Longmont dad denies ties to 'happy hookers'

Rocky Mountain News, August 6, 1999
By Manny Gonzales

LONGMONT -- After returning the National Parent of the Year award, Zack Prendergast Thursday denied allegations linking him to the "happy hookers for Jesus" cult.

In a letter to the National Parent of the Year Foundation, Prendergast denied he was ever a member of the Children of God cult which once prostituted female members.

"It has come to our attention that criticisms have been raised about us, and our service work overseas in the past. ... We are not affiliated with the Children of God group," Prendergast wrote.

Former members of the Children of God -- which started almost 40 years ago in California and spread worldwide -- claimed Prendergast, 50, and his wife operated a camp in Italy in the 1980s, which was an indoctrination site for children.

On July 22, the parent foundation recognized Prendergast and his wife, Naomi, as model parents to their 12 children and for devoting their lives to charity.

National Parents Day, the fourth Sunday of July, was created by Congress in 1994. The National Parents Day Foundation names the award winners in conjunction with the holiday.

Some members of the foundation's award selection committee are affiliated with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Robert Grant, foundation president, was head of Moon's defunct American Freedom Coalition.

The foundation also receives money from businesses owned by Unification Church members.

Prendergast, who has developed teen fatherhood programs for former Gov. Roy Romer and was awarded a $25,000 grant to start a similar program for Alternatives for Youth, a Longmont nonprofit agency.

"Whether it's true or not, people see stuff like this and form their own opinions," said Tom Loftus, director of Alternatives for Youth. "I just hope it doesn't carry over to the program, the agency or any of the people it helps."

Prendergast's program has offered education resources and referrals for legal advice to more than 75 teen fathers in the past eight months, Loftus said. No decisions have been made as to whether Prendergast will be allowed to continue working with the agency.

Prendergast, who also runs a nonprofit organization called Family Services, said the distraction not only led him to return the award but caused him to miss delivering food to Denver homeless shelters.

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