Lev Tahor fled Canada for Guatemala in 2014 as a Canadian provincial government moved to take children out of the cult's care due to alleged child abuse and neglect. Now America's premier foreign affairs publication has a long profile of the cult that details the widespread allegations against it.
Above: Lev Tahor in Guatemala (credit: Reuters)
Foreign Policy reports:
…But there is a different, more nefarious version of this narrative, one in which Lev Tahor’s moves have not been escapes from discrimination, but flights from justice. The group’s critics, including former converts, estranged families of followers, religious scholars, and law enforcement officials, say Lev Tahor is dangerous. They describe sadistic behavior that goes on behind closed doors, including child abuse, brainwashing, drug use, and forced marriages of teenage girls to men as many as 20 years their senior. “It’s definitely a cult,” says David Ouellette of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a Canadian advocacy group that fights anti-Semitism and promotes Jewish interests. “There’s no question about it.”…
With its competing claims of prejudice and criminality, the story of Lev Tahor reveals how the complexities of religious freedom can make it tricky to distinguish between radical devotion and dangerous extremism. Given religion’s important role in societies, “there’s a tendency in Western culture to overly defer to religious entities … and to assume that nothing will go wrong,” says Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University law professor who has followed Lev Tahor’s trajectory.
However, the case also shows that even when the line between faith and transgression is clear, red tape can make it difficult — even impossible — for legal systems to protect people. “There’s no religious defense of violence,” Hamilton says. “The problem is that you have social, cultural, political, and constitutional factors that weigh in.”
“‘Extreme’ is too mild of a word” for Lev Tahor, she adds. “They are their own universe.”…
Hamilton…says global agencies that seem equipped to help are actually limited in their reach. “An international human rights force,” such as a body at the United Nations or the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, could intervene, but “Guatemala is not a country where it’s easy for Western authorities to get cooperation on the ground. A combination of corruption and a lack of effective law enforcement against violent crime generally puts a strain on resources…. The level of crime, the level of poverty, and the level of corruption make it less likely that the government is going to focus on a small group like Lev Tahor, even if it is engaging in serial child abuse.”…
Read it all here.