My Apology and Accounting
A confession of my personal involvement in WS by ed Priebe
My Apology and Accounting
A confession of my personal involvement in WS
My name is Ed Priebe and in The Family I was known as Hart. For half of my 19 years in the group, I worked in World Services (WS) churning out propaganda, and a lot of it was used to indoctrinate children and teens. That’s why I owe your generation this confession and accounting. At the very least my stories and artwork urged you to be loyal to a controlling group. At the very worst I took part in criminal cover-ups that contributed to your suffering.
I’ve disclosed my culpability in the media and on the web, but it’s been all over the place in bits and pieces, so I want to apologize to you and give you the details all in one post. Some of you may have the impression that I was only involved in drawing comics or writing stories for the ‘Treasures’ booklet, but there was more to my participation in WS than that. Much of what I’m about to say isn’t easy to tell and I can’t dwell on it without self-disgust, but I have to set the record straight.
Berg, Maria and Peter supervised all WS publications—books, Letters, PR statements, denials of sexual abuse, etc. They commissioned WS staff to create the pubs, then edited them and saw to it that they were published. But WS isn’t a faceless, nameless organization. It’s made up of individual people. Some WS staff were only on the edges, but there are others like myself who have a great deal to account for. Berg, Maria and Peter deserve a large share of blame, but what they’ve done is already widely known. This is a confession of my participation.
I can’t tell other people’s stories for them and I don’t want to pass on second-hand information, but I can tell what I myself was involved in. For some time I felt that James Penn did such a thorough exposé of WS, and, after doing an article about WS’s involvement in Philippine military coups I felt there was little left to say—especially after Ricky wrote ‘Life With Grandpa.’ But for the past few months I’ve been thinking about the publications I worked on and how they were used to oppress you.
To give a little history, when I joined The Family in 1971 at age 17, I was put to work on the group’s ‘New Improved Truth’ newspaper. The next year I went to a Publication Home in England, then worked in French Pubs, spent years out litnessing and finally ended up in Italian Pubs.
In 1978 I joined a Home of Family artists in Spain and began drawing ‘True Komix’ (TKs). I focused on the doom and gloom MLs: blasts against Menachem Begin and Berg’s dreams of nuclear monsters, floods and U.S. missiles in the Black Forest. The only thing worse than my artwork was the subject matter itself. My best pictures were the ones I traced. Tamar Snowman was not the only one guilty of plagiarism. Most Family artists traced heavily from romance photo-novellas and some could hardly draw without tracing paper. Even Eman Artist found that Vampirella made an ideal model for Maria and used her on the cover of ‘If Truth Kills, Let it Kill,’ ML 678.
In 1981, Berg appointed me head of The Family’s art department and I began overseeing some twenty artists. His vision was to have all his Letters illustrated as TKs, and soon the volumes began coming off the presses. Around 1983 I assigned the Flirty Fishing (FF) Letters to be illustrated. Sick stuff!—Page after page of God’s harlots graphically copulating. No wonder The Family finally burned all those volumes.
There were about five talks that hadn’t been published as MLs yet, and Berg wanted these included in the FF TK book, so I received barely-edited drafts to give out as assignments. In one ML Berg was trying to get Maria to climax so he had her fantasizing that she was tied to the mast of a ship and being gang-raped by pirates. Then he told her, ‘Fuck the demons!’ Some editor had added ‘(Rom.8:28)’ after those words to explain them. The words ‘Fuck the demons!’ were edited out of the final ML—you have to wonder why—but it made me start questioning, and I was soon sending Berg pages full of ‘critical’ questions.
One day I did a study on Berg’s goddesses and concluded that they did exist, but that some of them were spirits called daimonion (demons). Naively happy that my research confirmed Berg’s doctrine, I sent my compilation off. I received a rebuke back from Peter Amsterdam telling me to ‘stick to my art.’ During the following years, I received one letter of rebuke after another from Peter, some 4 pages long, mostly about my ‘critical spirit.’
