Tuesday, June 14, 2016

WFAA Investigates Homestead Heritage




WFAA has recently purged some material from their website. The original links to the stories on Homestead Heritage here and here now give a 404 error. Fortunately, I have the videos available on YouTube. I'll consolidate the videos and the text articles taken from another website here.

Waco religious commune accused of masking abuse
WFAA, April 26, 2012

Waco Religious Commune Accused of Masking Abuse
By Brett Shipp
WFAA
April 26, 2012


WACO, Texas - Homestead Heritage, just outside of Waco, has been revered as a model of Christian values. But is it a Utopian commune, or as some suggest, a extreme group of believers putting children at risk?

Videos posted on the Homestead Heritage web site present to the public the wholesome image, bolstering its perception as a beloved staple of the community for two decades. The estimated 1,000 members, crafting a pristine portrait of communal bliss.

But many who have left the church and its 500-acre, gated compound, paint a much different picture. One of a secretive and tightly-controlled religious environment.

The general public is not allowed inside. The commune is led by a group of elders, directed by the church founder and leader, Blair Adams.

News 8 obtained rare audio of an Adams sermon, which former members say often lasted for hours.

"He was to be feared," said former member Isaac Alexander. "You didn't talk to him, you didn't even look at him."

Others say it is that fear which allows Adams to control those devoted to his strict doctrine.

Katherine and Bob Beechner left Homestead after 15 years when Bob challenged Adams, whom he says professes to a messenger of God.

"The doctrine is that the leadership is put in place by God himself and speaks authoritatively, as speaking the very word of God," Beechner said.

Before gaining acceptance, adults go through several months of screening and ultimately must sign a covenant of silence.

According to Homestead's membership contract, the aspiring members agree "to never bring before the public outside our church... any accusations or wrongdoing or any charge, lawsuit or court action." Agreeing "that all disputes be settled within the confines of the church."... and in return... "the church agrees to never expose a member's shortcomings and sins to any outside it's covenant."

The greatest sins, some former members say, are committed against children and teens. From emotional to physical, even sexual abuse.

News 8 has learned that in the past seven years, five individuals, either members of, or with close ties to Homestead, have been convicted of sexually abusing a child within the Homestead community.

Not included in that group, one former member whose identity we agreed to protect. She said she was molested by her stepfather when she was 15 years old.

"He would come into my room at night and in the morning," said the abuse victim. "At the time, it seemed quite often - it was very often - and sexually assault me."

She said when church elders learned of the abuse, they asked her to forgive her step-father. She said elders ministered to him, but never counseled her. The step-father was never reported to law enforcement, despite state law requiring church officials to report child abuse within 24 hours.

"They should have reported it," the victim said. "They should have called the police. To my knowledge, it was never discussed. It is absolutely disgusting that they didn't do anything about him."

Church officials allegedly waited months before reporting another member, Billy Ray Delong, after he admitted molesting one of his children.

"And I went to one of the pastors and I told them what happened, and they ministered to me for about a year and a half," Delong told News 8 in a prison interview.

And during that time, Delong says he continued to live with his family while church elders ministered to him.

"They tried to remedy the situation," Delong said. "I think, within the church first because that's scriptural - that's what's in the Bible, that's what God says to do."

Homestead officials have declined to comment on camera about their handling Delong's case. In a statement posted on their web site, they say only one group leader knew of the abuse.

"It was a good faith effort to honor the confidential confession of a sin that no one before that time had ever encountered in our previous thirty years of ministry," the statement read.

Church leaders say they urged Delong to turn himself in as soon as they learned of the abuse. Delong tells News 8 others in the group did know about the abuse.

"A group of the men, the elders there, the brothers, they began to really find out what the best course was, and I know they make everything a matter of prayer," Delong said. "It wasn't like they were trying to break the law. They were really trying to find out what to do within the church first, to keep everything covered."

Delong's victim said she was kicked out of church but allowed to return home, where the abuse continued.

"It stopped for about two-and-a-half, maybe three months, and then it started up again," she said.

She said no one from the church came to her and tried to comfort or counsel with her. She said nobody from the church said anything to her after the abuse was revealed.

Becky Crow, a former pastor's wife who left the church ten years ago, tells News 8 the abuse was common.

"Many heartbreaking stories of broken lives have been shared with me," Crow said. "Some have not only been raped, they have been sold for other's sexual perversion by the ones who should have protected them."

Attorney Greg Love has represented abuse victims across the country, and said the stories of abuse at Homestead fit a pattern.

"When you get these closed communities and part of the fabric of that community is, information stays on the inside, behavior stays on the inside, how we do things stays on the inside," Love said. "Even if those behaviors are injurious to a child, and you are discouraged from bringing in the outside, you really find children at risk."

