The Role of Children and the Rights of Parents
“Tabitha’s Place” is the name of a spiritual community, housed in a beautiful chateau built around 1762, located in the heart of in a tiny village called Sus, near the Atlantic Pyrenees on the Spanish border. The community, also known as the “Tribe of Reuben,” is the French branch of the Twelve Tribes, a communal movement that arose in Tennessee in the 1970s.
To visit the Twelve Tribes in any country is like traveling back in time (despite the prevalence of cell phones and computers). The bearded men wear loose shirts and hand-crafted shoes and tie their shoulder-length hair in an eighteenth-century queue. Women wear long skirts with modest blouses, and when it is time for prayer, they cover their long hair with headscarves. Many rooms are furnished with restored antiques and decorated in a Victorian style, with lace curtains, watercolors, dried flowers, and oil lamps. The outlying buildings contain ateliers—a cobbler and leatherworking shop, a smithy, a bakery, and a garage. Goats and poultry wander around the farmyards.
On the morning of November 21, 2006, four deputies from the National Assembly made a surprise visit to the chateau. These deputies were well-established figures in France’s anticult movement and newly appointed commissioners involved in a special project. Their names were Philippe Vuilque, Georges Fenech, Alain Gest, and Jean-Pierre Brard.
In June 2006, the National Assembly had created a third parliamentary commission to investigate a new aspect of France’s secte “problem.” It was called the Commission d’enquête parlementaire sur les sectes et les mineurs.1 Its mission was to investigate the role of children in “sectarian movements,” and how living in these sectarian environments affected children’s physical and psychological well being. Brard, the secretary of this new commission, had already informed the media that children in sectes “are condemned to live in a closed vase … there