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Branch Davidians

News Summaries from ICSA Periodicals

Lloyd Hardial, whose sister died in the Branch Davidian conflagration, still wonders how his college-educated sister, Sandra, who had a good job with the Manchester (England) City Council, got mixed up with David Koresh, who persuaded her to give it all up to follow him. Sandra was a devout Seventh Day Adventist preoccupied with the Book of Revelation, who felt that the end times were at hand. Sandra had heard Koresh during one of his visits to England in the late 1980s, and she made a pilgrimage to the United States in 1990 to learn more about his teachings. In 1992, she went to the United States for good, but called the family often and seemed fine. Then, the conflagration… (Fort Worth Star Telegram, 4/18/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

Religion scholars and historians agree that understanding the tragedy of the Branch Davidians (who broke away from the mainstream Seventh Day Adventist church in the 1920s) requires a nuanced approach, and that religious literacy is critical to peacefully enforcing the law in a pluralistic society when one is dealing with apocalyptic groups such as the Davidians. A scholar of religion says, “They [authorities] kept calling this a hostage situation. But these people were protecting their home. They didn’t want to leave.” Regarding their unwillingness to come out of their compound, he said they believed only God could tell them when to leave. “Obedience to God was more important to them than submission to human authority—when the two were in conflict, God was to be obeyed.” (Deseret News, 4/18/13) [IT 4.3 2013]

The Branch, The Lord of Righteousness, which took control of Mount Carmel, refuge of the David Koresh faction of the Branch Davidians, says it plans to resume a communal life on the site of the compound, near Waco, TX, that was destroyed 14 years ago. The leader, Charles Joseph Pace, 57, known by his “spiritual title,” Joshua Solomon Branch, says he wants to make the compound, the site of what he refers to as “so many lies and deceptions, lawlessness and sin,” into a holistic health center and organic farm as well as a religious community modeled on the one begun by Davidian founder Victor Houteff. Houteff was expelled from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1929 and settled in Waco in 1935. Pace split from the Davidians in Waco in 1984 but returned to live on the property with his family in 1995. [csr 6.1 2007 2007] 

A U.S. Army psychological warfare operations team is using loud rock music and insults shouted in Arabic at very high volume on the streets of Fallujah, Iraq, to make hostile gunmen nervous and anxious to come out of hiding and fight. The army used similar tactics to flush Manuel Noriega in Panama and in an attempt to end the standoff with the Branch Davidians, in Waco. The sound effects also include babies crying, men screaming, cats screeching, and dogs barking. Nothing seemed to work. (Jason Keyser AP, Internet, 4/19/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

Former IPIC Investments head Gregory Setser has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for swindling hundreds of Christian investors out of $170 million through a pyramid scheme. Using his connections to the noted televangelist Benny Hinn to persuade new investors — Hinn paid back his profits when he learned of the way others had been scammed — Setser spent millions on mansions, a yacht, and more. [csr 6.1 2007]

A group of Russian scholars, religious leaders, and government workers in June visited the site of the Branch Davidian disaster in Waco, Texas. The tour, part of a program managed by the Center for Russian Leadership Development at the Library of Congress, was hosted locally by Derek Davis, director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Relations at Baylor University. He said that the visit stimulated discussions of the government’s relationship to a group that is accused of breaking the law. “In many ways, I think of this [the Waco conflagration] as kind of a lesson in mistakes that a government can make about how you treat a group like this. The Davidians should have been investigated, without question, but it should not have ended up in a large conflagration with . . . people being killed. It shouldn’t have happened that way. So we learned some hard lessons.” [csr 1.3 2002]

The visiting group’s interest in the relationship between government and religious organizations stems in part from the situation in Russia, where the state recently passed laws making it difficult for many non-traditional groups to operate. (Brian Gar, Waco Tribune, Internet, 6/30/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

Branch Davidians and their families have appealed the dismissal of their $675 million wrongful death lawsuit over the 1993 federal assault on the sect’s Waco compound. Attorneys for the plaintiffs accused U.S. District Judge Walter Smith of bias against the Branch Davidians and their leader, David Koresh.[csr 1.2 2002]

Branch Davidians - Supplemental News