NOTE: See End of This Story for Current News Updates on the Attelboro Sect
Most high control, destructive, religious groups began as something far more benign. Rev. Jim Jones' People's Temple initially fit within the confines of mainstream Christianity. The Branch Davidians were an obscure offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists, but had no initial history that would indicate an eventual conflagration at Waco. Marshal Applewhite's Heaven's Gate similarly began as a UFO group that only later took on the sinister overtones that led to Rancho Santa Fe. This same scenario is true for this little group of people in Southeastern Massachusetts who eventually became "The Body," as they loosely referred to themselves. This group also has a benign origin but has since developed into an organization that is directly responsible for the death of at least one infant and contributed to the "stillbirth" of another. The following is a short historical sketch of the origins of the "The Body" that is important to understand in this group's evolution from benign to malignant. Seeds from one cult were planted in another, and these eventually took root and bore the fruit of death, and tragically, in the Name of God.
Roland and Georgette Robidoux left the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in Mendon, Rhode Island around 1976, an organization headquartered in Pasadena, California. At that time another couple, Reverend Brian and Donna Weeks also left the WCG and eventually linked up with the Robidouxs. The WCG in those days was an extremely repressive, religious fringe group, whose theological makeup was an eclectic mish-mash created by founder/prophet Herbert W. Armstrong. It was considered by mainstream Protestantism to be a full blown cult and was never accepted by the World or National Council of Churches. Herbert W. Armstrong began this organization in 1935 and ran it with absolute authority as God's "end time prophet" until his death in 1986. Similarities with the Attleboro group can be seen in seed form in the WCG. Some of the distinctive beliefs and practices of the WCG back in the 70's were: WCG as God's end time group and true Church, no use of cosmetics, no celebration of birthdays or holidays, avoidance of medical system, withholding medical treatment from children, radical distrust of the world and withdrawal from all government systems, use of the designation "Church of God," etc.
Consequently, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, in their comprehensive study on cults, place the WCG solidly within the parameters of a high control, destructive, religious group.
"Cults are usually characterized by central leader figures who consider themselves messengers of God with unique access to the Almighty. Since the leader has such a special relationship with God, he can dictate the theology and behavior of the cult. Consequently, he exercises enormous influence over the group. This is true for example, in the Unification Church, The Way International and The Worldwide Church of God." Understanding the Cults, p. 27.
The Weeks have reported that they and the Robidouxs left the WCG specifically because it was such a controlling organization and "not of God." They all vowed that they would "never be involved in that kind of a group again." The repressiveness and control were too much to tolerate. However, when people leave a cult, unless they receive help to process what happened to them, they frequently enter into another controlling group or recreate the very environment they left. The latter is exactly what occurred with the Robidouxs, and what led to the eventual creation of "The Body."
Upon leaving the WCG the Robidouxs, with the Weeks and many other disgruntled former members of the WCG, started a weekly Bible study in their living room. Roland was the leader of this study, being a powerful personality and former "Elder" in the WCG, who was "ordained" as such in 1975. He and Brian Weeks were going to study the Bible correctly, without any of the WCG study aids that they had extensively used in the past.
In 1977 the group had grown to the point that they rented the Grange Hall in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Thus began the "Church of God of Mansfield" with Roland Robidoux and Brian Weeks leading the fledgling church. Roland became the president and they officially incorporated and received 501(c)3 status from the IRS. Approximately 75 people were in attendance during that period, all former WCG members. However, later that year two issues began to eventually trouble Brian Weeks that brought a split between him and Roland. The Church had essentially become a "gripe session" for all the disgruntled feelings of the former WCG members. More importantly, Brian stated to us,
"I went to Roland and told him that I didn't think we knew what we were doing. We were studying the Bible, but we really didn't know what the Bible taught, and I just didn't think we were qualified to lead these people." January 26, 2000
At that time Brian Weeks and Roland Robidoux each went their own way. However, Roland continued to lead the "Church of God of Mansfield." Eventually, the church moved to Norton, Massachusetts and became the "Church of God of Norton." At this point the history becomes very sketchy. Apparently, the group continued for a period of a few years and eventually dissolved. However, the Robidoux's continued to lead weekly Bible studies out of their home.
The other significant family that really makes up the other half of "The Body" is the Daneau family. Roger Daneau has known Roland Robidoux since high school days at Sacred Heart Academy in Attleboro in the late 50's. During most of the 1970's Roger and Vivian Daneau were part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement. This was a large spiritual movement that swept this country and Western culture at that time. One of the components of the movement was communal living and sharing everything in common. At one point two of the Daneau girls said that approximately 30 people lived with their family in the mid-70's. Each family had their own apartment but all material possessions were shared, and meals were taken together.
Towards the end of the decade of the 70's the communal experiment ended and the Daneaus moved out of the communal home in Attleboro. For a couple of years they lived as a single family with a few boarders. It was a time of stress as Vivian Daneau was pregnant with her seventh child and at home with the rest of the children. Roger Daneau was working two jobs just to make ends meet. One job was as a firefighter, the other was as a stone mason. During this time they also experienced a serious falling out with the Catholic Church and vowed never to go back there again.
Disillusioned with the organized church and having quit both his jobs to be home with his wife, Roger Daneau ran into Roland Robidoux whom he hadn't seen for years. Roland had a booming chimney sweep business with more work than he could handle. The two men renewed their old friendship and became business partners. It is now the early 1980's and Roger and Vivian began to attend the weekly Bible studies at the Robidoux's home. The Bible studies are much smaller now, probably just the Daneaus and perhaps a few others. The Robidouxs have never internally left the teaching and repressive practices of the WCG and these are eventually embraced by the Daneaus. Soon, their youngest children are pulled from public school to be home schooled and the women no longer use cosmetics or jewelry. Birthdays and holidays are no longer celebrated, and the medical system is progressively seen as an evil.