Homestead officials claim of the five convicted pedophiles, only two were members of the church. Three were from the Delong family. They say all turned themselves in at the insistence of church officials, who fully cooperated with police.

Homestead Heritage officials label those now speaking out as "embittered former members." (Source)







Waco spiritual leader: "Use force" to discipline children
WFAA, April 28, 2012


Waco Spiritual Leader: 'Use Force' to Discipline Children
By Brett Shipp
WFAA
April 28, 2012


WACO — Church leaders at Homestead Heritage, the religious commune north of Waco, are allegedly encouraging parents to brutally discipline their children.

A News 8 investigation has already uncovered evidence that church elders failed to timely report allegations of sexual abuse of at least two children within the Homestead community.

Now some former members say the brutal disciplining of children is an on-going threat, due to a private pact between church leaders and parents to severely discipline children who don't conform to church doctrine. It's an allegation church leaders deny.

Homestead Heritage is a 1,000 member congregation located on a 500-acre, gated commune north of Waco, where God and family come first. But the wholesome, carefree appearances portrayed on publicity videos, according to some who have left, is a facade, masking a quiet culture of abuse.

Over the past six months, story after story of physical abuse has been recounted to News 8 by former Homestead members who say they left when conditions became intolerable.

Isaac Alexander said his family was forced out of the church, but only after a relative alerted Child Protective Services of his father's on-going, physical abuse.

"My father would use paddles and belts to punish me and my brothers," Alexander said. "The worst would be fresh little peach tree branches or fishing poles. He would leave marks, absolutely. I mean we are talking you couldn't sit down for a couple of days."

Another former member whose identity we agree to protect, recalls similar beatings at the hands of her father.

"You'd get beat with a peach tree switch to where you couldn't sit down for days," said the alleged beating victim. "You'd have bruises, welts, you'd get sent to your room for a week and not be able to come out."

Former member Jeremy Crow said he will never forget the night his parents beat his 5-year-old brother.

"One would beat him until they couldn't beat him anymore and they would raise their hand and the other would take over," Crow said. "And they would beat him. And we could hear him screaming for quite a while and then the screaming would stop and we would hear them say, 'say thank you.' And then it would start over again."

While Crow's mother denies the severity of what her son describes, she did say they "spanked too hard, and for things that we shouldn't have" often using a "peach or other kind of switch."

Crow's mother, the wife of a former church leader who left ten years ago, recalls how the men at Homestead were conditioned to exercise dominance.

"The more forceful he could be in disciplining his children and his wife, even in public, the more he showed his authority," Crow said.

Others we talked to say harsh discipline is embedded in the doctrine of Homestead Heritage founder and leader Blair Adams.

In the 1980's Adams authored "Who Owns the Children?" It's a 600-page treatise attacking government intrusion on parental rights. In it, Adams asserts that "God specifically tells us to use force in disciplining our children."

"Spanking a child," Adams writes, "…will deliver his soul from hell."

Bob and Katherine Beechner said they left Homestead ten years ago after Adams authority became too punitive toward children, including their 14-year-old son.

"It became increasingly intimidating and coercive, to the point that our own son - we saw him slipping away," said Bob Beechner. "He had planned to run away."

Mark Kierian, one of the original members, left Homestead 11 years ago.

"There were actually meetings on how to beat your kids without leaving marks and encouraging you to break the will of kids when they are young," Kierian said.

Blair Adams and church elders have declined our repeated requests for an interview.

Homestead officials did issue this statement, "For our nearly forty-year history, our church ministry has always condemned and never tolerated any physical, psychological, mental, emotional or sexual abuse of anyone, much less abuse of children. Criminal behavior of any kind is expressly forbidden."

But those words ring hollow for many who escaped what they say is a traumatic secret behind the innocent eyes of those who suffer. Isaac Alexander was at first reluctant to speak with News 8 about his experiences while growing up at Homestead.

"I think that's the important thing, that's why I'm talking to you today, is that no one should allow their kids to go through a social experiment like that, if you will," Alexander said. "Like where it's this perfect community from the outside, but there's so much darkness on the inside."

Following News 8's Thursday night presentation of our investigation into activities at Homestead, a national sexual abuse survivors network called for McLennan County authorities to conduct a criminal investigation.

"We urge current and former members of that community to find the courage to violate the harmful secrecy edict and, for the sake of the kids, tell police and prosecutors what they know about possible child sex crimes there," said Barbara Dorris of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). (Source)

1 comment :

  1. I am concerned about family members who are members at Homestead Heritage. I could never sign a covenant that requires me to be silent about what goes on good or bad or mediocre. I pray for them and after reading this I will pray more. I have a sense of the control but could never prove anything just a discernment.

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