Publishing the TK books cost too much, so the project began winding down and in December 1982, my mate, Naomi, and children and I were flown to a WS Home in Hong Kong. Naomi was the guardian of an eight-year old boy, Ben Farnsworth. (Ben’s father, Timmy, was the WS photographer and computer technician.) Ben was a very bright boy with an inquisitive mind and a great sense of humor. I mention this because what happened to Ben later was a huge turning point in my life.
A few months after we arrived in Hong Kong the Home shepherd called me into his office, sat me down and shouted, ‘We know who you are!’ He held up a full-page drawing of Alexander the Evil Magician (from the ML ‘Alice and the Magic Garden,’ ML 290). My mind felt like a pane of glass shattering in pieces and for a moment I believed that I was not even human, but was literally a demon sent from hell to defy the words of God’s Prophet. I fell to my knees and the leaders performed an exorcism over me, and I wrote an apology to Berg and determined to be unquestioningly loyal.
Shortly after that breaking, we flew to the Philippines. There Naomi and I received a letter from Peter asking us to separate for the work’s sake, promising that she and the children would be supported by WS if we did. (It was WS policy to break up families. If they wanted one person in WS, they persuaded the couple to ‘voluntarily’ separate.) We agreed and she and the children—including my newborn son, Jason—were sent to Macau. I was torn up as I watched them go and I never saw them again.
No sooner were they gone than I was driven across Manila to the Music With Meaning (MWM) home, and there I illustrated the new Kidz MOP and worked with musicians writing words to songs like, ‘I’m Glad to Be a Woman,’ ‘Kathy Don’t Go,’ etc. I also began writing suck-up poetry like ‘The Imperial Princess’ describing Berg’s sex with a Chinese princess. I went on to write more poetry to persuade your generation to dedicate yourselves to The Family—poems like ‘The Battle for Britannia’ where Berg (in the guise of King Arthur) came thundering over a hilltop to defeat the demonic Saxons and rebuke young Selwyn who had ‘listened to the enemy.’ Or the ‘Sirens of Babylon’ warning you against getting sucked into the system. I’m truly sorry your generation was forced to endure this shabby prostitution of poetry. It reminds me of German artists who used their talents to create Nazi propaganda posters.
While I was still at MWM, my talent for Endtime Bible prophecy was noticed. The next thing I knew I was driven to Creations.2, the WS Pubs Home inside Manila that worked closely with Berg’s Home, Creations.1. I began working on Endtime Bible Prophecy classes and that’s where the Manila Military Ministry began. When Marcos was overthrown in the People Power Revolution in the early part of 1986, Berg learned that the army had used a ‘disinformation campaign’ to demoralize the government. Maria gave me an assignment: look up every verse and story in the Bible that proved it was moral to deceive and lie for a ‘good cause’ and type them out for our friends in the military. I did it but the compilation wasn’t given to the military, but it was used for another purpose five years later.
At this same time I began churning out stories urging Family members to tithe and be loyal and not believe the enemies’ ‘lies,’ and these stories were eventually published in the ‘Treasures’ and ‘Daily Food’ booklets. I’m truly sorry that these pubs probably made up a large part of the distorted literature you were given to read. Then in mid 1986, I met Berg and Zerby. That was when myself and several other WS drones were shipped off to Creations.1, Berg’s Hilltop compound east of Manila, to work closer with them on the Military Ministry.
I was at the Hilltop when Mene was there. I knew she was being prayed over for ‘negative thoughts,’ but wasn’t aware she was being beaten or sexually abused. There were five houses on the property and Berg, Maria, Peter, Sara and other leaders did their worst stuff behind closed doors. Like Ricky said, ‘they forced her to look her best, and like nothing was going on.’ To show you how secretive they were, I lived ten months on the same property, yet only entered Peter’s house once to get a tooth worked on in Berg’s private dental office, and I never once entered Berg and Zerby’s house. The closest I was trusted to get to it was when I sat with Maria one time on her front lawn to discuss a project.
