Children of God sect upbringing led to a life of crime and drugs, former child member claims

Herald Sun, Australia/September 5, 2014

By Shannon Deery

A man raised in the controversial religious cult, Children of God, has opened up about his evil upbringing, saying it led to a life of crime and drug addiction.

Joshua Cannane, 24, was one of 56 children taken from his parents in raids at Victorian properties run by “The Family” in the early 1990s.

The children were reunited with their distraught parents six days later, after authorities found no evidence they were in danger.

It followed accounts by children that they had never been abused, isolated or brainwashed in anyway.

But Cannane told County Court judge Liz Gaynor this week that life inside the cult was plagued with physical and emotional abuse.

 He is in court after pleading guilty to threatening police with a sawn-off shotgun, and has already been convicted of stabbing another officer in the face.

He said he had vivid recollections of ritual beatings during his childhood and remembered living in fear his entire life.

Cannane said he remembered being lined up with a group of other children and being hit with a stick.

“My entire life I got attacked,” he said.

“They were unwell people looking after kids. It shouldn't have happened.

“I use drugs because of my upbringing,” he said.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN: Children of God case among the biggest trials of the 1990s

The Children of God sect, which became known as the Family of Love, had gained notoriety in the 1970s over claims of child sexual abuse and a practice known as “flirty fishing”, where female devotees were encouraged to lure new members with sex.

Cannane, one of nine children, was about 14 when his parents broke away from the cult following a 30-year association.

Until then he had been almost totally isolated from the general community. He was unable to fit in at high school or hold down a job and lived in a constant state of anxiety and paranoia.

He was using marijuana daily by 14 and had graduated to heroin by 19 before turning to ice.

He was jailed in 2009 after stabbing a police officer in the face. In February, he pulled a sawn-off shotgun on police after they tried to talk to him about some ammunition and drugs found in a bag belonging to him.

He has pleaded guilty to possessing a prohibited weapon and using a firearm to prevent detention.

Judge Gaynor today sentenced Cannane to two years jail, ordering him to serve at least one year.

She said Cannane needed treatment for anxiety, paranoia and drug addiction.

“Without treatment ... you will remain at risk of re-offending. The jails are overcrowded and those treatments are not available in any event,” Ms Gaynor said.

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