Posted on 6/18/18

For years, the concept of a cult has fascinated and captivated us. While there is no official number, there are likely thousands of cults just in the United States. Being a cult member is not a crime; however, being a cult member attracts scrutiny.

When this scrutiny is shined on a cult, people ask questions. This leads to law enforcement examining the cults’ activities. Raids against cult compounds, like the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas in 1993, are nothing new. If you are involved in a religious group known as a cult, know that you have rights.

What is a Cult?

The term “cult” does not have a defined meaning, though many have tried to define it. It is generally held that people who worship in the same church, have regular bible study groups, and have communal activities are not cults. The term is usually used for small groups that have a religious service and there is usually one or a small group of leaders at the helm. Some sociologists say that certain factors, though not all required, constitute a cult:

  • Religious group with a purpose;

  • That purpose is outside the mainstream religious sphere;

  • Child abuse;

  • Special privileges for the group leader;

  • Mind control tactics;

  • Bizzare sexual practices;

  • Members providing the cult with their worldy possessions;

  • Isolation from family;

  • Expectation of absolute obedience.

David Koresh

Vernon Howell, who was the son of a drug-addicted teenage mother and endured a very difficult childhood, joined a group of Christians in Texas that practiced an obscure form or religion and lived in a commune. Howell joined the group, who, at the time, was going through a leadership transformation. The new leader was the wife of the ill leader. When Howell joined, he started sleeping with the 61-year-old woman, allowing him to move up the ranks in the sect. After a spat with her son, Howell, who called himself David Koresh, moved the group to Palestine, Texas for a short time. He later moved the group back to the compound outside Waco.

When he returned, Koresh took control of the group that he renamed the Branch Davidians. He was in total control of the finances and the people’s lives. He started to take “wives,” which he claimed was heaven’s will. At first, his wives were young girls, ages 11-15. He encouraged them to have children with him, which they did.

Later, Koresh claimed that he had a vision whereby all cult member wives must be given to him. That meant that all men in the group must remain celibate while he goes on a sex spree with the cult women.

At this point, the cult had some defectors who went to the authorities. They claimed that Korsesh was running a child abuse factory by having “marriages” with children. They also claimed that people were being held hostage, including a number of children. Some of those children were Koresh’s biological children.

A raid ensued. The ATF surrounded the compound with guns blazing and demanded that Koresh surrender. He refused. The result was that the building burned to the ground, believed to be Koresh’s doing. Koresh was never tried in a court and had no record of child abuse. Nonetheless, the ATF used heavy force.

Are you a member of a religious sect and feel persecuted by the government? You have rights. Contact the Law Firm of Christopher Abel, a board-certified criminal defense attorney.

(image courtesy of Jametlene Reskp)

Flower Mound Office

Phone: 972.584.7837

Denton Office