|COMMUNITY CHURCH GROUP AGAIN DRAWING COMPLAINTS|
| COMMUNITY CHURCH GROUP
AGAIN DRAWING COMPLAINTS|
The organization's name has changed, and so has the location, but the charges being levelled against
former Chattanoogan Gene Spriggs and his following Way are no different than those 19 were brought
the group here a few years ago. Until 1980, Spriggs was the leader of the Chattanooga based Vine
Christian Community Church. Today, the former Central High-School football star is overseeing a
religious cult called the Northeast Kingdom Community Church in Island Pond, Vermont.
Shorty before Spriggs and his group began selling off church owned property in the Chattanooga area, a number of former followers surfaced to denounce the church's practices in general, Spriggs in particular, charging that children were beaten and members were mistreated and ill-fed. Soon after these charges were made public, Spriggs relocated his "church" to Island Pond and had enjoyed relatively good relations with natives of the tiny community until several weeks ago when a child custody case involving a former church member and his wife- still a Spriggs follower-went to court That's when former members testified that children were frequently whipped with wooden rods.
Charles Brown and his wife Tommye were induced by Spriggs to hitchhike from Jackson Hole,
Wyoming- a 14 day long trip-to Island Pond to live in "the promised land" according to Elizabeth H.
Holland, reporter for the Boston Herald American, which recently devoted a series to Spriggs, his
followers and the problems they are now encountering with the community.
The -promised land" turned out to be anything but the Garden of Eden, the Browns said. According to
Ms. Holland, the Browns became disenchanted and bitter after spending less than five months in the
kingdom. They told the reporter they left the group "horrified by the sight of children being beaten
routinely with wooden rods by church members" for such things as being inattentive or asking for seconds
Brown said he had seen one small girl beaten until blood was streaming down her legs and another little bay whipped I I times in a five day period. As they did when faced with similar charges here, members of the Island Pond group defended its "spare the rod, spoil the child" philosophy as biblical discipline dud exorcises the devil and makes the children pure of heart.
The kingdom is operating in Vermont as the Vine Christian Community church did here. Members run a restaurant similar to the former Yellow Deli in - a bakery. dairy, firm, printing shop. a plumbing outfit and a construction firm. They also own about 15 house in which they live.