Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Robidoux Family Cult: A Deadly WCG Splinter Group

Be warned: this post will cover a disturbing topic. You have been warned.

As mentioned before when I first got involved in Armstrongism (specifically LCG) in early 2000 at first I only read what was on their own website (which because of the Meredith's power struggle with the Global Church of God in 1998 was relatively new at the time) or in their own writings. It was not until around September/October 2000 I began to read elsewhere on the Internet about the COGs after I saw a disturbing NBC Dateline report about a family cult in Attleboro, Massachutts, which, in 1999, murdered one of their children. The family cult happened to have founded by an ex-WCG member, Roland Robidoux, who left WCG in 1978. The Robidoux cult's ties with WCG was mentioned in the TV report.

On April 26, 1999, Mr. Samuel Robidoux, aged 11 months, was murdered, by being starved to death, by order of the leadership of the cult his family belonged to. At least some measure of justice was meted out for this crime. The man who was supposed to be his father, Jacques Robidoux, who along with his father, Roland, was one of the leaders of this cult, was convicted of first degree murder and is currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. The mother, Karen Robidoux, was convicted of assault and battery and sentenced to 2 and a half years in jail and served that time in jail. The aunt, Michelle Mingo, whose alleged "leading" from God sparked the events leading to this murder, pleaded guilty for being "an accessory before the fact to an assault and battery on a child" and served time in jail equivalent to what she would have served if she was convicted.

No one else was charged because, as far as I could tell from what I read, Massachusetts law regards only the parents as being responsible for a child's welfare, so the founder of the cult, the man who was supposed to be a grandfather, Roland Robidoux, was not charged. I feel that it is very unfortunate that Roland Robidoux was not charged over the murder. Roland Robidoux died May 16, 2006.

Shortly after this case came to light the 13 (later 14) children within the cult were taken by the State of Massachusetts and relocated to non-cult family members or adopted.

The Rick A. Ross Institute has compiled 157 articles and news reports, composed of about 89,000 words, about this cult and the legal cases its murder and other mistreatment of children caused. After cutting and pasting all these articles on a single word document I have been reading this chronicle of a cult pushing itself over the edge. I wished to share details of the cult that demonstrates its descent from WCG. The Robidoux cult developed into a religious cult that, in many ways, was quite different from the Armstrongism most of us know, but nevertheless certain similarities continued to be preserved and can still be seen in their Sabbatarianism, observance of the Feast of Tabernacles, hostility towards doctors and medicine, refusal to swear in court, ban on birthday celebrations, etc.

(It should be noted that the Roland Robidoux cult appeared to have acquired its dangerous hostility towards the use of professional health care from a non-Armstrongite source in the mid-to-late 1990s so any link between old WCG's anti-medicine superstition and the anti-health care superstition of the Ribodoux cult appears to be mainly indirect, surprisingly enough.)

The following are quotes from articles as preserved by the Rick A. Ross Institute:
Weeks [a former associate of Roland Robidoux] said he and Robidoux broke from a California branch of the fundamentalist group, Worldwide Church of God, and established their own small churches in Mansfield and Mendon, R.I. Back then, Weeks said, Roland Robidoux and his wife, Georgette, were community-oriented and ''great role models'' and parents to Jacques and their other children.
A few years later, Weeks left the group over philosophical differences and joined another congregation.
It was in the decades following, Weeks said, that the Robidouxes joined with a few other families and cut themselves off from society, living frugally off money earned through masonry work, carpentry and a chimney sweep business.
The church cut themselves off entirely from outside society, he said. Some sect members intermarried, including Jacques, who wed Karen, the daughter of another group member.

(Missing children reveals insular sect in Attleboro
Boston Globe, February 7, 2000
By Erica Noonan)

Visitors to the park with video recorders captured 23 group members on tape, hands clasped, celebrating something they called the "Feast of the Tabernacles," the men wearing long beards and tall hats and the children learning to follow the dance their parents practiced, authorities said. The women wore long-sleeved cotton dresses that covered them from neck to ankle, and avoided the eyes of strangers and ignored greetings from neighbors and strangers alike.

