Panhandle mom claims state put her kids in cult

The Associated Press/December 13, 2001

Shalimar, Fla. -- A woman is suing the Florida Department of Children and Families, claiming the agency helped send her kids to live with their father in a Tennessee religious community she contends is a cult.

Karen Jane Harper, of Fort Walton Beach, is seeking $10 million in damages on behalf of the children, ranging in age from 11 to 15, claiming they had to get medical treatment for physical and emotion injuries.

"These children suffered severe personal injuries, emotional distress of a kind experienced by prisoners of war," the suit alleges.

Department officials declined comment.

The suit, filed this week, alleges a court order allowed the children to go with their father to the Tsion Hadashah religious community in rural western Tennessee.

Harper alleges in the suit that the father was abusive and the agency relied too heavily on information from him instead of conducting an independent study on where the children should live.

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