The New England Institute of Religious
Research, founded in 1991, is a 501(c)3 religious, non-profit organization
designed to understand the various belief systems around the United States.
NEIRR is frequently called upon to educate others about such systems and
those who adhere to them. They receive calls from many foreign countries
simply requesting information about groups that are both mainstreamed
in society, as well as those relatively unknown to the larger community.
Currently, NEIRR speaks throughout the country and abroad on cults in
general, and many groups specifically. This is done at national conferences,
Churches, secular organizations, etc. They also work with families who
have lost children to destructive groups, run support groups for those
who have left, conduct extensive research, provide seminars, work with
law enforcement when requested, and child protection services in many
States, etc. The past five years NEIRR has specialized in religious, communal
groups, many of them destructive. These have included, The Twelve Tribes
(international group), The Family (international group), The Kingdom of
Yah (Tennessee), The Community of Jesus (Massachusetts), The Brethren
(national group), and many others. Recently, NEIRR established MeadowHaven,
a long-term rehabilitation facility for former members of destructive
Two years ago we received a call one afternoon
from a very distraught woman. With great concern and distress in her voice,
she explained that her nieces and nephews were in a shopping mall parking
lot up in Maine. They were with this strange religious group that her
brother was a member of. They had no food or gas, and "were just
waiting on God." They had also been in this condition for days, and
she was deeply concerned that something was going to happen to the children.
The caller was the sister of one of the members of "The Body of Christ"
(as they referred to themselves), and that was our first introduction
to this group that resided in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Thus began our odyssey with one of the most totalistic,
destructive groups we have ever worked with. Within a matter of one year,
two children would die and be secretly buried in Baxter State Park in
Maine, all according to the will of God. One child, Samuel Robidoux, by
God's "leading" was slowly starved to death. The other child,
Jeremiah Corneau, was supposedly "stillborn." When the authorities
were eventually notified of this by a former member of "The Body
of Christ," thirteen children were immediately removed from the group's
compound by the Department of Social Services, and criminal charges were
brought against many members.When this case first appeared in the press,
we were introduced by an investigator to the presiding Judge. After he
interviewed us, the Judge requested we serve as Guardian Ad Litem ("next
best friend") for the children removed by Social Services. Our responsibility
was to produce an investigative report for the Judge that would help the
court decide what was in the best interests of the children.
High-control, destructive groups like "The Body
of Christ" exist on a continuum. Some exercise a minimum of destructive
control over their members' lives while others destroy the very emotional
fabric, and even physical lives, of those who come under their sway (People's
Temple, Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, etc.). Groups become totalistic
when they invade every area of a person's life. They become destructive
when the member's individuality, personhood and freedom are manipulated
Roland and Georgette Robidoux, founders of "The
Body of Christ", left the Pasadena-based Worldwide Church of God
(WCOG) in Mendon, Rhode Island around 1976. The WCOG 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.
Armstrong began this organization in 1935 and ran it with absolute authority
as God's "endtime prophet" until his death in 1986. Similarities
with the Attleboro group can be seen in seed form in the WCOG. Some of
the distinctive beliefs and practices of the WCOG back in the 70's were:
WCOG as God's endtime 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. The Robidouxs left the WCOG in the late 70's specifically because
it was such a controlling organization and "not of God." They
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 of Christ."
The time was approximately 1997 and the group had been
in existence, in some form or another, for at least fifteen years. It
was also flourishing. Aside from some anti-social practices and a very
intense, fringe belief system, it was a harmless and benign group that
was living semi-communally in a few households. Roland Robidoux has been
"ordained" a pastor. Four men had married into the group and
many of the women were having one child after another. Roger Daneau, a
man whose family belonged to the group, had a Masonry business that was
grossing well over $100,000.00 a year. Roland Robidoux's Ash Magic Chimney
Sweep business was equally as profitable.
At this point two very significant events occurred that
changed the whole direction of the group and sent it spiraling out of
control. The first was the influence of a woman named Carol Balizet. She
founded an organization in Florida called "Home In Zion Ministries"
that distributed her many written works. Ms. Balizet wrote two works that
profoundly influenced "The Body of Christ." 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.
It would seem that Carol Balizet's beliefs, as laid
out in Born In Zion, were a contributing factor to the "still birth"/death
of Jeremiah Corneau. In one of the confiscated journals of the group,
Jeremiah's "stillbirth" is described in graphic detail that
indicates it was no stillbirth in the true sense of the word.
"Sunday in shower - got guilt trip layed
on her about Jeremiah's birth. At time of birth - no questions about
anything. Never dawned on her that anything would go "wrong."
Bee had tell-tale signs that this was not a normal birth but nothing
was given to mom until this Sunday. Head birthing at top of uterus -
kicking in cervix. Breaking of waterbag - like pee but not - kept going.
Then one foot - first thought - its breech - then comes the other foot.
Thought oh - at least both feet are here. Cord around one foot. Then
body came out. All contractions stopped. Mom tried to work the arms
out but he wasn't budging. Told David to pray. He prayed and as soon
as he did one arm slid down (which is impossible), then the other shoulder
dropped and the head birthed. His lungs were still collapsed. Face had
the look of death when birthed but it changed. He was pink even before
fully birthed. But he never breathed. Thought Satan through at us 'if
you had prayed earlier he would have lived.' While holding torso - singing
Halelujah - had all this power and strength. Mom told Satan to get lost."
