Denmark: Religious sect cleared of neglect charges

Religious sect Father House was cleared of child neglect charges by a Lolland court on Thursday, finding that no children lived at the address without a parent present.

The case was taken up by Bandholm municipality after reports of sexual abuse to the 3-year-old daughter of one of the sect’s members. The court, however, only considered the legality of the children’s existence at the Father House property.

‘There are some families living there fully legally, and they should be allowed to do so,’ Bandholm’s mayor, Stig Vestergaard, told public broadcaster DR. He added that the day care workers, teachers and other public employees having daily contact to the children have a responsibility to watch out for any signs of neglect.

Vestergaard also said that the municipality did not consider the sexual abuse changes because they occurred at a previous Father House residence not within its jurisdiction.

Bente Boserup, operations manager of children’s rights organisation Børns Vilkår, said the court completely misunderstood the crux of the case.

‘It was the parents who neglected the children, but the city has only looked at how many children were living at Father House without parents. It doesn’t make sense,’ she said.

It is not known whether additional charges of sexual abuse have been filed against Father House.


News in English from the Copenhagen Post

Father House reported for child abuse

Witness reports from two television programmes have pointed the finger at religious sect Father House for covering up cases of child abuse by its members.

The island of Lolland has begun an investigation into the religious sect Father House after former members reported the organisation to police over alleged child abuses.

According to former sect members, Father House leader Ruth Eversen was told by a three-year-old girl that her father had inserted objects into her rectum, a story confirmed by the girl’s mother.

The witnesses, who came forward on public broadcaster DR’s ’21 Sondag’ programme, said Eversen refused to believe the girl and instead blamed her for being possessed by demons. The witnesses also claimed Eversen forbade them to go to the police over the matter.

In addition to accusations of child abuse, another programme, TV Avisen, aired an episode Friday evening where several former members claim the sect uses brainwashing on its congregation. Psychologist Lotte Christiansen told TV2 that she has several former Father House members as patients who substantiate those claims.

‘From what I’ve been told about Father House is that they break one’s free will by systematically telling their members what to do,’ said Christiansen. ‘And when the members don’t do what they’re supposed to do, then they are told they are going to hell and threatened with various means of punishment.’

Christiansen said her patients have told her Eversen’s word is law within the sect.

‘I’m disturbed over the condition these patients are in,’ she said. ‘They are depressed, suicidal and unable to establish close relationships. Filled with anger and fear, they’ve lost all hope for the future.’

Eversen has not yet commented publicly on the accusations.

The media first focused on the Father House sect when it bought former youth house Ungdomshuset in 2006. The sect has since purchased several properties on Lolland, with some of the funding coming from Christian sects in the American ‘Bible Belt’.