A newborn child died needlessly from an infection that apparently could have easily been dealt with through antibiotics.

The unfortunate infant had parents who are members of the General Assembly Church of the First Born, a controversial group that teaches its members to avoid doctors and eschew medical care.

It seems the couple stood by as their child suffered and died.

Parents in groups like this have been prosecuted and laws were enacted in Colorado specifically regarding this issue to avoid further tragedies.

But it appears that in Indiana such fanatics are safe and may be allowed to essentially kill their children.

Indiana’s child neglect law “allows parents to provide prayer instead of medicine” reports WISH TV.

However, the question still remains, are these parents guilty of infanticide?

And if the laws of Indiana don’t protect children subjected to such seemingly wanton and criminal neglect shouldn’t the law be changed?

The Waco Tribune Herald concluded its nine-part series today with an article entitled, “Prophesying about Waco.”

The newspaper was seemingly taking a swing at foretelling the future, but not in any biblical sense. The article focused on the future of Waco, in an effort to burnish the image of the Texas town.

Baylor University is spending more than a $100 million dollars to expand its presence in Waco and some civic leaders hope that President George W. Bush might decide to build his presidential library there.

The series explored the town and its mood more than it delved into the facts about the Branch Davidians, at times it read like a brochure put out by the Waco Chamber of Commerce.

Ten years ago things were quite different.

Waco Tribune reporters Darlene McCormick and Mark Englund, who are no longer on staff at the newspaper, dug deep to produce an in-depth investigative series titled “The Sinful Messiah.”

If not for politics the two journalists might have picked up a Pulitzer.

That was then, and this is now.

Hard reporting seems to be the last thing anyone wants in Waco these days. What the Texas town is intent upon, is distancing itself from the cult led by David Koresh.

One civic booster even went so far as to point out that the cult standoff “happened outside of Waco.” And then offered these prophetic words, “I think we’ve got about as bright a future as we ever had.”


A Baylor professor chimed in, “Time has a wonderful way of curing things…My guess is that as time passes, the name ‘Waco’ – so indelibly marked in the minds of most Americans for a time [regarding the cult standoff] – will begin to fade.”

Well, Baylor certainly hopes so.

But the Waco Davidian tragedy was the second longest standoff in American history. And it is highly unlikely that it will “fade” anytime soon, despite the “prophesying.”

In fact it seems like some folks in Waco would rather ignore history altogether.

The paper appeared anxious not to anger anti-government conspiracy types. In a seeming bow to the fringe it reported a fire of “much-debated origin” ended the lives of the Davidians.

However, this ignores the facts as established by two congressional inquiries, an independent investigation and the verdict of both judge and jury in a civil trial.

The overwhelming evidence has conclusively proven that Koresh ordered the fire set.

In the final paragraphs of the recent Tribune series Baylor sociologist Larry Lyon offered his evaluation of the standoff’s enduring legacy.

He claimed, “It no longer means religious fanaticism. Now it’s a place where the government overreached.”

Perhaps this thinking is popular in Waco, essentially blaming the tragedy on outsiders. But the professor must be in an academic isolation tank.

Maybe he thinks the mass suicide at Jonestown was also the government’s fault, for not requiring that all Kool-Aide packages state, “Do not mix with cyanide.”

Kerri Jewell was only a child a decade ago, but her memory is more deeply etched that the professor’s. This is because she once lived in the cult compound.

Jewell said in a recent interview, “At some point we were going to have to die for him [David Koresh]. I didn’t expect to live past 12.”

Due to a bitter custody fight Kerri Jewell was not in the compound at the time of the standoff. Her mother was and she died in the fire.

ABC reported Davidian kids were taught “there were only two types of people: ‘good’ people who were inside the cult, and ‘bad’ people who were everyone else.”

Some Davidians still around Waco make it clear they feel the same. One told the Tribune there was still hope for the town though.

Clive Doyle said, “I believe God wants to save Waco, and I believe God works every day to change the minds of the people in Waco.”


Another Davidian put it less tactfully, “When David [Koresh] comes back, there’s going to be an earthquake so bad that Lake Waco, the shore, is going to drop 15 feet. When it does that, there’s going to be a flood here like you never seen.”

Now there’s some old time “prophesying.”

Waco will continue to be largely remembered as the place where a destructive cult chose to end its days.

And contrary to what Lyon concludes, Waco and other cult tragedies since, have proven the government rather than worrying about “overreaching,” often must take decisive action.

In 1995 Aum gassed Tokyo’s subways, sending thousands to hospitals and killing twelve. Next came the Solar Temple suicide in Switzerland, which initially claimed the lives of 74.

Americans were shocked in 1997 when 39 “Heaven’s Gate” cult members committed mass-suicide near San Diego. And the government had no interest in the group.

Criminal arrests and prosecutions in recent years, reflect law enforcement’s growing reach into the world of groups called “cults.”

