?

Amanda said...

Cultic Groups Stalk Harvest Crusade Attendees

Contact: Amanda Huffman, Rose Publishing, 253-266-1025,

TORRANCE, Calif.,/Christian Newswire/ -- When Lynn's son Bryce went to the annual Harvest Crusade, a Christian music and evangelism event, she had no way of knowing he would be lured into a cultic group known as the Twelve Tribes.

Before she knew it, Bryce abandoned his studies at Christian college and disowned his family.

The Twelve Tribes regularly field teams of proselytizers to intercept new converts and their friends as they leave the Crusade. Dancing and distributing literature around their brightly painted "hippie bus" in the Angel Stadium parking lot, Twelve Tribes members invite passerby's to commit themselves to a more authentic Christian lifestyle in their "messianic communities."

But as Lynn discovered to her dismay, behind the quaint "freepapers" and homespun clothing is a religious system marked by exclusivism, racism, manipulation, and the spiritual domination of a man who calls himself "Yoneq."

Seventh-day Adventists are among the other groups that chase down Crusade attendees. These followers of the prophetess Ellen G. White emphasize end-time themes, especially the observance of Saturday as the true day of worship, in order to avoid the coming wrath of God.

"Churches need to inoculate their members against 'love bombing' by predatory groups at crusades and concerts," says Gretchen Goldsmith, CEO of Rose Publishing. "Christians need help in discerning truth from error so they can recognize and resist counterfeits--and this is especially true of new believers who have just responded to an invitation to trust in Jesus."

Goldsmith recommends that churches educate their attendees on a regular basis on key beliefs and doctrines, and be familiar with the way these are twisted or denied by groups claiming to be Christian but actually rejecting the 2000-year-old message.

To help bridge the gap for Christians, Rose Publishing has just released a new 6-session DVD-based course called Christianity, Cults & Religions. It covers the key Christian beliefs and why Christians hold them. It also goes into detail on the beliefs of six groups that aggressively proselytize today and how to answer them. (ISBN: 9781596364134 Rose Publishing)

A new pamphlet, 10 Questions and Answers on Seventh-Day Adventism will release in October. It directly evaluates the Seventh-Day Adventist cultic background and beliefs, while comparing them to Christianity. (ISBN: 9781596364226 Rose Publishing)

Lynn grieves for her son, who now refuses even to receive visits from her at the sect's rural compound in Vista, California. Alienation from family and friends is common for converts to the Twelve Tribes, who support themselves through their "Yellow Deli" cafes and other businesses.

She prays that God will rescue Bryce and reconcile him to his parents and to the Body of Christ. "I don't know if I'll ever know why God is allowing this to happen to my family, but I'll still praise His holy name and believe that He will make all thing work together for good," said Lynn.

For fact sheets on the Twelve Tribes and Seventh-day Adventism, go to:

Amanda said...

Twelve Tribes Community Cult now exposed on Facebook and the Tribes lawyer can't do anything about it:

Anonymous said...

I can see that the racism, homophobia, and other teachings of the leader of this group are abhorrent. Yet, this blog reads like propaganda, and as such does not reach me on an emotional level or compel me to take its side... You are railing against propagandists and yet do not provide a balanced view yourself. For example, pointing out that they believe their way is the only way to salvation, etc. are standard of nearly every organized religion, and are not in themselves objectionable (though the tenor of the article implies that they are).
If you want me to take you seriously, address your subject matter in all its nuance.

Anonymous said...

I will gladly join in the boycott - but not for the reason(s) you wish.

Why don't they know that they have misspelled the name of their restaurant? Yerba mate is spelled just like that - no accent. WTF is maté, anyway? No Argentino or Uruguayo could tell you.

past TT members said...

The Twelve Tribes is comprised of mostly very faithful members who have given their lives to serve God in the most sincere way they know how. Unfortunately it is led by leaders who have been trained to fear their superiors in a way that turns everybody into Nazi informants like George Orwell’s 1984.

Ricoo Chie said...

