A California State University, Stanislaus, sociology lecturer confirmed that he was a member of a controversial religious group some refer to as a cult.
Barry Gerard-Prendergast, who has a slate of classes scheduled to start next month, said he left The Family International 15 years ago.
Ex-members of the Christian missionary group, formerly called the Children of God, say it’s a cult. Some allege that members took part in prostitution, sexual acts between adults and children, and child pornography.
Gerard-Prendergast did not say how long he was associated with The Family or why he left the group. He said he would “love to come back” to the university next year.
Gerard-Prendergast has a one-year contract as a temporary lecturer. He taught six sociology classes in the fall semester and has five more when the spring semester starts Feb. 13.
He is teaching an introduction-to-sociology class during the university’s monthlong winter term.
Gerard-Prendergast, who did not respond when The Bee reported on his ties to the group in December, replied this week to e-mail questions through his attorney, Steve Davis.
Gerard-Prendergast denied that his involvement in The Family influences his teaching.
“I teach using my academic knowledge and study of sociology which I have attained at graduate school,” he wrote.
Gerard-Prendergast retained a lawyer out of an “abundance of caution,” Davis said.
University officials won’t comment on Gerard-Prendergast’s past, citing confidentiality restrictions.
“Whenever a question or allegation arises, we feel we need to pursue it and do everything that we can do lawfully to check backgrounds to find out whether anything warrants further action,” Provost Bill Covino said.
The Bee obtained a copy of Gerard-Prendergast’s résumé, a public record at Stanislaus State. The résumé states that he earned a bachelor’s degree in behavioral sciences with a minor in human services in 2001 from Metro State College of Denver, then a master’s degree from Exeter University in 2003.
The résumé says Gerard-Prendergast is working on his doctoral thesis, titled, “Changing cultures, changing identities — Symbols and structures.”
After earning his master’s, Gerard-Prendergast taught at colleges in Colorado until 2006.
From 1993 to 1999, he was co-director of a nonprofit agency in Colorado.
From 1985 to 1992, the résumé says, he was “teacher-administrator” at Evergreen Community School in Umbria, Italy. Former members of The Family contend that during that time, Gerard-Prendergast ran a “victor camp” in Italy, where they claim children were indoctrinated and physically abused.
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