A few examples include the Nuwaubians and House of Prayer in Georgia, the Church of God Restoration in Canada and California, the R.G. Stair’s Overcomers Ministry in North Carolina, the General Assembly Church of the First Born in Colorado and Polygamist groups in Utah and Arizona.

Since anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City murdering 168, with “Remember Waco” as his battle cry, the FBI has busted and put away many so-called “militia” members for weapons violations.

It is doubtful that Koresh would be able to stockpile illegal weapons today as easily as he did in 1992-93.

The FBI has learned to identify and deal with fanatics more effectively. The Freeman standoff in Montana, which ended peacefully, proved this.

But the Freemen were not the Davidians, with a leader comparable to Koresh. It is doubtful that the Waco standoff could have ended any way, other than the one chosen by the cult leader.

In the final analysis this is the greatest lesson of Waco.

Destructive cult leaders are often psychopaths capable of horrific acts. Cult followers frequently abdicate any meaningful autonomy in favor of total dependence upon their leaders. And they then rely upon the judgement of someone else that may be mad.

This can be a formula for disaster. Waco is proof of that.

Nevada’s elected officials are not interested in visiting Mexico on a free junket, at least not if it involves Scientology.

Only two legislators indicated that they would go on the proposed trip to visit a Mexican prison that uses the Scientology related Narconon program, reports the Las Vegas Sun.

One pro Narconon state assembly member said she is sponsoring a bill for a similar prison program that would rely upon federal funding through President Bush’s faith-based initiative.

It’s unlikely that any such legislation will pass, but it’s interesting to note the connection to the Bush plan that allows federal dollars to be used by religious groups to fund supposedly non-sectarian social programs.

All three Nevada legislators who now seem interested in the Scientology program are social and/or religious conservatives.

But religious conservative Pat Robertson once opposed the Bush initiative on the grounds that controversial groups like Scientology might seek funding.

Looks like the televangelist was prophetic.

However, Robertson later lifted his objections after receiving a half million dollars from the fund for one of his pet projects called “Operation Blessing.”

Regardless of Robertson change of heart, evangelical cult watchdog groups such as “Watchman Fellowship” continue to warn conservative Christians and the general public about the perils of groups like Scientology.

Perhaps Nevada legislators should consider carefully Watchman Fellowship’s assessment of Scientology.

The Fellowship says, “Controversy continues to rage around Scientology due mostly to the totalitarian and abusive nature of its practices…It does, in fact, involve religious belief (in what most outsiders would regard as science fiction). But that belief appears to have been built chiefly as a cover for exploitive commercial operations.”

It seems like Dwight “Malachi” York has used allegations of “persecution” and “racism” historically whenever there was a criminal investigation into his possible criminal activities.

When the Nuwaubian leader was cited in Georgia for anything from zoning violations to ultimately the sexual abuse of minor children, it was always somehow “persecution.”

And apparently, York may have used a similar strategy to deflect law enforcement regarding a murder investigation he was linked to years ago in Brooklyn, reports Newsday.

That murder in 1979 remains unsolved, though informants identified the killer as a close York associate.

But York moved to Georgia, where new allegations of “racism” would emerge whenever he was criticized. And prominent political leaders would rally around and defend the cult leader, reports Newsday.

York’s defenders included Al Sharpton, NAACP officials, Jesse Jackson and assorted Georgia politicians, who were apparently taken in by his claims of supposed injustice.

This isn’t a new story.

Jim Jones, the notorious cult leader who in 1978 led almost a thousand followers to death at Jonestown, likewise had an assortment of prominent leaders that once supported him.

Then California Governor Gerry Brown, State Assemblyman Willy Brown and Mayor Moscone of San Francisco were all once fans and friends of Jim Jones.

Willy Brown said years later, “If we knew then he was mad, clearly we wouldn’t have appeared with him.”

Mayor Moscone was somewhat more blunt, “It’s clear that if there was a sinister plan, then we were taken in.” But the mayor added, “I’m not taking any responsibility.”

Should politicians that support and/or somehow shield a cult leader from accountability or closer scrutiny accept any responsibility for whatever misdeeds and victimization takes place?

Certainly Revs. Sharpton and Jackson did not know about the gross abuses perpetrated by Dwight York, but perhaps they should have been more careful before defending the “cult leader.”

In the end it was the children under York’s control who were “persecuted,” through a reign of terror and sexual abuse at the hands of the “cult leader.”

George Geftakys a former Baptist minister has led an obscure group based in Fullerton, California called “the assembly” since 1971.

In 1992 this relatively small group, which has been called a “cult,” received attention within the book “Churches That Abuse,” by Ronald Enroth. Enroth is a professor of Sociology at Westmont College.

Geftakys drew his followers largely from college and university campuses within California. Many members stayed on for years raising their children within the group.

However, over the last three decades assembly members have been excommunicated, many walked away, while some were professionally “deprogrammed,” when concerned parents intervened.

Enroth quoted one member that concluded, “You don’t have a relationship with George unless George dominates.” And according to a “written code” the assembly’s work “is not conducted on the basis of democracy.”