Ricoo Chie09 November, 2013 04:41

thank you for your support, I am a parent ex-member and very traumatized by what my children suffered at my own hands and the hands of others, also by what I had to endure myself as a parent. We lived in fear and stress all those years and the way we were all treated was the opposite of christians values. Studying mind-control- undue influence-coercive persuasion and cults in general as well as having a dialogue with ex-members of the TT cult and other cults helps me tremendously to recover. I appreciate any efforts to expose this cult and pray the children will not be returned unless there are measures in place to 100% assure they are not leaving the country and have to report or something involving social workers to assure everyone Yoneq's childtraining crazy methods are not applied to them, which means leaving the group because the whole foundation of traditions and prohibitions comes solely from one man Eugene Spriggs -Yoneq and his interpretations. But the chiltraining methods go hand in hand with the vision that he has of 144000 pure male child. Those parents need to have interventions done to them to show them they are in a cult. Pray for exit-counselors to get involved with families of members still in there, specially those who have lost their kids because they would be in turmoil and that is a chance for their true heart and personnality and rational mind to kick in and start thinking and hopefully come to some healthy conclusions.

Cassey said...

The main purpose of the communities is to try to eventually raise up the 144,000 celibate male evangelists as the "TwelveTribes" mentioned in the Bible Book of Revelation. The members are taught that they alone are the "true Jews" "the chosen people of God" and only they are being forgiven by God. So there's frequent punishment of children to "obey on the first command" with the hope that the children will always "obey without questioning and reasoning" and remain as adults in the Tribes, and raise up more obedient children, so the 144,000 can be born someday. They believe if they don't produce the 144,000, then Jesus cannot return, and the Earth will remain under the control of Satan. They refer to all Christian churches as the Whore Babylon mentioned in Revelation. It's interesting to note that the writing style in the original languages of Revelation is not similar to St. John's writing style in the Gospel of John at all. When you are a Tribes member, you have to believe everything you are told to believe without question, it's "apostolic" (from Apostle Gene Spriggs, "Yoneq"), if you don't you will be asked to leave the communities. If your children are deemed to deserve punishment, they will be punished, whether you agree with it or not. You either punish them, or someone else will. I and other exmembers left the Tribes due to the Child Training Manual, and having to hit our children so frequently. I won't get into the home circumcisions, required home births, and tight "swaddling" and "restraining" of babies, and medical neglect cases.

Aloysius Horn said...

I want to thank everyone for their comments here. Do any of you who have left TT spend time in the Ithaca Community? If so, I'd very much like to talk to you.

former member said...

Harsh discipline of children is a central tenet of the Twelve Tribes religious sect operating in Picton, Australia.

In 1999 Matthew Klein had a revelation. Fed up with mainstream Christianity, the then 30-year-old industrial chemist, his wife and two young children went to live on a nine-hectare commune at Picton run by a religious sect called the Twelve Tribes. “I wanted to be a good Christian, and I admired what I thought was this group’s commitment.”

Klein sold his house and business, emptied his bank account and surrendered it all to the “community”, whose members were only known by biblical names. “When you join you abandon your ‘worldly name’ and adopt a Hebrew one,” he says.

“I became Lev Qadash, which is Hebrew for ‘dedicated heart’.”

But it wasn’t long before Klein began noticing “odd things” about the group. He knew that the 60 or so members weren’t allowed to marry outsiders or to vote, and that they had no access to newspapers, magazines or TV. But questioning the elders was also strictly prohibited. “We were told that reasoning was the same sin as witchcraft,” he says.

Then there were the “ridiculously long” work hours. “The group owns bakeries and cafes and operates a restaurant at the Royal Easter Show. Sometimes you were working 20-hour days, for no pay. There’s plenty of money coming in, but no one who works there ever sees any of it.”

Most disturbing of all, however, was the child discipline. In an effort to keep their minds pure, Twelve Tribes children aren’t allowed to have toys, play games or make-believe. If a child disobeys these rules or fails to respond to an adult, he or she is hit on the bare bottom or hand with a 45-centimetre, reed-like stick, one of which is kept above the door ledge in every room.

“One spanking generally consisted of three to six hits,” Klein says, with the rod regarded as “an instrument of love, not punishment”.

“One day I left my two-year-old boy with an elder while I went and worked. When I came back, I asked how it went and he said, ‘We had a few problems but we got over them’. He said that my boy wouldn’t come to him so he’d spanked him. When he still wouldn’t come, he spanked him again. I asked him how many times that happened and he said, ‘About 10 or 12′. So he’d hit my boy about 60 times in the course of the day.”

It was then that Klein realized something was “majorly wrong”. But such was the sect’s power that he spent another year with group, during which time he and his family were moved to a community in Canada, to avoid the attention of his parents. “That’s what they do: if you talk out against them, you get cut off from family members who are still in there. And if you kick up too much of a stink, they just move you overseas.”

former member said...