The night Berg rebuked Mene, everyone on the property was called together in the main staff house to ‘pray for a serious situation.’ Months later after Mene had been sent to Macau, the ML ‘The Last State’ came out and I learned what this madman had told her that night, that Berg and Sara Davidito accused her of having delusions of grandeur, extreme pride, a critical spirit and harboring demons. Ironically, those were the same accusations Berg and Zerby constantly made against me. Since they’d convinced me I was guilty of these things I thought their accusations about Mene must be true as well.
Mene went through months of confessions, beatings and exorcisms because she admitted having critical thoughts about Berg. Contrast that with Juan who came from meeting Berg and declared to a roomful of people, “Dad is God! You can string me up for heresy, but Dad is GOD!” But despite the PR facade cultivated about wonderful first impressions, some people’s impressions on meeting Berg were negative. One new arrival confessed, “When I first met Dad, I immediately believed all our enemies’ lies about him.” (She was reduced to Babe’s status.) When Berg walked into the room and I saw him for the first time, his eyes glazed with alcohol, the thought hit me, “He’s demon possessed.” I immediately told myself, “No! I didn’t think that!” I was spared Mene’s fate because a gut instinct told me not to confess that thought to Maria.
I’m only thankful that after I left The Family and was in California, I had a chance to talk about all these things with Mene. We spent an evening laughing at Berg as I told her every behind-the-scenes crazy story that I could remember about him and Sara Davidito to show that although they had demonized and vilified her, her persecutors were the fools. They were the ones truly sick.
Back in 1987, a (non-Family) brother and sister in the States went public about having been sexually abused by their parents. It started a public awareness about abuse. Soon The Family was charged with advocating incest. There are many Mo quotes that do, but The Family angrily denied the charges. Eventually negative media coverage built up, forcing most Homes out of the Philippines. Berg, Maria, Peter and closest aides left for the Heavenly City School (HCS) near Tateyama, Japan, leaving most of us behind. In late 1988, we followed them, moving to a separate Creations.2 house—the ‘Dorm,’ a small Japanese guesthouse near the HCS.
It was there that I spent nearly one year working on the ‘Word Basics’ book compiling thousands of verses to show that The Family’s doctrines and way of life were Scriptural. I created the book for adults, but it probably gave your shepherds an endless supply of verses to oppress you with. I’m particularly sorry for two sections: Backsliding (which included lists of scriptures on how God would punish ‘backsliders’) and The Law of Christ (a thinly-veiled defense of Berg’s Law of Love).
Then I received another short, sharp shock. A couple years earlier Berg had a revelation that the heavenly pyramid was inside the moon, but I’d sent him a note proving that it was too big to fit unless he used a different measuring system. Berg was furious, but though Maria had his rant typed up, she’d chosen not to give it to me then. But now that I was starting to doubt again, I was handed the lengthy printout. I read page after page in a state of shock. Berg said I was like ‘a leering demon’ and said, ‘It’s like Hart stuck a knife in my back and twisted it.’ My heart began beating wildly and I could hardly breathe. I had to lie down to finish reading it. My shepherds then used my ‘broken’ state to herd me back in line.
By 1987, the media began to expose that The Family had promoted the sexual abuse of minors. A 12-year old Family girl was interviewed on TV and asked if she would FF and she answered that yes, she would. When they showed her quotes and photos where Berg promoted child-adult sex, she told the interviewers, “You shouldn't have this!” Her comments shocked viewers, and Berg and Zerby began to realize that The Family might self-destruct over this issue: Homes would be raided worldwide and all our children taken away, so in 1988, WS came up with a 4-page denial of child abuse. Paul Theophilus had joined our Home, so he and I were given copies of first draft of this denial and told to proofread it. It was a despicable publication. The defense was that these allegations had been invented by our religious enemies who were jealous of our success in preaching the gospel. I commented that the argument wasn’t good enough, but it was given to Berg anyway.
