October 8, 2020
Dear U. S. Senators,
My name is Coral Anika Theill, aka Kathryn Y. Warner (nee Hall). I legally changed my name in 1999 to Coral Anika Theill when I entered a state address confidentiality (protection) program for safety from my ex-husband, Marty Warner, i.e, V. Martin Warner, Independence, Oregon.
I would like to testify at the confirmation hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett as to the oppression, abuse and crimes that I and other women were victims of in the People of Praise sect, to which Amy belongs. Although men have ultimate authority in the sect, women leaders, like Amy, are complicit in the subordination and mistreatment of lower status women like me.
I became a member of the Vine and Branches sect in 1979 in Corvallis, Oregon. It was formally absorbed into People of Praise in 1982 and I escaped the group in 1984. My abuse became more severe after we became a People of Praise Community.
The entire time I was there, I was under the control of men and subjected to psychological abuse, including undue influence, threats, shaming, and shunning by leaders and my husband. Coercive persuasion was used on my children to turn them against me. My husband and community leaders used coercive control, isolation and intimidation to strip me of my personhood, safety and freedoms guaranteed to me as a United States citizen. They also launched a smear campaign when I finally got the courage to leave.
The actual crimes committed against me in the sect were: marital rape, false imprisonment, kidnapping, and illegal interrogation. I did not know these were crimes at the time. I believe these crimes are still occurring in People of Praise communities and need to be investigated.
The People of Praise Community that I was forced by my husband to join, was founded in South Bend, Indiana in 1971. I met and attended meetings with the founder, Paul DeCelles and attended a retreat which his wife, Jeanne DeCelles, led. They teach that men have total authority over their wives. Their policies are based on the domination of men and submission of women. They assert that men’s power is absolute and instill fear in women that great harm will come to whoever questions and/or defies that power.
I was told I had to obey my husband, who was my “head”. I was required to be a "helpmeet", which is a biblical term for a wife’s duty to “help” her husband, i.e. do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. This was a main reason my husband wanted to join the group—to give him complete control over me. I had to ask my husband if I could leave the house, go to the store or anywhere else. I was not permitted to do anything without his permission, even go to the store or the doctor. My husband instructed me in what kind of clothes I could wear, how to style my hair, whether I could wear make-up or not, when and what I could eat or drink. Even bodily functions were monitored.
He told me what books I could read and destroyed books if he disapproved of them,
including a favorite of mine, Our Bodies Ourselves: A Book by and for Women, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective. His comments toward me were consistently insulting and demeaning. I couldn’t do anything right in his eyes.
I was not allowed access to money or knowledge about our finances. I was forbidden to work outside the home or attend college classes. I was allowed to buy groceries and I purchased most of the children’s and my clothes and household items at second-hand shops. My husband read my incoming and outgoing mail. I was not allowed to read a newspaper.
I was forbidden to take birth control and was even accompanied by my husband to OBGYN appointments. I was required to submit to my husband's demands for sex at any time - even immediately after giving birth. My husband could rape me at will and that was fine with the leadership. The most serious crime committed against me while in the People of Praise were continuous marital rapes.
I had to attend weekly meetings, retreats, mandated women’s meetings and ministry meetings. Little time was left for family or self. The male “heads” of the sect, those in highest authority, were the main force in controlling members’ actions and thoughts. “Headship” involved matters such as the discipline of children, how to deal with a wife, how to help one’s wife see and deal with her problems, whether to have another baby, what kind of car or home to buy, etc. Husbands sometimes sought help by their own “heads,” on how to get their wives to fall in line—obey.
Each week I was forced to endure a “headship” meeting with my husband who would “correct” me and the children. He would remind me that I set an example for the children by obeying him in all things, and this was a direct correlation to how they would respond and obey him. My husband reported to leaders in his own “headship” meeting any comments I had made that questioned his absolute authority. He kept a black book and listed each of my infractions.
When I tried to share my feelings with my husband and the leaders, my feelings were dismissed. I was told how I should feel. They were the authorities and that fact gave them the right to rule over my emotions. I was required to tell my innermost thoughts and emotions to a woman leader called a “handmaid”, who reported what I said to the male leaders who then reported them to my husband, who could then “correct” me in our headship meeting.