Klein finally left in 2001, and has since regained custody of his children. But he hasn’t seen his wife for seven years. “The kids wonder why she doesn’t get in touch. I’m not even sure where she is.”

Founded in 1976 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by a former high school guidance counselor, Elbert Eugene Spriggs (“Yoneq”), Twelve Tribes now has 3000 members worldwide, with communities in the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Spain and England. Australia has three, including at Katoomba, where the Twelve Tribes recently bought a $1.7 million property that it is converting into a Common Ground cafe.

Following a hybrid of Judaism and Christianity, the group’s aim is to re-create the 12 tribes of Israel, thereby ushering in the return of Yahshua (Jesus), who will arrive like “a King coming for his Bride when she is fully prepared for Him”. Members claim to use the Old Testament as a blueprint for their lives, but guidance also comes from Elbert Eugene Spriggs’s prolific and frequently bizarre Teachings, many of which, it is said, come directly from God. (Spriggs claims the Lord first spoke to him while he was working at a carnival in 1969.)

Spriggs’s teachings include assertions that “submission to whites is the only provision by which blacks will be saved”, and that the civil rights leader Martin Luther King was “filled with all manner of evil” and “deserved to be killed”.

former member said...

But it is the Twelve Tribes’ attitude towards children that has proved most controversial. Harsh discipline is one of the group’s central tenets, as detailed in its 267-page Child Training Manual, copies of which have been handed out to parents at Picton. Written by Spriggs, the manual codifies when, why and how to hit children, saying “you must make it hurt enough to produce the desired result” and that “stripes or marks from loving discipline show love by the parent”.

Peter Baker (“Nathaniel”), an elder of the Picton community, would not answer questions about the manual. But he defends the Twelve Tribes, saying “we are devoted believers in Jesus Christ”. Baker, who came to the Twelve Tribes from the Exclusive Brethren, says no staff get paid, explaining that members “work only for love, like the disciples of old”. They don’t vote, he says, “because we look forward to the Kingdom of God coming to Earth, so we don’t involve ourselves with government business”. As for the sticks, “we have found them to be more effective than wooden spoons.”

Yet others say the community is a law unto itself. “Once, when I was making some food in the kitchen, I saw an eight-month-old boy being repeatedly hit with a stick for 40 minutes by his mother,” George, a former member from Picton, says. “All because the kid kept dropping a lid that she’d given him.”

David Pike, a former member from the tribe of Mannasah, in the US, told of seeing a two-year-old “switched” for eight hours “because she didn’t want to eat a bowl of millet, which is what they eat all the time. I also saw young boys who couldn’t sleep on their backs because their buttocks were so welted and bloody.”

The group has been embroiled in several high-profile scandals overseas, with members in the US recently convicted of child-sex offenses and child labor violations. In 2000 two members in France were sentenced to six years in jail for negligence after their 19-month-old son died of malnutrition.

former member said...

“It’s particularly harmful to children because there is no one who can be an advocate for them outside the system,” Ros Hodgkins, a counselor who has treated former Twelve Tribes members, says. “And by claiming to have the sole path to salvation, the group exerts considerable power over members.”

Other control mechanisms include the systematic informing by wives on husbands and children on parents. “If you don’t inform on your family, you’re told you don’t love them and you won’t receive salvation,” a former member, Michael Curry, says.

Curry, who now runs a picture-hanging business in Coogee, spent a year with his wife and daughter at Picton, but left in 2001. “My wife and daughter stayed inside – they were totally brainwashed, and I couldn’t convince them to leave. I haven’t seen my wife for seven years. I’ve heard that she’s living with them in America and has remarried someone from the Tribes. My daughter would be 22 now. I saw her a few years ago at the group’s cafe at the Royal Easter Show, but she told me that I was evil and to get away from her.”

Though numerically small, the Twelve Tribes is remarkably well resourced, especially in the US, where it operates furniture stores, leather shops, soap and candle factories, wholefood outlets, cafes, bakeries and several building businesses, the biggest of which, BOJ (Builders of Judah) Construction, specializes in nursing homes. A former member in the US says BOJ grosses $US15 million ($16.6 million) a year, most of which is used to finance the sect’s property acquisitions.

former member said...