The time is now approximately 1997. "The Body" is flourishing and aside from some anti-social practices and a very intense, fringe belief system, it is a harmless and benign group. The group is living semi-communally in a few households. Roland Robidoux has been "ordained" a pastor. Dennis Mingo, David Corneau and another man have married into the group and many of the women are having one child after another. Roger Daneau has a Masonry business that is grossing well over $100,000.00 a year and Roland Robidoux's Ash Magic Chimney Sweep business is equally as profitable. Money is in the bank for many of the families and the future looks bright. The group now has its largest membership; 17 adults and 21 children spanning three generations. The oldest members are Roland (8/1/40) and Georgette (11/7/41) Robidoux, and Roger (1/24/40) and Vivian (4/24/41) Daneau. Two of the Robidoux children married two of the Daneau children, with their marriage vows officiated over by Roland Robidoux. He had registered in 1987 with the Secretary of State as a minister. However, only the first marriage (Jacques and Karen) had a marriage license signed by Roland and then reported to the State.
At this point two very significant events occurred that changed the whole direction of the group and sent it spiraling out of control. These events also precipitated three major defections that ultimately brought this group to State and local law enforcement's attention. The first is the influence of a woman named Carol Balizet. She founded an organization in Florida called "Home In Zion Ministries" that distributes her many written works. Ms. Balizet wrote two works that profoundly influenced "The Body." The first work, Born In Zion, laid the foundation for them to avoid the medical establishment, particularly in the area of home births. In this book Ms. Balizet advocates taking a "spiritual" approach towards home births. Hospital care, medicines, doctors and nurses are all Satanic. If a child dies at a home birth, that is "God's will." God would never want a mother with a problem pregnancy to receive any help. The book is filled with anecdotal evidence of God's blessings upon an approach to home births that relies only on prayer. Interestingly, at one point, Ms. Balizet has to go to court for practicing medicine without a license. Through her circumstances and prayer she realizes that God does not want her to have any legal representation. She reports that she went on to win the case with the State and prosecutor looking foolish in the end.
It would seem that Carol Balizet's beliefs, as laid out in Born In Zion, were a contributing factor to the death of Jeremiah Corneau. In one of the confiscated journals Jeremiah's "stillbirth" is described in graphic detail that indicates it was no stillbirth in the true sense of the word. Jeremiah was kicking and pink as he was being born. They thought at first it was going to be a breach birth, but then after both feet appeared, the body came out. The cord was around one foot. Then all contractions stopped. One attendant tried to work the arms out but he wasn't budging. David was told to pray and as soon as he did, one arm slid down and then the other shoulder dropped and the head birthed. His lungs were still collapsed and he was pink even before fully birthed but he never breathed. Apparently, he had aspirated some fluid and suffocated to death. None of the attending women knew how to clear his lungs.
The group had been practicing home births for many years, using trained midwives. However, after the introduction of Carol Balizet's, Born In Zion, the only resources available for prenatal care and home birth to any pregnant woman in the group were the "skills" of Georgette Robidoux and prayer.
Carol Balizet's second work, Egypt Or Zion, explicitly lays out why any true believer must withdraw from seven "world" (read Satanic) systems: Government, Religion, Education, Science, The Arts, Medicine, Commerce/Banking. Through bizarre Biblical interpretations and anecdotal evidence Ms. Balizet demonizes any contact a person would have with the world "outside." The group buys this philosophy in its entirety and slowly begins to withdraw from any contact with the outside world. Recently in Australia, a mother following Balizet's principles died shortly after giving birth. Authorities believe that she would have lived with proper medical attention. (click here for story)
However, all this happens in conjunction with the second significant event that adversely impacted the group. This was the elevation of Jacques Robidoux to the position of "Elder" by his father. This was a unilateral decision that initially was not well received in the group but was confirmed by special "revelations" received from God. The impact this one event had was cataclysmic. Soon Jacques was challenging the authority of his father, Roland, by the "revelations" he received. According to former members, for all intents and purposes, Jacques became the defacto leader of the group as time went on. He took Carol Balizet's teachings on Egypt or Zion and became the catalyst that accelerated the "The Body's" break with any contact with those seven "evil systems." This only served to further isolate the group and eliminate any possibility for rational reflection, or checks and balances. They were to be a "special people for God," separate from the world. But for all intents and purposes they had created a separate reality, disconnected from the real world around them. The stage is now set for the tragic death of Samuel Robidoux and Jeremiah Corneau.
However, before and during these tragic events three major defections occurred. First, Dennis Mingo left the group over difficulties with the increasing power being exercised by Jacques and Roland over his life and family. It was also apparent to him that his wife's attachment to her father (Roland Robidoux) superseded her commitment to him. In his mind he had no recourse but to leave. Next, an adult child of Roland Robidoux was excommunicated from the group over the buying of a pair of corrective glasses for her eyesight. This was even more problematic for the group because this was a child of the founder. Last of all, another married couple left shortly thereafter.
This was good for all those who left. They have now been able to process what happened to them, their responsibility in the course of events, and to begin the painful process of putting their lives back together again. However, their departure left the group without any rational voices of dissent that would have kept the group from descending into the abyss that culminated in Samuel and Jeremiah's death.
Updated News Items on This Story:
Judge lets parents name baby, but does not allow custody
Another Death Attibuted to Balizet's Teachings
Defendants Work on Compromise
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