Twelve Tribes Communities

An international religious movement accused of hate speech and child abuse

1972 - present

image via Wikimedia

The Twelve Tribes Communities paints a complex picture of religious fervor and communal living. Founded in the early 1970s in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by Gene Spriggs, this religious movement aimed to restore the 12 tribes of Israel, promising a return to the early Christian church's practices and beliefs. Their ultimate vision is to create a society free from the corruption of the modern world, living purely according to their interpretation of the Bible.

Members of the Twelve Tribes live communally, sharing everything from homes to income, in an effort to emulate the apostolic life of the first Christians. They operate cafes, farms, and other businesses, often praised for their work ethic and the quality of their products. To outsiders, their simple, rustic lifestyle and dedication to community and faith can seem idyllic. But beneath this facade lies a web of controversy that has drawn intense scrutiny and criticism over the years.

One of the most alarming aspects of the Twelve Tribes is their approach to discipline and child rearing. The group believes in spanking children with a thin reed, a practice they claim is biblically endorsed. This has led to numerous legal battles and allegations of child abuse, casting a long shadow over their communal utopia. Critics argue that such discipline tactics are harmful and abusive, while the Twelve Tribes defends them as loving correction.

The group's practices and beliefs have also been labeled as cult-like, with former members describing a system of control that limits personal freedom and encourages a total commitment to the community's ideals. Reports of members being cut off from their families and the outside world, rigorous work schedules, and a hierarchical structure that places men firmly at the top have fueled these claims. Such stories from ex-members have painted the Twelve Tribes in a less than divine light, revealing a side that many find disturbing.

Despite these controversies, the Twelve Tribes continues to operate and expand, with communities in the United States, Canada, Australia, and several European countries. They invite those who are searching for meaning and community to join them, promising a life of purpose and brotherhood. However, for many, the controversies and alleged abuses are impossible to ignore, casting doubt on the idyllic life the Twelve Tribes purports to offer.

The Twelve Tribes Communities present a paradoxical world where ideals of purity, community, and faith collide with allegations of abuse, control, and exclusion. It's a world that beckons with the promise of a simpler, more meaningful life but is fraught with questions and concerns about the cost to individual freedom and well-being.

Religion: Christianity

Denomination: Fundamentalism

Founder: Elbert "Gene" Spriggs

Founded: 1972 in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Size: 3,000

Locations: International

Offshoot of: Jesus Movement

Also called: The Yellow Deli People; The Community; Light Brigade; Vine Christian Community Church; Messianic Communities; Messianic Communities; Ordre apostolique – Therapeutic healing environment



Child Abuse Lawsuits



Renunciation of Private Property

Separation from World


Unable to Leave

Other info:

Testimonies and Individual Accounts:

Critical Websites:


What are the motives of this group? Is it a cult? Does the group have a hidden agenda? Are their beliefs sound or are they heretics? Contraversy and charges of child-abuse and violations of child-labor laws continue to hound the group as well as there "teachings" about Jews and Black people. You be the judge. You decide.

Better Than a Turkish Prison is the true story of a needy young man who encounters a religious cult known as "The Twelve Tribes". With no better options in sight, he decides to join them in their pursuit to build the kingdom of God on Earth. After years of brainwashing and servitude, he must break free from a powerful delusion in his search for freedom and truth. Not merely a deeply personal portrayal of one man's struggles, this book also serves as a critical analysis of religious ideals and their effects on humanity as the author divulges his presently held beliefs.