New Focus on Fringe Religious Sect

ByABC News
January 27, 2005, 9:12 PM

Jan. 27, 2005 -- -- Nearly two decades after it officially renounced adult-child sex in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, there are new questions about a Christian sect founded in the late 1960s with thousands of members around the world.

Earlier this month, Ricky Rodriguez, the one-time heir apparent to The Family, stabbed to death his former nanny and then shot himself dead. He left a chilling videotape alleging the sexual abuse he had suffered as a child at the hands of members of the group was too much to bear.

On the tape obtained by "Primetime Live," the 29-year-old can be seen assembling weapons. "It's a need for revenge," he told the camera. "What about the thousands of us who have been f---ed over literally?"

Others from Rodriguez's generation in the group say they have suffered too. Celeste Jones, who left the group in 2001, said when she was 5 and 6, "I also was subject to sexual abuse -- adults teaching me mainly to fondle them."

The Family spokeswoman Claire Borowik says while she is deeply saddened by the murder/suicide, the group was not responsible for Rodriguez's death. She says she does not believe that he was a victim of sexual abuse: "It wasn't really an issue of sex. There was a liberal ... liberality that existed in some homes, not most homes."

Borowik also noted that compounds belonging to the organization have been subject to police raids, but no member has ever been convicted of sexual abuse.

"We live in a violent culture," she said. Rodriguez had fallen under the spell of forces opposed to her organization, she said, and the murder-suicide was intended as "something that would bring down The Family altogether."

However, it's hard to refute that Rodriguez grew up in a sexually charged atmosphere. The group founded as Children of God promoted a strange brew of Biblical prophecy and sexual freedom.

Its charismatic leader, Moses David Berg, once said: "I practice what I preach! And I preach sex, boys and girls." Berg died of natural causes in 1994.