In Australia, Twelve Tribes has run a range of businesses, from demolition, plumbing and painting to import-export, plus several Common Ground cafes, mobile versions of which have made appearances at events such as the Royal Easter Show, the Woodford Folk Festival and the Sydney Olympics. (“They recruit at some very reputable places,” Hodgkins says.)

The group’s holding company, The Community Apostolic Order, has assets worth $4.55 million but claims tax-exempt status as a charitable institution. Though “members’ equity” is at $2.8 million, only one former member the Herald spoke to had managed to recoup anything on leaving, and only after threatening legal action.

Each Twelve Tribes “community” sends a 10 per cent tithe to the US which is spent on evangelical pamphlets or “freepapers”, and on purchases such as the Avany, the Tribes’ 38-metre private yacht, which features Limoges porcelain, spas and handcrafted mahogany finishings.

“This is one opulent boat,” David Pike, who worked on the Avany’s restoration, says. “We used to take it for evangelical tours to Savannah and ask people for donations, until the Coastguard told us that was illegal.”

The US cult investigator Rick Ross has called Spriggs a “jet-set cult leader. There is no question he controls millions of dollars. Where is it? Only [Spriggs] knows.”

When Zeb Wiseman, a son of the Twelve Tribes second-in-command, Charles “Eddie” Wiseman, defected in 2001, he told of Spriggs’s extravagant lifestyle, traveling by chauffeured car and going on shopping junkets with his wife. Spriggs is thought to travel almost constantly, staying in homes in the US and France.

“But the houses are always in someone else’s name,” Pike says.

Pike insists, however, that Spriggs is “not doing it to get rich. He actually believes God speaks to him, that he is doing God’s will and building the Kingdom and gathering the Bride and the Chosen Ones to bring about the return of the Messiah.”

Both Klein and Curry complained to the Department of Community Services about the group’s treatment of children. “But they said they can’t do much because it’s hard to get evidence,” Curry says. Klein says approaching the authorities about the group’s work practices proved similarly fruitless: “They wanted stuff that I couldn’t give them like official names of the companies and directors.”

So the group keeps operating.

“There are lots of families who’ve been ripped apart,” Klein’s mother, Maree, says. “And they can’t speak out, because they’re scared of losing contact. They’re still hoping their kids will come home one day.”


former member said...

I have to speak anonymously, or I may lose contact completely with my friends in the Tribes. But I want people to know that it's not as fun and folksy as it sometimes appears on the surface. In some ways, it's a very dark situation. They claim that God, Yahshua (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit have produced their life, but I honestly believe quite the opposite is true based upon the end results in people's lives and what I experienced. It is very disturbing, because it is truly beautiful in some ways, and yet very damaging and mentally altering for the worse in other ways. I haven't been a member for about 10 years, but I have not fully recovered yet. Sometimes, I almost go back. It is a strange and persuasive unseen pull. I'm not saying it is a spiritual or a psychological disturbance, but it is very real, whatever it is. I urge people to use common sense. And I urge young people to become as skilled and as educated in a profession of their choice as possible and to become self-supporting and intelligent and have friends, so they don't feel the need for cults. And if a person is spiritually/religiously inclined to simply know that God already loves you, and it doesn't need to be anymore complicated than loving God back, being thankful for what you have, and being kind to others. "The Devil is in the details." And, the Twelve Tribes communities are full of details ("everything matters") and complicated and confusing twisted Bible interpretations by their Apostle-Prophet, and some very abusive physical and mental practices. But to some, like myself, it is beautiful in some ways. It can feel like home at first, and like you've found people who love you. Like you finally have a purpose and are valuable and special.

former member said...

Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups - Revised
Janja Lalich, Ph.D. & Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

Concerted efforts at influence and control lie at the core of cultic groups, programs,
and relationships. Many members, former members, and supporters of cults are not fully aware of the extent to which members may have been manipulated, exploited, even abused. The following list of social-structural, social-psychological, and interpersonal behavioral patterns commonly found in cultic environments may be helpful in assessing a particular group or relationship.

Compare these patterns to the situation you were in (or in which you, a family member, or friend is currently involved). This list may help you determine if there is cause for concern. Bear in mind that this list is not meant to be a “cult scale” or a definitive checklist to determine if a specific group is a cult. This is not so much a diagnostic instrument as it is an analytical tool.

#1 The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

#2 Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

#3 Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

#4 The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

#5 The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

#6 The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

#7 The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

#8 The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

#9 The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

#10 Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

#11 The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

#12 The group is preoccupied with making money.

