Part 1 of WFAA's investigation on Homestead Heritage
View part 2 here: www.youtube.com/watch
For more information on Homestead Heritage, please visit homesteadheritageinfo.blogspot.com/
Waco Religious Commune Accused of Masking Abuse
By Brett Shipp
April 26, 2012
WACO, Texas - Homestead Heritage, just outside of Waco, has been revered as a model of Christian values. But is it a Utopian commune, or as some suggest, a extreme group of believers putting children at risk?
Videos posted on the Homestead Heritage web site present to the public the wholesome image, bolstering its perception as a beloved staple of the community for two decades. The estimated 1,000 members, crafting a pristine portrait of communal bliss.
But many who have left the church and its 500-acre, gated compound, paint a much different picture. One of a secretive and tightly-controlled religious environment.
Homestead heritage, which is just outside of waco has been revered as a model of christian values, but is it a utopian commune? Or as some suggest an extreme group of believers, putting children at risk channel age, fred ship spent the past six months interviewing former members, brett, john, if you've attended their yearly fair or bought their handmade crafts, you know of the homestead heritage clean cut reputation.
But just beyond the lock gate, some say is a secret life much darker than the outside world.
They preach against tonight.
The first of two reports, what happens at homestead as news 8 investigates.
So the vision of heritage ministries is to restore and preserve proven values and skills videos posted on the homestead heritage website present to the public a wholesome image, bolstering its perception as a beloved staple of the community for two decades.
The estimated 1 000 members crafting a pristine portrait of communal bliss, but many who have left the church and its 500 acre gated compound paint a much different picture of a secretive and tightly, controlled religious environment.
The general public is not allowed inside.
The commune is led by a group of elders directed by the church, founder and leader blair adams and without the church you have no freedom.
You have no truth.
You have no convictions from god news, 8 obtained.
This rare audio of an adam's sermon, which former members say often lasted for hours.
He was to be feared.
I mean, he you didn't talk to him you didn't.
I mean, you didn't even look at him, others say, it is that fear, which allows adams to control those devoted to his strict doctrine of righteousness amen.
And bob beechner left homestead after 15 years when bob challenged adams whom he says, professes to be a messenger of god.
The doctrine is that the leadership is put in place by god himself and speaks authoritatively as having the very word of god before gaining acceptance.
Adults go through several months of screening and ultimately must sign this covenant of silence to never bring before the public outside our church, any accusations or wrongdoing, or any charge lawsuit or court action, agreeing that all disputes be settled within the confines of the church.
And in return, the church agrees to never expose a member's shortcomings and sins to any outside its covenant, the greatest sin.
Some former members say are committed against children and teens from emotional to physical, even sexual abuse.
News 8 has learned that in the past seven years, five individuals, either members of or with close ties to homestead have been convicted of sexually abusing a child within the homestead community, not included in that group.
This former member who says she was molested by her stepfather when she was 15., he would come into your room.
Yes at night.
Yes, night, early morning, how often, um at the time it seemed quite often.
I mean, it was very often we physically assault you.
She says when church elders learned of the abuse they asked her to forgive her stepfather.
She says, elders ministered to him, but never counseled her.
He was never reported to law enforcement, despite state law requiring church officials to report child abuse within 24 hours.
What should they have done.
They should have reported it.
They should have.
They should have called the police yes was that ever discussed no never never discussed.
It is absolutely disgusting that they didn't.
Do anything about him church officials allegedly waited months before reporting another member billy ray delong after he admitted molesting one of his children and I went to one of the pastors there I told them what happened and they ministered to me for about a year and a half and during that time de long says he continued to live with his family while church elders ministered to him they tried to remedy the situation I think you know within the church first because that's scriptural that's what god that's? What I can show you in the bible? That's? What god that's? What god? Says to do homestead officials have declined to comment on camera about their handling of de long's case in a statement posted on their website.
They say, only one group leader knew of the abuse quote, it was a good faith effort to honor the confidential confession of a sin that no one before that time had ever encountered in our previous 30 years of ministry church leaders say, they urged de long to turn himself in as soon as they learned of the abuse de long tells news 8 others in the group did know about the abuse, a group of the men, the elders there, the brothers they began to really find out what the the best course was.
And I know that they make everything a matter of prayer it wasn't like they were trying to break the law.
They were really trying to find out what to do within the church.
First, you know to keep everything covered delong's victim says, he was kicked out of the church, but allowed to return home where the abuse continued.
It stopped for about two and a half maybe three months.
And then it started up again.
Did anybody from the church come to you and talk to you and comfort or counsel you? No, sir, nobody from the church.
