Here’s what happened…
The FBI has reportedly conducted interviews with several individuals who have alleged mistreatment by members of a Christian group that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is affiliated with.
According to Newsweek, Justice Barrett’s association with the People of Praise, a conservative religious organization that emphasizes the authority of men, had come under scrutiny before her appointment to the Supreme Court.
A former member disclosed to Newsweek in 2020 that within this group, women are expected to demonstrate absolute obedience to their husbands and other male members, with those who do not conform facing shame, exclusion, and humiliation.
According to a spokesperson for a group known as PoP Survivors, at least five individuals have been contacted by the FBI in connection with these allegations. The Guardian initially reported this development.
PoP Survivors has been engaged in a long-term effort to call for an investigation into the People of Praise, based in South Bend, Indiana, regarding their handling of sexual abuse claims.
The spokesperson for PoP Survivors stated, “After years of inaction by the People of Praise, our PoP Survivors group recently voted unanimously to approach federal law enforcement. We presented the FBI with evidence of a consistent pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the People of Praise that spans several decades. This pattern includes pressuring victims not to involve law enforcement, relocating perpetrators, and asserting that perpetrators had been ‘healed’ instead of reporting them to law enforcement.”
The spokesperson expressed the expectation that the FBI will contact more individuals, though it remains unclear whether the FBI has formally initiated an investigation into the People of Praise.
Coral Anika Theill, a former member of a branch of People of Praise in Corvallis, Oregon, has characterized the group as a “charismatic dictatorship” and a “cult.” She recounted experiences of abuse, shame, exclusion, intimidation, and bullying, emphasizing that dissent or refusal was met with retaliation.
Theill described her five-year stint within the community from 1979 to 1984 as deeply traumatic, citing stringent rules such as the inability to consult a doctor alone, seek permission to see family, or communicate with neighbors and friends.
Sean Connelly, communications director for People of Praise, contested the allegations made by Theill in 2020. He stated that neither male nor female leaders within the Corvallis branch were aware of any claims of physical or mental abuse concerning Ms. Theill and her husband at the time. He asserted that her allegations of mistreatment of women, lack of privacy, and shunning were contradictory to the community’s beliefs and practices.
Tim Kaiser, who grew up within the People of Praise but left at the age of 18 in 1997 due to disillusionment, explained that the group exerted a significant level of authority over its members and fostered an insular environment. In the case of women, their husbands were considered their “heads” and responsible for their moral decisions and spiritual well-being. This hierarchy, he described, as unsettling.