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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Legal Challenges to Religious Cults

It appears to be possible to sue religious cults. There was a case in the United States about 23 years ago (below). However the cult looks to be more extreme than most religious cults, with evidence of cruel and degrading treatment. Maybe the 1988 case could be regarded as being "case law" that can be quoted by lawyers in new cases...

Aggressive Christianity - Mother of 3 sues cult- tells of life in shed
The Sacramento Union, USA, March 16, 1988
by Trinda Pasquet

A former member of an unorthodox Christian sect in Sacramento filed a $20 million lawsuit Tuesday, alleging the group forced her to live in a shed with no toilet and little food for 10 weeks.

Christianity Missions Training Corps - also known as Free Love Ministries -- is also accused in the suit of turning Maura A. Schmierer's family against her and forcing her to sign over all her worldly possessions to them, including her share of a home in French Gulch. In an interview Tuesday, Schmierer said she and her now ex-husband, Steven, were the first to join the organization, founded by Jim and Lila Green, in 1982.

The sect of about 15 members patterns itself after the military and operates out of four communal houses or "barracks" in the 2200 block of X Street. Members wear militaristic uniforms and are given rank in the "army of God," Schmierer said. Their warfare is against the devil and other "evils," such as homosexuality and Rock 'N 'Roll music.
Schmierer said she was afraid to leave the religious group after the Greens, her husband and two other members decided on Jan. 10, 1987, that she had "fallen under God's judgment" and had been "forsaken."

Schmierer's alleged sin was "spiritual adultery," which she interprets as meaning that she put her family before God.

The mother of three said she was removed from her family and forced to live in "intolerable conditions" for the following six months.
According to the lawsuit, which seeks $20 million in punitive damages and unspecified compensatory damages, the organization changed Schmierer's name to "forsaken" and moved her into a workshop. She was dressed in a black scarf and a sack dress and ordered to perform menial tasks, the suit said. Her children - ages 12, 6 and 5 - allegedly complied with orders to call their mother "forsaken" and avert their eyes from her when they saw her in the compound, the suit said.

In late January 1987, Schmierer said she was moved into a 5-by-12-foot wooden shed, in which she could not stand upright. The woman said she and another banished member shared the damp shed without toilet facilities or windows. During the 10 weeks she spent there, she was fed an average of six small, stale peanut butter sandwiches every day, the suit said.

When she was served with divorce papers Feb. 9, 1987, Schmierer said she signed them thinking they were a test of her loyalty to the group and that if she objected she would not be reunited with her family.

In March 1987, the suit said Schmierer and two other female members were advised at a meeting that their husbands were divorcing them for "spiritual adultery." The three women were then allegedly ordered back to the shed, where they remained for about five days.

One of three women reportedly left the compound and Sacramento police were phoned, the suit said. Police searched the compound and shortly thereafter the shed was destroyed by the defendants. Schmierer said she spent the next three weeks in a basement and was then moved into a bedroom for six weeks.

At one point, Schmierer's 5-year-old son was allegedly accused of being "possessed" because of misbehavior. The defendants - which include the Greens and Schmierer's ex-husband - allegedly changed the boy's name to "demon," moved him into Schmierer's bedroom.

Jim Green, the organization's brigadier general, finally ordered Schmierer to leave the compound in July 1987, refusing to let her take her children, the suit said.
For the next three months, Schmierer was away from her children until a court awarded her custody.
[emphasis by me]

"In 1989, the court ordered ACMTC to pay Schmierer $1.2 million; they had lost the lawsuit by default. Not too surprisingly they didn't come up with the money, so Blasier had their compound seized by the court. When an attempt was made to assess its value, however, Free Love Ministries had vacated the premises, which was found to be in ruins. They had apparently demolished the Sacramento compound shortly before fleeing to one of their missions in Mozambique, though the Greens deny this. Neighbors, however had observed them tearing down parts of the buildings, and loading them into vans."
(Also: http://www.apologeticsindex.org/a14.html )

So it is possible to sue religious cults, but getting the cult to "come up with the money" looks to be a lot harder...
With regard to churches like the 'Church of God - Preparing for the Kingdom of God', it is thought that most of their money isn't even in the USA! --- Switzerland was mentioned not so long ago as a location for their 'secret' bank accounts.

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