#13 Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

#14 Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

#15 The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

This checklist was adapted from a checklist originally developed by Michael Langone.

kiwi bird said...

I just spent a week visiting a household in my area, and their children are healthy and happy. They're unafraid of the adults around them, they love their parents, they grin, make jokes, play and help out. Personally, I do believe that in the early years horrific things happened. However, I also believe that the tribes have learned from them and that they don't happen anymore. Discipline- yes. Abuse- no.

kiwi girl said...

In the community I lived in for 3 months, they believed the important part wasn't what you BELIEVED, but how you lived (and loved). It's not about what's "right or wrong", but what's "life-giving". Many members echoed the sentiment that if they found some other group that was more loving, they'd join that, but they don't believe there is a more loving way to live than the way they do (with their salvation process).

Jay said...

I have contact with the community in Ithaca and I help them at the cafe. I never thought I would enjoy work so much and I never thought people like this existed. I plan to join them after I turn eighteen in July next year :)

Leo said...

All the male members for some reason, now have to roll up their pants some. I wonder if Yoneq (their apostle, Elbert Spriggs) got this idea from the Muslim men? How many rules does a community need? Yoneq is going to make sure he makes as many rules as he can get in before he dies. Congratulations Yoneq, you're a first-class ________ apostle. Why don't you tell your members about the Christian church who conferred apostleship upon you? The very Christianity you now condemn as the Scarlet Whore. Somehow you should have been somewhere in the movie "Gone With The Wind."

tiny Tim said...

lol, yes i wonder when Yoneq started rolling up his pants, when the BS "Teachings" started to finally get a little to deep for him and birkenstocks?
"Gone With the Wind" reminds me of all the Tribes disciples who are now gone, burned out at the time, and penniless, they left the Tribes anyway, thousands of them have left. The faithful remain. But who are they really faithful to? Yahshua or Yoneq. Half the stuff now taught in the Tribes was never even mentioned by Jesus! And what really baffles me is why they speak out so often against Christianity, but then they are all using Christian Bible! Have they "become futile in their thinking" by following Yoneq?

Billy said...

Having lived in the so-called Twelve Tribes, I have come to have much more respect for the Amish and Mennonite religions than the Twelve Tribe "Spiggites" (Tribes founded by Elbert Eugene Spriggs, prophet-apostle-anointing-the Elijah rolled into one). Because the Amish and Mennonites do not judge who will go to Death or be eternally judged by God. The Tribes do this all the time with an often superior attitude. And, they are always pointing to their good fruit. Really? What exactly is the good fruit? Stillborn babies? Frequently hitting children? Teaching that black people who don't join, should still be slaves to white folks? Teaching that Jewish people who don't join are still cursed by God? Making fun of Christmas and Easter? Saying they are the true Jews? The deeper you dig into the pile of _____, the more outlandish and hurtful and nasty it gets. I think they should be ashamed of their prophet and his teachings that frequently go counter to Jesus and Paul. We were so exhausted and daily indoctrinated when we lived there, we didn't really know any different. You're not even allowed to bury your own parents "in the world." So much for "Honor thy father and mother..." We miss some of the people there, and the dream we once were led to believe. It was a dream. You give them all your money and possessions for a dream.

Amie said...

You have to give them credit. They know how to put people to work for free, plus grab all their money, plus get them to promise to never leave and always obey. How did anyone ever think of something so clever? You get people to voluntarily become your lifelong slaves!

Leo said...

The pastor of a Seventh-day Adventist church near Ithaca told me it was a real mess concerning a handicapped young man who had joined the Tribes commune in Ithaca from his church. The Tribes had gotten this gullible young man to sign directly over to them all his government social security type benefits! Later, when he decided he didn't want to be in the Twelve Tribes the rest of his life, it was an ordeal to get his benefits back from the Tribes. Moral of this story: "Look before you leap." and "The grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence."
Also the SDA churches are denounced by the Tribes as just "Christianity on Saturdays." They have declared themselves the only ones to be good enough before God. Someday they may realize that they are not so high and mighty, as has already been proven by their apostle prophet's wife who cheated on him and then lied about being forgiven by him for years! Twelve Tribes, you have some very bad fruit in your religion, just like the rest of us in our own lives. Why can't we all just be human beings, and be brothers and sisters to one another, instead of having to join the right group with the right prophet who hears from God?

