Wife and kids lost to Dutch ‘Sex sect’
Religion News Blog — Dutch newsdaily De Telegraaf published a story about a Dutch sect called Orde der Transformanten — Order of Transformers.
The sixty or so members of the group live in a cluster of eight houses in Hoeven, Brabant — a province in the South of the Netherlands.
Members refer to the Order as a Christian faith-community. On Internet forums, ex-members compare its pastor, Robert Baart, to Charles Manson. The Order has this week filed complaints with the police, charging libel and threats.
One ex-member, Jeroen van Hasselt, lost his wife and two children to the sect in December, 2007. His wife was introduced to Robert Baart by her mother and sister in 2004. She started to attend the Order’s weekly church services. She soon began to visit more frequently in orde to participate in various group activities. This included, van Hasselt states, a vacation — with both children — at a naturist camping.
The Order was reportedly founded sometime in 2004 by Robert Baart. Along with the Bible it follow the controversial ‘Gospel of Thomas.’ The group refers to the outside world as ‘the matrix,’ and says you should don a ‘Golden Mantle,’ that lets you ignore any comments.
According to the Transformers, being a Christian is not something you only do on Sunday. It has to rule your entire life. According to the group’s own website, Transformers have no respect for those who practice parttime religion. Just like you cannot be a little bit pregnant, you can not live just a little bit with God, they say.
There is a big emphasis on ‘group-feeling’ — community. Everthing, such as eating, raising children, studying and vacation is done as a group. Naturism plays an important role in the group’s way of life since it breaks down interpersonal barriers. According to ex-members, naturism is practiced not only on vacation but also at the group’s community homes.
Jeroen, afraid to lose his wife Anne, eventually joined her in attending the group’s sessions. He says that everything he and his wife wanted to undertake, from moving to selecting a school for their children, first had to be cleared with the Order.
According to Hasselt the indoctrination went further: At one point his wife was told it would be good for her to participate in ‘the Program.’ The intent appeared to be that adult women within the Order were to have sexual relations with each other.
Eventually, Anne spent all het free time at the Order’s community. On the night that his wife left him, Jeroen was accused at one of the sessions of betrayal.
He has says that a few members of the Order have let him know that “those who threaten will slowly be completely destroyed, because the Bible says that it is right to stone betrayers and liars.”
He has taken legal steps aimed at re-establishing contact with his two children.
Sjoukje Drenth-Bruintjes, a Dutch counselor who provides sect intervention, has seen several ex-members of the Order of Transformers. “I see in them certain patterns. Isolation of loved-ones, a strong group culture, the use of destructive behavioral control tactics. Also the use of specific language, such as ‘matrix’ and ‘golden mantle,’ as well as isolation from the outside world. I have not research the Order itself, but I do see victims who each tell me the same story.”
Marla Baart, wife of Robert, tells the newspaper it is all ‘sheer nonsense.’ “We are a group of Christians who enjoy doing everything together. You could see us as a large convent or a very large family. Everyone is free to come and go and to visit friends and family. All of us have jobs within the regular society, and our children attend standard schools. Mr. van Hasselt had huge relationship problems and he now attempts to blame the Order. We haven never threatened him; we are Christians, so we do not do things like that.
She also denies that her husband is the founder and pastor of the Order. “The Order was founded by a leadership group. Robert is only one of several pastors. We Transformers form a circle in which all spokes of the wheel are or equal importance. We don’t like the fact that Robert is refered to as our leader, and that he is being slandered online, and that is the reason we have filed a complaint with the police.
The Prosecutor’s office in Breda is researching whether the complaint will result in prosecution.
– Source: Marjolein Schipper, Vrouw en kinderen kwijt door ‘sekssekte’, De Telegraaf, June 26, 2008. Freely translated and summarized by Anton Hein, Religion News Blog
Many comments and articles about the Orde der Transformanten state that the sect’s leader encourages members to cut all contact with friends and family members.
For those who read Dutch:
Weg van Papa (Away from Daddy) — the website of Jeroen van Hasselt
Spraakloos (Speechless) — Discussion forum includes discussions about the Order of Transformers
Order der Transformanten — the sect’s website
Counseling & Consultancy Praktijk Sjoukje Drenth-Bruintjes/Creative Counseling