August 14, 1999
Jeremiah was kicking and pink as he was
being born. Those attending the birth 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. The father 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.
Previously, 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 (wife of Roland) 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 bought this philosophy
in its entirety and slowly began to withdraw from any contact with the
However, all this happened in conjunction with the second
significant event that adversely impacted the group. This was the elevation
of Jacques Robidoux, son of Roland Robidoux, to the position of "Elder"
by his father. This was a unilateral decision that initially was not well
accepted 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 de facto 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 of Christ'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 was now set for the tragic deaths of Samuel Robidoux and Jeremiah
However, the convergence of these two significant events
was not enough, in and of itself, to produce the death of the two infants.
The entire spiritual worldview of "The Body of Christ" had been
slowly devolving into a destructive environment where infant deaths could
occur, and everyone would turn a blind eye. This devolution/mutation can
be traced in the development of three deadly trends that indicate the
group was already beginning to gyrate out of control.
First, Roland Robidoux had initially encouraged members
of the group to "go to the library, check your concordances, and
Bible dictionaries and see if I am right" (conversation with former
member), when he made a declaration. This began to slowly change and eventually
went by the wayside. Questioning the leadership now was considered rebellious
and disobedient to the "word of God" through his appointed leaders.
Roland had essentially created an environment where he was perceived to
have a direct "pipeline" to God with no actual accountability.
This is always a very deadly combination.
Second, the group began to make a radical separation
between the physical and the spiritual. Everything was spiritualized,
from backed up septic systems, to why a chicken died, to it being a cloudy
day outside. However, this spiritualization became deadly in the case
of Samuel Robidoux, the infant who was starved to death. Group member,
Michelle Mingo, received a "revelation from God" that Karen
Robidoux (mother of Samuel) had spiritual issues that God wanted to work
out in Karen's life. This involved Karen performing various acts of "penance"
that revolved around the feeding of her baby, Samuel. If she performed
well God would "relent his judgement," according to Michelle.
This obviously had great implications for the infant Samuel.
Karen was to stop feeding her ten-month-old son solid
food and to begin breast-feeding him only. She was also to trust God for
Samuel's well-being, and not focus on his physical suffering. A journal
entry dated January 16, 1999 states "Physical signs (are)not important
- walk in faith. Physical signs can be a lie." Consequently, when
infant Samuel was dying, Roland Robidoux, one of the Elders, stated that
while "Sam shows signs of discomfort, ...it is not as the physical
looks. Prayers should not be for Sam to be healed but for God's purposes
to be fulfilled" April 17, 1999. In fact, in that same journal
entry it is noted that God "doesn't care about Samuel at this
point. We are being afflicted, but it is to teach us life." The
entire group turns a blind eye to the suffering of this infant and "spiritualizes"
his pain. Mark Daneau comments, "It's not going to be over until
God says it's over... What we see with our eyes is not truth."
(April 17, 1999)
Third, journal entries of group members over the preceding
two years indicate that personal "revelations" from God began
to take precedence over the Bible as God's written revelation. Eventually,
the Bible became a meaningless book and the group's subjective experiences,
dreams and visions became the true locus of authority and guidance. This
created an environment where there were no checks and balances. Such environments
are always very dangerous for any person. Anything can happen... and then
be justified as God's will.
Eventually, this reliance upon "revelations"
was carried to such an extreme that a member of "The Body of Christ"
wrote of Georgette Robidoux (Roland's Wife):
"If anyone here said something, no matter how ridiculous, she
(Georgette) would follow because she believes that everyone here has
the Spirit of God. She would not question it. If a leading someone said
was not the word of the Lord or seemed like it wasn't, she has to and
does believe that God is behind it. It is not part of her job to understand
it, it is to trust in God and obey." August 14, 1999
All leadings had to be strictly obeyed
because they were from God, even if they were wrong. The reason is that
God is ultimately behind everything, thus, even a false leading, like
not feeding Samuel, needs to be obeyed because God is the Author. Obviously,
in a context where it does not matter if a "leading" is from
God or not, this is not a fit environment for any human being. The subjective
ramblings of the most deranged member can become the norm, and, in the
Name of God, people can commit the most heinous crimes against their own
kind. For where there are no checks and balances, anything goes.
The tragedy here is that this environment slowly became
entirely shifting sand. Years earlier, none of the people in "The
Body of Christ" would ever have dreamed of participating in the death
of an infant and then interpreting it as God's will. They would have been
horrified at the prospect. However, what was normal for the group five
years ago is not what is normal today. And what is normal today will not
be normal a few years down the road if the group continues to exist. It
most likely will be something far worse. Of such is the nature of destructive
Georges Santayana stated, "Those who do not learn from the past are
doomed to repeat it." Tragically, those words have been played out
again and again in human history. "The Body of Christ" in Attleboro,
Massachusetts is only one small chapter in a long, sad book. Destructive
cults have existed for millennia and will continue to as long as there
are those who claim a direct pipeline to God with no accountability. The
final price is always disillusionment, shattered lives and it can be,
In July, 2002 Jacques Robidoux was convicted of First
Degree Murder. He is now serving a life sentence without any possibility
of parole. Karen Robidoux was charged with Second Degree Murder. She was
convicted in January, 2004 of Assault and Battery and sentenced to time
served. Michelle Mingo was charged with Accessory Before the Fact. She
pled guilty in February, 2004 and was sentenced to time served.