Vince B. said...

your hate proves your insincerity. Such harsh words, have you lived with them as a guest? Probably not. the children are so pure and uncorrupted here. I might consider living there to escape the poison of the world for a community that loves despite who you are or what you've done.

Anonymous said...

Having lived with them as a member and now an ex-member, I would have to say, overall, they are human beings just like the rest of us. They are not some kind of criminals, but actually, very loving people, believing and living what they think is best for them, their children, and interested others. Sometimes, some bad apples get into the bunch, but they usually don't stay. I have to admit I still miss it there, and think about them each day.

Anonymous said...

It's all about submission to the group. End of story. No hatred here, just reality. Don't just visit Mr. Vince, you need to "give up your life" and join, then find out how much you value the commune.

Anonymous said...

There are a number of ex-members that leave positive remarks, but I'd like to know why you left then? My bf joined and I'm interested but cautious.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but 2 guys approached us in a parking lot & I could smell cult in the first 2 minutes. They particularly like to approach young attractive women. I abhor dogma of any kind & am not surprised by the info in this article as all. I remember these guys from Dead shows as well.

a previous js contact said...

To blog owner JS, please post my TT blog on this blog:

disgusted with the cult said...

Here's why I left them:

BABIES ARE HIT as early as 6 months old with a long flexible reed-like stick, and are forcefully gripped by the back of the head called “restraining.” Babies are also tightly swaddled to “help break their will, but not their spirit.”

"If our children can't learn obedience, Yahshua (Jesus) will not return."
“The blueness of the wound drives away all evil.” [October 1980 Child Training -Notes from Teachers Meeting - Page 5]
“Unless your son has blue wounds, by this standard, you know what kind of a
standard is in you — it is the spirit that hates your son. If one is overly concerned about his son receiving blue marks you know that he hates his son and hates the word of God.” [No date – Execution of Justice – Page 1]
“We must beat respect into our children.” [Unraveling The Races Of Man]
Spanking “drives out the Devil.”
One child came to me and said he had been “hit all day long.”
An eight-month boy was repeatedly hit with a stick for 40 minutes, because he kept dropping a lid she had given him.
A two year old was “switched” for 8 hours, because she didn’t want to eat a bowl of millet.
There were also young boys who couldn’t sleep on their backs, because their buttocks were so welted and bloody.

BLACK PEOPLE need to be slaves to white people, unless they join the Tribes.
“What a marvelous opportunity that blacks could be brought over here to be slaves so that they could be found worthy of the nations. A good master would work by the sweat of his brow. If his slaves were lazy and disrespectful he would beat them, which is what he was supposed to do.” [Cham, Island Pond, 3/19/91]
(Note: "The Nations" is a place outside of The Holy City Heaven where the Tribes say they will live "to rule over the Nations.")
“Striving for civil rights is of the world – it is disorder to the established social order. In the social order of the world there is distinction between black and white. We shouldn’t try to change it and mess it up. It is going against something fundamental. Cham (blacks) should have been a slave all through history.” [Unraveling the Races of Man]
“If the slaves were mistreated, it was the fault of the slave. Even if the master was unreasonable the slave was to bear up under it. This was Cham’s (black people’s) discipline. For 4000 years Israel had slaves….Cham was a servant (slave) to Shem (the white race). This is the Word. You can’t break the Word. The more men try to liberate Cham (black people), the worse he gets. It is more destructive for man to try to redeem himself, changing social order. The three races are to be distinct.” [Unraveling the Races of Man]
“Niger means black. When people first started saying this word, it wasn’t bad, but it became a curse word, having a bad connotation. Before civil rights black men would say, ‘Yes, boss man’ in the south. Yes man, no man. This was respect. We need respect in people. We must beat respect into our children. Cham must get this respect in them. These blacks during the pre-civil rights time, were really slaves – they had respect for people. They got along well because they were submissive…” [Unraveling the Races of Man]
“Cham is no longer, to his detriment, slaves or servants to Shem. This is a terrible thing, a great deception. It is of the anti-Christ to think Cham is emancipated when he really is not emancipated.” [Cham, Island Pond 6/26/90]
“This is what Cham should be like in the world – like black nannies – this is sort of what they were to do. They were to be helper to Shem. It was to be a natural thing. There is nothing wrong with this. Civil Rights, forced equality is anti-Christ, trying to change the heart – it can’t be done.” [Unraveling the Races of Man]

disgusted with the cult said...

