The Yellow Deli Cult: All About the Twelve Tribes

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No, the Yellow Deli cult does not worship sandwiches. They do, however, operate restaurants around the world that fund their controversial religious group.

The Yellow Deli is a restaurant chain with locations throughout the United States and in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom. Its first location opened in 1973 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

But the Yellow Deli isn’t a regular restaurant — according to its website, “We all actually live and work together.” Workers at the Yellow Deli aren’t employees; they’re volunteers who share “a pure and holy life.”

The Yellow Deli serves food, but it also serves another purpose: press for their religious group.

“We hope that through having an open and hospitable place like our Yellow Deli, people will be able to see that we are not really strange and scary, but just friendly folks who love God and our neighbors,” their website reads.

You won’t see the Twelve Tribes mentioned anywhere on the Yellow Deli’s website, but this community — or as the Southern Poverty Law Center calls it, “Christian fundamentalist cult” — owns the Yellow Deli, and its workers are Twelve Tribes Members.

The Twelve Tribes community was founded by Elbert Eugene Spriggs (known as Yoneq) and his wife, Marsha Spriggs, in the 1970s in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and has spread around the world. The group has gained notoriety for its extreme beliefs and allegations of child abuse.

Although the Twelve Tribes preach a message of love, some of the group’s teachings and practices are disturbing to outsiders and former members.

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