A San Diego judge has ordered a site inspection of an Escondido commune that some say is home to a sex cult. The order comes as part of a bitter custody battle over a four-year-old boy being raised in the religious sect known as The Family.
Four-year-old Kyle Staughton is a little boy caught in the middle of a bitter divorce and custody battle. His mother, 28-year-old Angie Staughton is a member of a notorious religious sect called The Family that advocates open sexuality as an expression of God’s love. Kyle’s father calls the group a sex cult.
“Yeah, they sleep around a lot,” Paul Staughton said.
Paul Staughton, 32, was born and raised in The Family. He left the group two years ago because he doesn’t believe that loving Jesus has anything to do with sex.
“They believe that Jesus would like it very much that you would include him in the sex act that you were having,” he said.
Formerly called The Children of God, members of The Family live in communes like the one on Calmin Drive in Fallbrook. The group has close ties to two local charities – The Family Care Foundation in Dulzura, and Activated Ministries in Escondido.
Angie and her son Kyle live in a family compound on Alps Way northeast of Escondido with 25 other members of the sect, according to court records.
“You gotta understand when you’ve got 25 to 30 people living in one house, the children see a lot,” Paul Staughton said. “You can’t hide everything from the children.”
Many ex-members say the free love philosophy of The Family led to widespread sexual abuse of children in the 1970s and 80s. But that was 20 years ago, and in court documents, Kyle’s mother writes, “The Family has zero-tolerance towards abuse… I would never expose our son to such things.”
The Family claims it officially outlawed sex with minors in 1986.
“They banned sexual contact with children 20 years ago, yes, but all these people who had sexual contact with kids are still in The Family. How would you like to have your son raised in the community full of sex offenders?” Paul Staughton said.
News 8 tried to contact Angie Staughton at the Escondido commune. Sources say she’s in Rosarito Beach at a family-sponsored retreat. Family members at the commune declined to be interviewed.
Another point of contention is Kyle’s education. His mother wants the boy home schooled.
"I believe that the one on one education I can provide through home schooling is far superior than putting Kyle in a public classroom..." Angie Staughton wrote to the court.
Kyle’s father disagrees.
“The Family wants to home school the children because they can indoctrinate them,” he said.
And while the court battle over Kyle is getting very expensive for Paul, he’s not giving up.
“I want my son to be safe,” he said. “I love my son dearly, and any father in this situation would do the same thing.”
Last week, a San Diego judge ordered a site inspection of the Escondido commune to determine if it’s a safe environment for the boy. The investigation will look at the education the boy is getting.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 17.