Priest Outraged at Cult Infiltration of Youth Home
Father Ritter vs. Church of Bible Understanding
The following statement was released in June by Father Bruce Ritter, head of New York City’s Covenant House/Under 21.
“Do you need a job, a place to stay, some money, a chance to travel, security, salvation, happiness, acceptance, friendship, love?”
They came, one by one, at ten minute intervals. They came to ask that question of our kids. Ten young men and women, 18 and 19, each carrying knapsacks, infiltrated UNDER 21. They were homeless, they said. They had “problems at home,” they said. They needed shelter, they said.
They lied. They were actually members of a vicious cult headquartered in Philadelphia, with centers in Brooklyn, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Montreal. They call themselves The Church of Bible Understanding – or, as they like to be known – the “We People.”
“Come with us and find the truth,” the liars said. “Come with us to Philadelphia!”
An irresistible invitation to vulnerable, hurting kids who needed and wanted all those things instantaneously. No more hard decisions about getting their heads together, about taking responsibility for their own lives. No more hard choices about schools. No more thinking through what it means to be accountable to yourself.
Seventeen of our kids ran upstairs and excitedly packed their bags: money, jobs, travel, security! Philadelphia! Wow!
Our counselors pleaded with them, trying vainly to stem the exodus. But it’s hard to argue with needy, longing kids caught up in the hope of instant fulfillment and instant solutions to tough problems.
The kids piled into three vans the cult had hidden around the corner, and took off – they thought – for the “Young Sheep House” in Philadelphia – a kind of indoctrination center for new recruits – and wound up in Brooklyn!
What our kids found was not happiness, fulfillment, and instant salvation in Philadelphia, but heavy intense indoctrination sessions lasting until 3 and 4 in the morning in Brooklyn.
“I couldn’t go to the bathroom without getting permission, Bruce. They kept chanting the Bible at us, Bruce. It was 3 AM.”
“They wouldn’t let me go to sleep, Bruce.” Billy was outraged. “Besides they said I was going to Philadelphia and they brought us to Brooklyn! I live in Brooklyn, Bruce.”
“I couldn’t leave, Bruce. They said I would go to hell and that awful things would happen to us if we left.”
“They wanted us to confess our sins in front of everybody, Bruce. They yelled at some of the kids until they cried.”
“Girls are always supposed to serve the men, Bruce. That’s why God made us,” Mary was indignant, “to cook all their meals and everything.”
“There were lots of kids there, Bruce. They wouldn’t let us leave. There were locks and guards and bolts.”
“They want you to work in their rug cleaning business and give them back all the money you earned. I worked for that money, Bruce!”
The “We People,” apparently delighted by their “catch,” returned to UNDER 21 the next night and brazenly parked their van right in front of our Center: trying once more to lure away some of our young and impressionable youngsters.
ENOUGH! Our angry – and quick to respond – attorney immediately drew up the necessary legal documents and by 10:15 that night obtained from Supreme Court Judge Richard W. Wallach a temporary restraining order. The order prohibited members of this cult from entering UNDER 21, or enticing any resident to leave our Center. By 11:30 that same night, our attorneys presented the documents to the cult’s headquarters in Brooklyn.
Back at UNDER 21, our Public Relations staff immediately informed the media; our counselors calmed and reassured the kids.
Later that night, two of our kids phoned our staff from Brooklyn, pleading to be rescued from the cult headquarters. Covenant House immediately called the police and explained the situation. The police rushed over and demanded that the two young men be permitted to leave the “Young Sheep House.”
One of the boys released – a real street kid and definitely no cream puff – said fervently: “I was never so glad to see a bunch of blue uniforms in my life.”
What kind of man runs such a crazy outfit? What kind of man would send out legions of brainwashed kids to recruit, with lying promises, other equally fragile kids? The founder and leader of this cult is a man named Stewart Trail, a former vacuum cleaner salesman. Trail founded his cult in 1971 in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and immediately began to attract followers – and establish lucrative businesses for them to work in.
Three months ago some Philadelphia members of his cult were arrested for savagely and repeatedly beating Trail’s own 12-year-old son Donald, at Trail’s request, “to discipline him.” Young Donald was beaten first with a belt, then with boards. “We didn’t want to hit him with the board, but the belt had no effect,” said a member of the cult. “We stopped when the board broke. Then he was told to read a verse in the Bible.”
For thousands of years, charlatans and deceivers have wrapped themselves in religious garments and exploited the credulity and ignorance of their followers. It’s particularly despicable when children are exploited and abused by these evil manipulative men. (I am glad to report that the FBI and the Brooklyn DA have launched a major investigation into the “We People.”)
Our greatest weapon against these cults is the truth: the truth about how their lying promises can quickly influence people; how quickly their manipulative techniques can enslave their followers. And, sadly, how difficult it is to break their almost diabolical hold.
Teach your children! Teach them how these cults operate. The techniques they use to recruit and indoctrinate their unwary victims could easily and effectively be taught in a school setting and this same knowledge can protect our children in times of loneliness and doubt and pain when they too seek love and acceptance and security, the easy way.
Kids and young people should not be exploited by anybody. Not by pimps, not by people who buy and sell them, not by cults who offer security and love and shelter in coerced exchange for the total devotion – and the hard-earned money – of their followers. Love, not freely given, is not love at all.
A pimp by any other name is still a pimp.
Thanks for your help this month. Sometimes, when people go on vacation, they forget to mail in “that envelope.”
We do need you! Your prayers most of all. Don’t ever stop praying for us.
We thank God for you all the time.