Twelve Tribes cafe causes controversy

A controversial cafe is officially open in the Ithaca Commons.

News 10 Now/February 1, 2004

The religious sect known as the Twelve Tribes operates the cafe. Everyone that works there is a member of the Twelve Tribes, a group that believes in communal living and shared incomes.

The past president of the "Cult Awareness Network" and current Director of Education for the "American Family Foundation" says the Twelve Tribes are a cult.

Cafe causes controversy

A religious sect known as the Twelve Tribes operates a new café in Ithaca that is causing quite a stir.

He says they've been setting up cafes across America for about twenty-five years to recruit new members.

Members of the Twelve Tribes claim there are no ulterior motives behind the café's opening.

"We have no intentions of imposing our religious beliefs on anyone that comes in this cafe. This cafe is a place of business, we want it to be something that's going to add to this town we live here, I live here, I really love this town, I want it to make the Commons a better place," said Rivera.

Local religious leaders are worried about the impact the cafe will have on the community.

"Clearly stated by the founder is that Martin Luther King is an evil man for inspiring blacks to want an equal position with whites, that's a statement in one of the papers made by one of their leaders printed in the Boston Herald, and you say I don't buy that, I have a problem with that and I have a problem with that in my community," said Steven Felker, Senior Pastor, Christ Chapel

While members of the Twelve Tribes do believe that homosexuality is unnatural, Felker said it's still unclear how they view the role of woman and minorities.

According to Rivera, members of the Twelve Tribes strive to live the way the early church lived and that they live communally and share incomes.

"Instead of meeting our own needs and seeking after that, seeking after my own food, my own clothing, my own shelter&I strive to do that for others," said Twelve Tribes member Tom Rivera.

The group has had a presence in the Ithaca Community for about three years, and no one questioned their beliefs or way of life until they started making large purchases.

The Twelve Tribes also own the former Ithaca Fitness Center.

Several families now live there.

"The minute you interface the community in a commercial venture in a high profile place like that I think you deserve a higher level of scrutiny and I think you've asked for it and in this particular case, they're not answering the questions. They're leaving a lot of people very uncomfortable about what they believe and what they're standing for and how they're conducting affairs," said Felker.

If people have questions about the Twelve Tribes, Rivera said that they're more than welcome to come into the cafe and ask.

Felker said he did try talking with Tribe members about a month ago and never received any real answers to his questions.

There are seven families with many children in the Ithaca sect of the Twelve Tribes.

In New York, the Twelve Tribes have also settled in Coxsackie, Hamburg and Albany.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.