Berg’s reply back basically said to tell a more believable lie. After all, our ‘enemies’ had copies of the ‘Story of Davidito’ book and other lit that proved their charges. We couldn’t deny these publications existed, but our job was to think of anything we could to divert the blame from Berg. A new denial was written and again I was told to proofread it. We still had to deal with the issue that ‘The Story of Davidito’ was a Family publication. To my shame, I suggested we say that Sara Davidito was a fringe member who had written the book on her own, and that it didn’t reflect The Family’s thinking. This lie was used. My other suggestion was that we blame former hippies of bringing their free-wheeling sex with them into the Family when they joined.
In the final draft, Berg made a strong statement saying that he ‘renounced any Family publications that seemed to advocate child-adult sex.’ With that, the lying brochure was printed. Some time after I left The Family, Berg and Zerby authorized a more sophisticated denial of child abuse, admitting there’d been a few scattered incidents, but denying that it was ever promoted. It was a lie, of course. In 1993 Maria said in ‘Summit Jewels’ that there was nothing inherently wrong with child-adult sex, and during the British court case Peter was finally forced to admit that Berg had unleashed this abuse upon your generation.
Some months after proofreading that denial of child abuse and finishing the ‘Word Basics’ project, I wrote Maria and Peter asking for permission to write a book about Jesus’ death and resurrection. I received a strong rebuke from Peter, saying: ‘You really let the Devil in this time!’ As a result, in early 1989 I was demoted from the Creations.2 Home and sent to live in the Fountain House at the HCS.
Around this time there were police raids instigated by ex-members trying to get their children, and officials had gotten Family children to divulge information. By now Family adults knew that the official line was to deny that sexual abuse ever taken place. But in 1989 many of you were still children and children inevitably tell the truth, and even Family teens sometimes ‘slipped.’ Berg and Maria decided that you needed to be indoctrinated with the righteousness of ‘lying and deceit for the cause.’ Years earlier she’d had me research Scriptures for military disinformation campaigns. In October 1989, I received a message telling me to use that research in a comic called ‘Deceivers yet True.’
Peter and Maria dreamed up this pub, but I wrote the text. Of all things I ever wrote, this was the most despicable. I should have refused to do it. I should have realized that it was a criminal cover-up. Many of you were not only abused but, with this comic, would be instructed to deny and lie about that abuse had ever occurred, even to police officers and in courts of law. I heard recently that this comic was a major subject of ‘pow-wows’ for children, teens and even adults.
There’s no excuse for what I did, and after I left The Family, I confessed to the media. In 1993 when I was interviewed by NBC, I held up a copy of the ‘Deceivers Yet True’ comic and said, ‘This comic was created to teach Family children to lie—and I wrote it.’ A WS statement later tried to discredit me and paint me as a lunatic. But it was one thing to confess to a TV audience who wasn’t affected by it, it’s far more shameful to confess to you, the victims, that I was part of this coverup. What I did was criminal and abhorrent. I can’t undo the past, but I do want you to know that I worked on this evil publication, and that I am thoroughly ashamed of doing that.
I left The Family in 1990, and after I woke up to the magnitude of the evil I’d been part of, I spent years dedicating nearly every spare minute to exposing The Family in the media. I confessed that I’d been guilty of promoting Berg’s perverted doctrines and policies and stated that I’d been one of The Family’s top editors. That was a large part of my motives in speaking out: I was guilty for helping create pubs that covered up the abuse your generation suffered, and I wanted to set the record straight.
Something else driving me was that in 1992 I learned that Ben Farnsworth had returned to Macau where he had spent months as a ‘Detained Teen’ (DT). I didn’t hear details except that Ben finally committed suicide by leaping off a building in Hong Kong. When I met Mene later, she said that she’d been there at the same time as Ben, and told me he’d been singled out for especially harsh treatment: angry rebukes, hard physical labor and being locked in a small attic for three days at a time. Neither Mene nor Ben deserved the fiendish things they suffered in the Macau Detention Center, and when I heard of Ben’s death I was so enraged that I determined to try to bring The Family down.