(Religious Group Probed in Child's Disappearance
Grand Jury Probes Possible Starvation of Mass. Boy
APB News, April 25, 2000
By Ellen O'Brien )

Completely withdrawn from society, they don't watch TV or movies, celebrate holidays or birthdays, or wear wedding bands. …

The family-oriented sect was formed by Jacques Robidoux' father, Roland, several years ago when he split from [HWA’s Worldwide Church of God] and started his own Bible study group.

(Cultists convinced only God will provide
Boston Herald / September 3, 2000
By Dave Wedge)

According to Walsh, doctors will allow Corneau to have a natural child birth - as she wishes - and will only intervene in an emergency. Corneau has repeatedly refused medical exams, citing her religious belief that seeing a doctor would be like "bowing to a false God."

(SJC to rule on cult mother case
Pregnant pause may bring prison birth
Boston Herald, September 8, 2000
By Dave Wedge)

Angry and frustrated, Bristol County's chief prosecutor planned to return to court today after a pregnant cult member suspected of covering up the death of her last baby refused to talk about her medical condition with a court-appointed nurse, calling medicine a false god.

(Court action planned against cult member
Boston Globe / August 31, 2000
By Jacob H. Fries)

"In no way at all will I accept any kind of medical assistance. It is against God," Mrs. Corneau told the judge in the closed-door hearing, according to Gerald Fitzgerald, an assistant district attorney.
Fitzgerald said Mrs. Corneau's husband, David, who was led into the courtroom in handcuffs and leg irons, told the court: "You cannot force the medical system on myself and my wife. Only one holds the key to life and death, and that's God Almighty himself, not the medical system."

(Judge turns down move to lock up pregnant sect member
Associated Press / August 29, 2000
By Chris Lehourites)

But George said he has a signed agreement and is confident Corneau will continue to cooperate.
"He intends to testify truthfully before the grand jury," said George. "He'll take an affirmation (of truth) but not a religious oath. He won't swear on the Bible."…

Despite the progress in the case, Walsh said he remains troubled about the cult.
"This is a bizarre cult, there's no operating principles," he said. "They make stuff up as they go along. Some of their beliefs are downright dangerous, as evidenced by the two dead children. There's not a religion in the world that lets you kill your kids."

(Grim discovery: Cops find cult kids' burial site
Boston Herald/October 25, 2000
By Tom Farmer and Dave Wedge)

The circumstances that led to the deaths of the two babies can be traced back to 1976 when Roland and Georgette Robidoux left the Worldwide Church of God in Mendon, R.I., because the "WCG in those days was an extremely repressive, religious fringe group," according to the report.

Founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in 1935 [sic] and headquartered in Pasadena, Calif., it was considered "a full-blown cult" and was never accepted by the World or National Council of Churches.

The Robidouxs got together with other WCG defectors and began holding weekly Bible studies at their home. In 1977, the report says, the group had grown to about 75 and they rented the Grange Hall in Mansfield, forming the "Church of God of Mansfield."

The first hint of trouble came when one of the church leaders, Brian Weeks, parted ways with Robidoux. "I went to Roland and told him that I didn't think we knew what we're doing," Weeks told Pardon.

In the early 1980s, Robidoux ran into high school classmate Roger Daneau, whom he had not seen for years.
The Daneaus, who had been part of the Catholic Charismatic Revival movement in the 1970s that included communal living and sharing possessions, began attending Bible studies with the Robidouxs and embraced some of the repressive practices of the WCG that the Robidouxs still espoused, the report states.

(Report: Group with `benign origin' got dangerous
Boston Herald/October 26, 2000
By Tom Farmer )

 Joseph Roland Robidoux, a door-to-door salesman, left the Catholic Church after listening to Herbert W. Armstrong founder of the Worldwide Church of God (WWCOG) on his car radio. And thus began one fanatical Massachusetts man's religious odyssey....

