An excellent editorial appeared in the Edmonton Journal written by Paula Simons regarding the background history of a Canadian “cult” child abuse case.
Lucille Poulin, the leader of the “Four Winds Commune” was convicted on five counts of assault for beating children within her group. Her defense was essentially that “God” told her to do it. However, the court found that invoking the name of God did not protect Poulin’s behavior.
Perhaps more disturbing than Poulin’s destructive delusions is how long it took authorities to take action.
According to records beginning in 1995 social workers knew what was going on—so why did it take so long to stop Poulin? Apparently they tried to protect the children seven years ago, but were frustrated by a judge who turned them away. Later one child died from medical neglect.
Reviewing the pattern of missed opportunities in the Poulin case is not unlike the sad histories of other “cults” that have abused children.
Groups that have been called “cults” such as the “Twelve Tribes,” “Children of God” and the so-called “Krishna Consciousness” movement have all at one time been the focus of child abuse allegations. Yet over and over again, such groups often escape law enforcement.
Child abuse was eventually proven to be rampant within the Waco Davidian sect, but Texas Child Protection workers once gave David Koresh a pass. Later, the testimony of one of Koresh’s young victims before Congress made it chillingly clear how wrong they were.
Krishna is now the defendant in a class action lawsuit filed by its former children who allege horrific acts of physical and sexual abuse.
The “Twelve Tribes,” just like the Poulin group was investigated for child abuse, but a judge also stopped that process and returned more than a hundred children to the group’s Vermont compound. Years later its children have recounted their experiences of abuse.
Former childhood members of the “Children of God” have discussion/support groups to help each other heal and recover from the abuse they experienced. The group’s founder David Berg has been exposed as a pedophile who engaged in incest and preached a doctrine of sexually stimulating children beginning at the age of four.
Another Canadian group “Church of God Restoration” was also recently found guilty concerning the abuse of its children through brutal beatings. But many within the Canadian press seemed to defend the parental prerogative of group members to inflict such punishment. In another case involving the same church in California a child also died due to medical neglect.
“Cult leader” Dwight York now faces more than 200 criminal counts for sexually abusing and exploiting minor children in his group called the “Nuwaubians.” According to the charges filed against him that abuse was apparently ongoing for years.
Arthur Allen Jr., the leader of the group known as the “House of Prayer” just began serving his jail sentence for a child cruelty conviction. Allen actually made such abuse a spectacle by brutally beating children publicly before his flock.
The story of Lucille Poulin is hardly unique. And the blunders made by authorities that allowed her to continue unchecked for so long are not uncommon either. Sadly, within the bureaucratic maze and legal due process of North America many children within “cults” are victimized.
Authorities seem to be reluctant in dealing with abuse within religious groups. Such groups almost always claim that any interference regarding their behavior is somehow “religious persecution.”
The lot of children born or brought into destructive cults like so much baggage is a scandal. Who will protect them? As Paula Simons laments in her editorial for the Edmonton Journal, “So much unnecessary suffering. So many unanswered questions.”
Perhaps the precedents recently set by court cases in both Canada and the United States will help. But it seems that so often, it is too little or too late.