Nobody said anything to you becky crow a former pastor's wife who left the church 10 years ago, tells news 8 the abuse was common quote, many heartbreaking stories of broken lives have been shared with me.
Some have not only been raped.
They have been sold for others sexual perversion by the ones who should have protected them.
Attorney, greg love has represented abuse victims across the country.
When you get these closed communities.
And part of the fabric of that community is information stays on the inside behavior stays on the inside how we do things stays on the inside, even if those behaviors are injurious to a child, and you are discouraged from bringing in the outside, you really find children at risk.
Homestead officials claim of the five convicted pedophiles only two were members of the church.
Three were from the de long family.
They say all turned themselves in at the insistence of church officials who fully cooperated with police.
They labeled those now speaking out as embittered former members beyond the documented sexual abuse within the homestead community is the alleged physical abuse.
Stories of parents, encouraged to severely discipline their children to prevent them from going to hell tomorrow night at 10 those children now, adults speak out brett ship channel 8 news.
Homestead prides itself on being an intentional Christian community valuing sustainability, agriculture, self-sufficiency and craftsmanship.What is the religion of the Homestead Village Waco? ›
Homestead Heritage is an agrarian- and craft-based intentional Christian community. Its literature stresses simplicity, sustainability, self-sufficiency, cooperation, service and quality craftmanship.Who is the leader of the Homestead Heritage? ›
At Homestead Heritage there's an order to the authority: Blair Adams is at the top. The other elders are beneath him. He chooses the elders; they choose the group leaders; the group leaders choose the members.Who is the founder of Homestead Heritage? ›
The folks at Homestead Heritage have undertaken the much harder task of intentionally doing something about it. In a disconnected world, they're trying to figure out how to authentically connect with God, with the land, and with other people. Blair Adams started thinking about these things 50 years ago.What were the three rules of the Homestead Act? ›
The new law established a three-fold homestead acquisition process: file an application, improve the land, and file for deed of title. Any U.S. citizen, or intended citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. Government could file an application and lay claim to 160 acres of surveyed Government land.Why was the Homestead Act controversial? ›
The Civil War: The Senate's Story
Until the Civil War, opposition from Southern legislators, who feared homesteaders would work to prevent slavery in new territories, and some Northern legislators, who feared the cheap land would lower property values and lure laborers west, prevented passage of the legislation.
With a median home price of $569,779 and a median rent of $1,032, West Waco is the most expensive neighborhood on our list. Based on the growth in home prices in West Waco over the last 3 years, it ranks No. 1 among all the neighborhoods in Waco.
Sometimes referred to as the Austin Avenue neighborhood, Castle Heights is one of the most affluent and sought-after neighborhoods in Waco. Castle Heights is named after Cottonland Castle, a striking Gothic building from the late 1800s.Were there slaves in Waco Texas? ›
African Americans have held a central role in the development of Waco and McLennan County since the first permanent settlements were established in the mid-nineteenth century. The first Black residents came to Central Texas primarily as slaves to white cotton farmers.How many people live at Homestead Heritage? ›
About 190 families, totaling nearly a thousand people, comprise the Homestead Heritage Community in Texas. About one fourth of them live on the Brazos de Dios community property, and the remainder live on their own personal properties in the surrounding area.
Anyone who was over 21 years old could own land. This included former slaves, immigrants, and single women. Different areas of land were opened for homesteading at different times. This often created land rushes where people would race in to claim the best plots of land.What religion is Homestead Craft Village? ›
What We Believe. While not officially affiliated with any larger denomination or organization, our agrarian Christian community shares common beliefs with numerous diverse Christian traditions, including Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Mennonites and many more.What were the main ideas of the Homestead Act? ›
Passed on May 20, 1862, the Homestead Act accelerated the settlement of the western territory by granting adult heads of families 160 acres of surveyed public land for a minimal filing fee and five years of continuous residence on that land.What was the Homestead Act philosophy? ›
To assist in populating the frontier, the Homestead Act promised free land if settlers built a home on their land and grew crops on it for five years. These guidelines were established to make sure that settlement in the west would be permanent.What is the homestead ethic? ›
In the 19th century, a number of governments formalized the homestead principle by passing laws that would grant property of land plots of certain standardized size to people who would settle on it and "improve" it in certain ways (typically, built their residence and started to farm at least a certain fraction of the ...What are the key points of homesteading? ›
Homesteading is all about living off the land, growing and raising your own food, reducing waste, and being self-sufficient. While it may seem daunting initially, a bit of planning and research is all that's needed to take advantage of this incredibly rewarding experience.