Former WWCOG member Brian Weeks described Robidoux as a "loyalist" who swallowed Armstrong's teachings "'hook, line and sinker...''
Robidoux and his wife, Georgette had five children.
The Robidoux kids camped out with their parents for weeks during what WWCOG calls the "Feast of the Tabernacles." Robidoux tithed to the organization and kept its strict diet. ...


Robidoux left WWCOG in 1978, claiming that God had called him to start his own church.
The church that Roland Robidoux founded was first named "Church of God of Mansfield" and later "Church of God of Norton." Robidoux attracted other disgruntled WWCOG members, but never had more than 70 followers.
''We would sit around the table trying to interpret the Bible, with all the dictionaries in Hebrew and Greek,'' recalled Weeks, a former member of the group. ''We didn't know what we were doing. To have the responsibility of leading people you need training, and we didn't have any.''...


Weeks went back to visit Robidoux during the 1980s. Roland Robidoux lectured him about how all churches are hypocritical and authoritative. ''But he failed to see that he was the authority of his group,'' Weeks said. ''He became the thing he hated. All the things that he was originally disgruntled with, he became. The sole authority, not being questioned. He believed that he had the truth.'' ...


Roland Robidoux had ''absolute power over his family,'' said Michelle's husband, Dennis Mingo, who later left the group. For example, one year he decided the family should eat only meat. The next year, he ordered everyone to become vegetarians and later to eat only organic food. The family always obeyed his edicts.
''There was one year that Roland said, `Why are we singing the same songs that these false churches sing?''' All the songs previously sung by the family were subsequently banned.
Robidoux's daughter Michelle composed a new song. ''We'd just sing that song over and over again,'' Mingo said.

(The history of the Roland Robidoux’s religious fanaticism and the strange group known as "the body"
A News Summary: "The Sect: Led by a father’s religious zeal, family spurned society’s rules by Globe staff, published by the Boston Globe
November 26, 2000)

She said sect members thought of themselves as "God's chosen people,'' and were not allowed televisions, checkbooks, jewelry or eyeglasses. They discarded all books except the Bible and didn't celebrate birthdays, believing the candles on the cake had pagan origins.

(Prosecutor Details Infant's Demise
The Associated Press/June 6, 2002
By Denise Lavoie)

Prosecutors say that in October [1999] the cult took a trip to Baxter State Park in Maine for a religious celebration called the Feast of Tabernacles - and that the tiny bodies of Samuel Robidoux and Jeremiah Corneau were buried there. …

The sect members lived in several homes in communal arrangements. They meet every Saturday, on the Sabbath, for Bible study and "sharing," where members discuss their lives among themselves.

(Mass. v. Robidoux: Cult dad starves baby
Court TV/July 17, 2002)
[The Feast of Tabernacles in 1999 was on September 25-October 3. (Source.) But it is at present impossible for me to confirm the Ribodoux cult held their Feast on those dates in 1999.]
Known as The Body, the sect was formed by Jacques Robidoux' father, Roland, who ex-members say ruled the group with an iron fist. Members live communally and flatly reject mainstream society, including conventional medicine, banking and education.

(Defense expert: Cult mom sees she was manipulated
Boston Herald/December 25, 2002
By Dave Wedge)

According to Pardon, the sect's leader feels no guilt over the death of Samuel Robidoux.
"Roland Robidoux believes this trial will completely vindicate him and the sect and that he acted appropriately," Pardon said. "He feels a lack of faith on Karen's part led to Samuel's death.
"I believe when the evidence comes out, it will be obvious Karen's mind was controlled and manipulated. We hope Karen will be vindicated when this trial concludes."

(Religious sect trial begins today
The Taunton Gazette/January 22, 2004
By Jeff Sullivan)

Attleboro cult leader Roland Robidoux taught his brainwashed minions to beat their children with paddles to "break their spirit" and encouraged spanking babies who were just a few months old as "training," an ex-member testified yesterday.

