Vermont Conversation: Surviving and escaping the Twelve Tribes cult

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The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.

In August 2000, 23-year-old Tamara Mathieu and her husband left good jobs, gave up everything, and joined a cult. For 14 years, they were members of Twelve Tribes, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a Christian fundamentalist cult” that has been accused of child abuse, child labor, racism and misogyny.

The Twelve Tribes made national news in 1984 when their Island Pond community, which was then known as the Northeast Kingdom Community Church, was raided by Vermont State Police and 112 children were detained in response to allegations of child abuse. A judge later dismissed the cases, ruling that the raid was unconstitutional.

The Twelve Tribes “sees persecution as proof that they’re God’s people,” said Mathieu.

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