In 1992 I flew to the Philippines with two objectives: to get documentation for The Family’s involvement in the military coups and also to find Amy, a Filipino disciple whom I’d known before. The Family had just finished a three-day worldwide Fast before I went to the Philippines, and one entire day had been dedicated to praying against and cursing enemies. A few days later, I entered the Manila Home.
Pretending to be a high-level Family leader, I got the phone number of the Home from a Family friend, and then had Samson Warner phone the Home, imitating Berg’s voice perfectly and telling the shepherds to pick me up at the airport. The shepherds picked me up and drove me to the Home where they informed me that there were some hot videos in a storage depot. It turns out these were the last remaining videos proving children had been sexually exploited in the Family, so I asked them to give them to me. To make a long story short, I came out with sixteen trunks of videos and literature and Amy made the decision to leave The Family and marry me. They had locked her in a room though, so she had to crawl out a bathroom window and climb over a locked gate, screaming for the police, to escape.
Family leadership then charged me with stealing $3,000,000 worth of ‘Christian books and audio-visual materials’ and had the NBI (Philippine equivalent of the FBI) issue a warrant for my arrest. In December 1992, a Family lawyer sent me a letter stating: “While the matter of your actions has been submitted to the NBI, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI, the Los Angeles District Attorney and U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, The Family still has the right to request that they drop any further investigation and to request that all charges against you be dismissed.”
They would only do this, he specified, if I “returned the trunks full of personal property” and agreed “to cease and desist in [my] activities to discredit The Family.” In closing, he warned, “In the absence of a settlement, The Family will continue to vigorously pursue their criminal cases against you.” However, by this time we realized that several of the videos proved that children had been sexually exploited in The Family, so instead of allowing the evidence to be destroyed, I spoke with ranking friends in the RCMP, got legal counsel, and decided to fight. During the next years the videos ended up in the media and as evidence in court cases.
I became so obsessed with fighting the Family that for years I spent every spare moment exposing them in the media and writing articles telling what I knew. I cooled down after some time, realizing that I didn’t want to hurt individual Family members. And as my wife and I had children, we became busy with raising them and earning a living, but I hadn’t finished telling what I knew, however, so in 2000 I wrote my article exposing The Family’s involvement in Filipino politics. But there was one more thing to expose, my personal involvement in WS publications.
In the past few years, I’ve known close up the ongoing pain that childhood sexual abuse can cause. Someone whom I love dearly was raped by her father then warned that if she ever told, he would kill her. When she finally talked, her father called her a liar and her mother nearly beat her to death. For years I’ve gone through hell with her as she suffered pain that she never deserved, and what she went through helped me understand Family-related abuse issues in a way I never had before.
Family leadership, particularly Berg, Maria and Peter, created policies unleashing abuse upon you, then worked to cover it up afterwards, but they could never have done this without the help of so many ‘enablers’ like myself, and I’m utterly ashamed of having been their henchman. Through my work in WS, I am guilty of helping oppress you. No one put a gun to my head when they told me to proofread the denial of child abuse. No one beat me, coercing me to write the text to ‘Deceivers Yet True.’ I chose to do their bidding, and the very least I can do now is confess my complicity in this evil.
I’m still angry at myself when I realize how my part in these criminal coverups hurt your generation and re-victimized those of you who suffered sexual or physical abuse. I am truly sorry for being part of these despicable activities. I know this confession can’t undo the harm I’ve caused, but I nevertheless owe it to you. It’s taken years to fully understand the damage I have done. This has come not only from what I’ve witnessed since leaving The Family, but from reading your posts on the MovingOn board, as well as the posts by Jules on the GenX board.
Your suffering in The Family was real, and I am personally guilty of adding to it by writing lying statements to cover up what happened. I want to do what I can to validate your stories, beginning with this apology.