George Geftakys effectively became a dictator. And the assembly in many ways became the Geftakys family business.

Then came the troubles.

First, George’s son David Geftakys, who had been given a comfortable salaried position in the group, was exposed as a wife beater and abusive father. Eventually, this behavior became a police concern and a matter of public record.

Geftakys struggled with this situation amidst escalating controversy within the group. It became increasingly difficult for the assembly leader to simultaneously uphold the group’s rigid rules, while his son broke them.

But far more serious concerns regarding George Geftakys’ own conduct are now an issue. Geftakys, who is married and in his seventies, has been exposed for what appears to be adultery and seeming sexual misconduct.

According to a posted statement attributed to assembly “elders and leading brothers in Fullerton” the fallen leader has now been excommunicated.

Their statement says, “The excommunication is for initiating, encouraging and engaging in immoral and unseemly relationships with several sisters for over the past 20 years.” And that Geftakys “repeatedly lied …and deceived …with regard to these relationships and continues to deny any responsibility for them.”

According to the statement “George Geftakys…is not welcome at the Lord’s Supper or at any assembly meeting or gathering until there is a full and complete clearing of these matters.” And “Due to our brother’s spiritual condition, we are also withdrawing all support for he and his wife’s personal needs.”

Can followers so easily dispossess and dethrone a “cult leader”?

Last year another purported “cult leader,” Kip McKean of the International Church of Christ, resigned from his role in what looked like a palace coup. But McKean is still receiving “support for…his…personal needs” and continues to work within the organization.

What will happen now to George Geftakys?

Will he accept his “excommunication,” or simply excommunicate those who have dared to question him?

And what will be done with any assembly assets? Is George entitled to something if he walks away into forced retirement?

A website run by a former member that was “excommunicated” himself keeps track of events within the assembly and allows former members to network through a message board.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops.

That is, what changes actually occur at the assembly and will some new form of leadership eventually replace the old regime? Will there be a new dictator, or will democratic reforms produce meaningful accountability? Maybe the group just fold?

Stay tuned.

Jehovah’s Witness parents in South Africa would have allowed their baby to die if not for a doctor’s actions and the ruling of a judge, reports South Africa’s Sunday Times.

Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusion for themselves and their children due to a policy proscribed by their Governing Body. This is based upon an idiosyncratic Witness understanding of scripture. Specifically, “Old Testament” injunctions regarding the “eating of blood” more commonly understood as dietary law.

However, increasingly the courts are interceding to save the lives of children threatened by extreme and dangerous religious beliefs. Many children have previously died due to medical neglect in such groups as Christian Science, Church of God Restoration, End Time Ministries and General Assembly Church of the First Born.

In some of these churches parents were charged criminally due to medical neglect and some were convicted and sentenced for manslaughter.

The Witness parents in Johannesburg, South Africa seemed relieved that the judge ultimately ordered the blood transfusion that saved their child’s life.

The baby’s mother hugged the treating doctor who initiated the action after the ruling. The father later said, “We thank God for placing our child in the care of such capable medical people and hope for a speedy and uncomplicated medical recovery.”

Their baby is now stable and doing well.

This is one Witness story about a near death medical emergency with a happy ending. But many others have ended in tragedy.

It is a scandal how many children needlessly die due to medical neglect as a direct result of the teachings of certain extreme religious groups.

Parents may believe whatever they wish, but a child’s right to life must supercede such freedom of religious expression.

His followers call Ariel Ben Sherman a “spiritual father,” but the leader of “New Life Ministries” is now charged with “aggravated child abuse and neglect” concerning the death of 15-year-old Jessica Lynn Crank. The girl’s mother Jacqueline Crank is also charged for medical neglect, reports Knox News.

The group does not believe in modern medicine and despite the child’s increasingly serious complications from cancer and a grossly enlarged tumor, she received no medical treatment.

Many children have died in religious cults and sects due directly to medical neglect. This has included such groups as General Assembly Church of the New Born, Church of God Restoration, Faith Assembly and End Times Ministries. Hobart Freeman the leader of Faith Assembly was sentenced to prison for his role in the death of a 15-year-old in 1984. It is estimated that more than 100 people died from medical neglect within that group alone.

A study conducted by the University of California Department of Pediatrics in San Diego concluded that 90% of the children studied who died as a result of withheld medical treatment for religious reasons, would have survived with proper care.

Two groups widely known to the general public, Christian Science and Jehovah’s Witnesses likewise have been linked to children’s deaths. Christian Science parents often withhold medical treatment from their children in favor of prayer and Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions.

As Americans we are entitled to believe whatever we wish, but we may not do anything we want in the name of religion. Parents of children who have died due to medical neglect have been criminally charged and convicted.

Jesus said, “Suffer not the little children.” And overwhelmingly Christians who believe in the power of prayer do not preclude medical assistance. But unfortunate children like Jessica Lynn Crank who live within extreme groups and are dependent upon their family for help may receive no medical care.

Jessica Lynn Crank hoped for “new life” in the Sherman group, but instead she suffered a painful death.