Last year, I wrote about an article that examined how some of the Jesus People, as they came to be called, evolved from being part of the hippie movement in the 1970s to become evangelical conservatives and Tea Partiers now.
Judith Valente writes about a new documentary by Jaime Prater called No Place to Call Home that details the physical and sexual abuse suffered by some children in those groups, including him.
Two lawsuits have been filed against Jesus People in Cook County Circuit Court. The suits also name the Evangelical Covenant Church, headquartered outside of Chicago. Jesus People has been a member congregation of that church since 1989.
In one of the suits, Heather Kool, 38, of Athens, Ga., alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused as a child by a resident of the community while living there with her mother.
In a separate suit, filed on March 24, Prater, 38, alleges he too was sexually molested as a boy “over a period of years” by a different community resident.
Both lawsuits say the alleged abuse stemmed in part from Jesus People’s practice of letting families with minor children share living quarters with nonrelated adults. Prater says Jesus People would accept people into the commune with few questions asked. “The leadership engineered this environment of let’s accept everyone into our doors. That’s what set up this cocktail, this environment of cyclical sexual abuse,” he says.
Jesus People’s leadership discouraged reporting the abuse to authorities, assuring members instead that they would handle the problems internally, according to the filmmaker.
Here’s an excerpt from the film.