Don’t let it be said that I only focus in the abuses of big religions, even the small guys have the same problems. Take the case of Victor Barnard, head of the “Maidens of River Road” cult in Minnesota, who is on the run, accused of molesting at least 59 young girls who were sent by their parents to live with him while he taught the “maidens” spirituality. Barnard is currently believed to be in the Seattle, Washington area, hiding from authorities.
According to those close to the cult, Barnard and the girls lived in a place called the “Shepherd’s Camp”, dedicated to teaching young girls who pledged to remain virgins and never marry. However, when some of the girls started coming forward and reporting that Barnard had pushed them to have sex, the floodgates opened. According to the complaint, “Barnard repeatedly preached to (B) that he represented Christ in the flesh, that Jesus Christ had Mary Magdalene and other women who followed him, that King Solomon slept with many concubines, that the firstborn child was to be sacrificed to God, and that it was normal for Barnard to have sex with her because it was in God’s Word.” B was the first girl to come forward, claiming that Barnard had molested her repeatedly over the course of 19 years.
Of course, as we shouldn’t be surprised, police in the Twin Cities area say it will be difficult to get victims to come forward. This is a very tight-knit religious community and no one wants to admit that they were wrong for following this sexual predator. As with many religions of this sort, talking to authorities is akin to committing a mortal sin and sending yourself straight to eternal perdition.
It gets even worse though, as investigators are now finding clues that suggest that Barnard wasn’t the only molester at the “Maidens of River Road” facility. At least one girl has come forward reporting that another man molested her and Barnard defended his right to do so, as well as punishing the victim for coming forward with allegations. In fact, after the man was convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree in 1994, Barnard showed up in the courthouse to beg forgiveness. He got none, but when he was released, he was welcomed back into the fold with open arms, while the victim and her mother were shunned as outcasts. Barnard even told the victim’s mother that she needed to get rid of her daughter, but luckily she did not and both escaped the cult. Investigators have found at least three other families that Barnard instructed to put their children up for adoption. It is unknown if these children were sexually abused in the cult.
I know that I say this all the time but it just has to be repeated. I have no idea if Barnard was just some pedophile opportunist who fooled a bunch of gullible religious types into buying into his nonsense and getting access to their daughters. That’s certainly possible but unlikely given his long-time involvement with other Christian cults. However, it’s the religion that’s really to blame here, the automatic pass that people give to supernatural beliefs and the people who peddle them. If Barnard hadn’t pretended to be Jesus, hadn’t acted like he was speaking for God, nobody would ever have turned over their children to him. It is that automatic pass that religion receives that makes these stories possible. No religion = no story. So long as religion is treated like a positive thing and peddlers are treated with unearned respect and admiration, I have no reason to doubt that we’ll see even more stories like this coming down the pike.
And they say religion doesn’t hurt anyone. Welcome to Horror Show Sunday.