It's a very good life in some ways, and very terrible and abusive cult in other ways. They will take your mind, body, all your money, and everything you own. And if you ever decide to leave, you are to be painfully tortured by God in Death and then later in a burning Lake of Fire forever. Love lures people in, and the need for life's necessities, and friendship, even a marriage partner, but fear keeps people there. You're frequently indoctrinated that God can't forgive you any other place. That is the only place you can serve or be loved by God. All else is condemned by them. They are actually a very conservative off-shoot group of the Seventh-day Adventist movement in some ways, but they won't admit that, and many of the members don't know the founder's wife's historic ties to the SDA movement, good and bad. They have mixed the SDA in and made it much worse. They took regular evangelical Christianity and mixed that in and made it much worse. This very high-control communal church is a recipe for disaster. They are preparing to be rejected "by the world" and having "to flee to the wilderness." They are trying to have enough babies to eventually fulfill the Bible prophecy of 144,000 celibate male evangelists. It's a life of joy at times, and very deep suffering an depression at other times. You are owned by them. It's like being on some kind of house-arrest for the rest of your life. You are monitored most of the time pretty much.

Anonymous said...

Funny stumbling upon this. I thank my brother for his years of unwavering convictions and knowledge, they paid off and I'm now free after 22 years. It was my evangelism that made the Ithaca accident; and that's my window painting above. I don't know about the dead rising, but I love to hear when the sleeping awaken.

Bill Howard said...


Anonymous said...

This is very interesting. I had always noticed that in the back in their kitchen (if you walk down the alley) you will see kids in the kitchen working pretty hard. I always thought maybe it was family owned but at the same time it gave me creepy vibes. I'd never even been inside and just looking at the store front, it's odd operating hours, and the presence of children just didn't sit right with me. I recently moved here and I've been trying out every restaurant I can and I naturally avoid going there like the plague. I've been to every restaurant on the commons but that one. So I decided to look it up today and in the reviews people mentioned it was ran by a cult. I read guidelines on the religion before I came to this article. Ithaca is a hippie town. I knew there had to be the 'I look like a hippie but I'm actually a religious borderline cult nut' kind of people here somewhere.

Gerard Guiton said...

A person on this blog wrote:

I had once visited a Quaker community that was simple and beautiful that inspired me to simplify my life so why should I judge the twelve tribes for the same kind of lifestyle?).

Believe me, there is a very, VERY big difference between a Quaker community (the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers, is no cult by any measure)and the fundamentalists of the TT. A world of difference.

Daniel said...

I imagine that if you are boycotting the 12 Tribes establishments, which you are of course well in your right to do, then you also boycott Exxon, Citgo, Hess, Target, WalMart, Time Warner Cable, NYSEG, and basically any and every corporation or company where you disagree with ANY of their policies.
***The difference: the Maté Factor is a place where you can see people in their business and disagree with their personal lifestyles. Do you take a close look, with equal scrutiny with every dollar you spend in every other location?
I don't agree with all of the policies of the people who work at Maté Factor, nor do I agree with the personal NOR corporate policies of all the employees and management of any corporation or company.

Anonymous said...

Is this group still active?

kimberly lessard said...

these people are true believers and wonderful parents and friends.I am staying as a guest in their home and am being treated remarkably well.the children are not abused and are genuinely happy,loving and kind.they rcv.excellent home schooling.people heal from the work they do and yes,some do doubles but are allowed plenty of nourishment and rest.they are only issue against them is the non belief in traditional medical care.that being said however,nobody is denied this care if they choose it and rides to drs.are given as well as prescribed medicine.this is what will likely cause me to move on but I will always love this grp and visit.come see us !

Anonymous said...

I have escaped from the Ithaca community. And to the eye of an outsider the children there are not seen of appear to be happy. The children in my eyes are in fact Abused. If a child does as much as smirks or makes a face during a "gathering" or what not they are taken into a different room behind closed doors and whipped rather on the bottom or the palms of their hands. Also if any child is caught by another adult member Ethan, Yeddida or whom ever they are taken and beaten and not allowed to come back until they are done crying.. There is one boy that was "disciplined" so severely around the beginning of April that no one saw him for several days, but the rest of his family was around the compound.. I was told to submit to total "obedience" and give to them ALL of my identification.. When I asked them " what happens if someone does not live up to expectations" Ethan the so called head of this particular community did not have anything to say, he just laughed at me... There is so much more that goes on, the YouTube videos and what they say to people they try to "recruit" is nothing but a farce