(Strict discipline: Ex-member testifies cult beat children
Boston Herald/January 23, 2004
By Dave Wedge)

Under cross-examination by Krowski, Mingo testified that he had first turned his back on his mother, because Jacques and Roland told him she was acting on behalf of Satan.
Mingo said that even though about five years have passed since he was an active member of the group, he still sometimes fears that in leaving the sect, "I have turned my back on God."

(2 views of mother on trial in death
Cast as heartless and as helpless
Boston Globe/January 23, 2004
By John Element)

Over the years, Mingo was in and out as a sect member, he said. He knew that to disagree with a sect vision meant answering to its rigid founder, Roland Robidoux, or his son. He said to disagree was to go against his wife at the time, G. Michelle Mingo, a daughter of Roland Robidoux who sometimes wore a spanking paddle in a rope necklace. To disagree was to be shunned by the sect, to be kept away from his wife and children, he said.
Some people had tried to disagree with Roland Robidoux.
"Eventually, they would give in. He was the leader," Mingo testified during Krowski's cross examination yesterday.

(Former member details oppressive life within sect
In the first day of the Karen Robidoux murder trial, a former Attleboro sect member testifies that members did what leaders willed, or else.
Providence Journal/January 23, 2004
By Michael P. McKinney)

The videotape played by the prosecutor yesterday showed an Attleboro religious sect's festive "Tabernacle." Women joined in a circle to dance outside. Tents were pitched for families. Children's voices chirped faintly. Then the tape showed Robidoux's husband, Jacques Robidoux. In the baby carrier on his back was Samuel Robidoux.

(Witness recalls 'visions' guiding sect members
The second day of Karen E. Robidoux's trial explores a central question: whether members could leave the religious group that persuaded her to deprive her infant son of solid food.
Providence Journal/January 24, 2004
By Michael P. McKinney)

Earlier in Kidson's almost three hours of testimony, she told Shea that her father, the leader of the sect, Roland Robidoux, thought Samuel's death "was to teach Karen Robidoux humility."

(Robidoux breaks down on third day
Taunton Gazette/January 24, 2004
By Jeff Sullivan)

[Joseph Krowski, defense attorney for Karen Robidoux,] argued that the responsibility for Samuel's death rests with sect leaders, including the "vile, deranged, evil" Roland Robidoux.

(Lawyer says mother controlled by 'evil'
Blames her sect for starving baby
Boston Globe/February 3, 2004
By John Ellement)

 "I think he has left a sad legacy. It's a sad ending to a sad, sad group,'' said the Rev. Robert Pardon, a cult expert who studied the Robidoux group.
Pardon, who conducted "exit counseling'' for Karen Robidoux and other cult members, holds Roland Robidoux responsible for Samuel's death and ruining the lives of Jacques and Karen Robidoux.
"It's unfortunate that he was not held accountable at the end of his life or to bear in public responsibility for what, I think, is total responsibility for what occurred to them,'' said Pardon, executive director of the New England Institute of Religious Research.
"His son should not be in jail for the rest of his life. Roland was really responsible. He should have come forward during the trial or soon afterwards to take responsibility. But it's too late now,'' Pardon said.
Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh Jr. did not charge Roland Robidoux with any crimes, citing state law which limits responsibility of care of a child to the parents.

(Sect founder Robidoux dies
Attleboro Sun Chronicle/May 18, 2006
By David Linton)

Oh! How foul the fruits of Armstrongism are.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I am a tv producer working for a British tv company called Raw TV. I was hoping i might be able to speak with you about a new series on cults we are currently researching.

    It would be great if you were able to email me a contact number so that i can give you a call for a quick chat.

    It would be fantastic if you were able to spare a few minutes to speak with me.

    My email: ali.naushahi@raw.co.uk

    Many thanks in advance for your kind help and time.

    Best regards,

    Ali

    ReplyDelete