Boy, 17, is charged with the murder of the former leader of secretive 'Twelve Tribes' religious sect after he died in a raging house fire

Daily Mail, UK/September 1. 2020

By Charlotte Karp

A teenage boy has been charged with the murder of a former Twelve Tribes cult leader.

Chen Czarnecki, formerly known as Scott, was a founding member at the helm of the Australian branch of the secretive religious sect for 30 years.

The 64-year-old died in a blaze that police allege was deliberately lit at the Smiths Creek property in northern New South Wales at about 5.45pm on Sunday, August 16.

Emergency crews rushed to the scene following reports that it was alight and spent a number of hours trying to douse the flames.

A 17-year-old boy was arrested days later and charged with murder, improperly interfering with a corpse and malicious damage by fire.

He has been refused bail and will face court again at the end of October.

t comes just months after police launched an ongoing investigation into the high number of stillbirths within the community, which rejects modern medicine and technology.

Detectives conducted two raids at Peppercorn Creek Farm in Picton and at a 78.5-hectare property near Bigga, south-west of Sydney, in March.

Three graves were uncovered at the Bigga site which has no running water or electricity and is only used when members are exiled for questioning their beliefs, A Current Affair previously reported.

The search followed a six-hour raid at the Picton property on February 19.

In January, just eight months before his death, Mr Czarnecki expressed concerns about the lack of medical care available to Twelve Tribes members.

'There were babies that were still born. There were babies that struggled to live, definitely the whole gamut,' he told the program.

'All I can say is a lot of those things did happen. And some of those things probably would have been preventable.'

It is illegal to bury a body without registering the death with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Council permission is also required to bury a body on private property.

Twelve Tribes has been investigated by police since September 2019.

The sect is a registered religious charity and has been in Australia since the '90s.

It has about 90 members in its Picton, Katoomba and Coledale communes and runs cafes in Sydney and the Blue Mountains.

The cult does not align itself with any denomination.

Members believe the Messiah will return if the church is restored to its original form in the Book of Acts - the first book in the new testament of the Bible.

Twelve Tribes has been guarded about its privacy and members are expected to live by a set of rigid guidelines which govern almost every aspect of their lives.

Communication with the outside world is largely forbidden.

Women are expected to be subservient to men and everyone must marry within the group.

Children are home-schooled and raised on the back of a 300-page manual which insists they are obedient and do not question their superiors.

They are also forbidden from playing with toys and are to be spanked with a 50cm rod for any indiscretions.

Andrew McLeod, who manages one of the sect's many cafes in the Blue Mountains and is an original member of the Australian branch of the group, previously said allegations of child abuse and child labour were untrue.

'We want our children to have a well-balanced life and what we do and our beliefs have somehow been taken out of context to portray us as a fundamentalist cult that bashes our children, which is just not true,' he said.

'It's sad that so many people are gullible enough to believe what they believe without looking into it themselves.'

What is Twelves Tribes?

The commune began in 1975 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when former carnival showman Gene Spriggs broke away from the First Presbyterian Church after finding services were cancelled for the Super Bowl.

He and his wife Marsha earlier opened the first Yellow Deli a few years earlier and were living communally with a small group from 1972.

Twelve Tribes practices a hybrid of pre-Catholic Christianity and Judaism mixed with teachings by Spriggs.

The group's stated aim is to bring about the return of Jesus - whom they refer to by the Hebrew name Yahshua - by reestablishing the 12 tribes of Israel.

All members are forced to sell their possessions and give to proceeds to the cult and are assigned a Hebrew name discard their old ones. Spriggs himself is known as Yoneq.

These tribes would include 144,000 'perfect male children', which accounts for the group's obsessive and controversial child-rearing practices.

The Sabbath is observed in line with Jewish tradition, along with conservative dietary rules and abstinence from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

Birth control of any kind is banned, as is much modern medicine - they instead rely largely on homeopathy and 'natural' remedies.

Marriage outside the sect is forbidden and couples must go through a series of supervised talks to get to know each other. Only after marriage can they even kiss or hold hands.

Children aren't allowed to play with toys, engage in make-believe, or any of the normal childhood activities, and must be supervised at all times.

They must be strictly obedient and are beaten with a 50cm rod for every infraction by any adult watching them, not just their parents.

All children are homeschooled and do not attend university as it is considered a waste of time and not a good environment.

Instead, children work in the community from a young age, sparking accusations of child labour.

Estée Lauder and other businesses cut ties with the organisation after finding children were involved in making their products.

Members don't vote and are not allowed to watch TV or any other media as 'the crazy box robs your time and pollutes your soul'.

Twelve Tribes has 3,000 members and operates in the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and England, arriving in Australia in the early 1990s.

There are now about 120 members living in Balmoral House in Katoomba, Peppercorn Creek Farm near Picton, and a small number in Coledale, north of Wollongong.

Numerous businesses include a network of cafes in every country, all called the Yellow Deli or Common Ground, and bakeries, farms, and furniture, construction, and demolition businesses.

These are believed to be very profitable because none of the workers need to be paid.

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

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