The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has launched an inquiry into allegations of child sexual abuse and cover-ups within the People of Praise (PoP), a secretive Christian sect that counts conservative Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett as a lifelong member. Sources familiar with the matter have confirmed that the FBI has interviewed several individuals who have alleged they were abused by members of the group.
The investigation was sparked by the efforts of PoP Survivors, a group that has been calling for an investigation into the handling of abuse allegations by the group's leaders. The group, which consists of 54 members, has alleged that claims of abuse were routinely mishandled or covered up for decades in order to protect the close-knit faith community.
According to sources, at least five individuals have been contacted by the FBI, and four of them have given detailed accounts of abuse they allegedly experienced or witnessed. One woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she was disappointed and defeated after being informed by FBI agents that the investigation into her own claims had been closed. She had hoped for justice after sharing her story with the agents, who had seemed interested in pursuing the matter.
The PoP was founded in the 1970s as part of a Christian charismatic movement and is led exclusively by men. The group has been criticized for endorsing discriminatory practices and for creating opportunities for sexual abuse through their single members living with families, including children. PoP's membership has come under scrutiny following the nomination of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in 2020. Media reports at the time also revealed that Barrett and her husband had lived in the home of a key PoP founder before they were married.
Following these reports, a Facebook group of PoP survivors was created, and former members and individuals who were raised in the group began sharing stories of alleged abuse and cover-ups. They also contacted the FBI in 2022, offering a list of witnesses and evidence to support their claims. However, it wasn't until Democratic senator Ron Wyden raised the issue with the FBI that they responded and launched an inquiry into the matter.
Members of PoP Survivors are calling on the FBI to use their power to uncover the long-standing pattern of child sexual abuse and cover-up within the People of Praise. They are urging all perpetrators and enablers to be held accountable and for measures to be put in place to ensure that no child is victimized and silenced by a PoP member again.
In response to the allegations, the FBI has not commented, and a spokesperson for the PoP did not respond to a request for comment. The secrecy surrounding the sect and the influence of its leaders over members' lives raises concerns about potential cover-ups and mishandling of abuse allegations. The survivors who have come forward hope that the FBI's investigation will bring justice and prevent future incidents of abuse within the People of Praise community.