When I dared to question or use my own reasoning processes, I was called a rebel and mentally ill and told I had to atone. The threat of being put in a mental institution was added to the litany of humiliations. I was subjected to exorcism and put in “special counseling” with Father Charles Harris, the People of Praise Community leader.
I was forced to attend a People of Praise Community women's retreat where the other women shunned me. They were not allowed to speak to me or look at me. I was often forced to sit on the floor, outside of Community meetings where members would pass by and shun me. I was an outcast, yet not allowed to leave the Community because my husband still was a member.
I was not permitted to see outside friends or relatives. My father died in 1984, during the beginning of my fourth pregnancy in 1984. My husband did not permit me to visit him in the I.C.U. at the hospital the night he died.
When my husband was out-of-town, he assigned other men in the community to “check-up” on me or leaders would enlist members from the Vancouver branch to "watch" me in my own home so I could not leave, call friends or escape.
I lived under the constant threat by my husband and the leaders that great harm would come to me if I didn’t obey them, including taking my children away. After I left, Family Court did their bidding and took custody of my children away from me and allowed my husband to alienate them from me. I was threatened they would put me in a mental institution if I did not submit to their authority. I now understand this was a crime: false imprisonment.
One example of the oppression I endured is that after my second miscarriage and D & C surgery in the spring of 1984, I was required to attend the mandatory People of Praise women’s meeting. I was still bleeding heavily and was weak from the surgery. The women wished to go on a shopping excursion that evening. I shared I would be unable to go shopping with them and walked out of the meeting. The “handmaid” of the women’s group, Connie Hackenbruck, immediately called my husband and reported my disobedience. My husband called another member, Bruce Bernning, to watch our three children and as soon as I arrived home, I was forced into a car and driven to the home of Ed Brown, my husband’s “head.” He told me that some people (like me) couldn’t “cut the mustard”—the narrow walk with Jesus Christ. I told him I was tired and wanted to go home but it was only after several more hours of interrogation, I was finally allowed to leave.
Because I was brought and kept at Ed’s house against my will and he used insults and threats during the interrogation, I believe this fits the crimes of kidnapping and illegal interrogation. The next day the members in the community were instructed to shun me – not to speak to me. I was considered “poisonous” and a danger to the community’s well-being, but still forced to attend meetings and women’s retreats. Shunning is a cruel and inhumane practice within many church groups and cults, a form of silent ridicule. My crime: I was in disobedience to the leaders.
I experienced much depression and anxiety as a result of all of this abuse. I still suffer from PTSD.
Head coordinators and their wives from South Bend, Indiana, Amy’s group, would visit our Community periodically presenting at retreats. Paul and Jeannie DeCelles and Bud and Sharon Rose were frequent speakers. Bud and Sharon Rose eventually moved from South Bend to live in Corvallis for a year, so there was much coordination and interaction between the two communities.
One of People of Praise’s first leaders, Notre Dame professor Adrian Reimer, confirms that the husband is always the “head of his wife" and the wife must “submit in all things”. He said a "married woman is expected always to reflect the fact that she is under her husband’s authority.” In his book, Not Reliable Guides, Reimers describes how a married woman in the People of Praise is "expected always to reflect the fact that she is under her husband's authority…This goes beyond an acknowledgment that the husband is 'head of the home' or head of the family; he is, in fact, her personal pastoral head. Whatever she does requires at least his tacit approval. The wife, as a good member of the community, has a prima facie obligation to obey her husband as the bearer of God's will. In practice, this means that the two do not—indeed, cannot—relate as equals." The "subordinate role of women to men is a fundamental cultural premise" for the group, he wrote.
People of Praise has released a statement to the media saying they were unaware of any abuse, but that is not true. They were actors in the abuse I suffered. There are numerous individuals who witnessed the abuse I have reported, some of whom are willing to testify. I documented the abuse I suffered in my published memoir, BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark, in 2003 and 2013. No one has refuted my claims or sued me for defamation. My memoir has been used as a college text for nursing students at Linfield College, Portland, Oregon and has been cited in many articles and books.
At her nomination party at the White House, Amy deflected from accusations of the gender discrimination in her sect by saying she and her husband share domestic tasks. First of all, she is a leader in the community, so she has a much better life than most women who are expected to stay home, keep having babies, even when it is unhealthy or dangerous, and take care of children themselves, as I was forced to do. But the more important point is that there is not equality or autonomy for women in the sect, instead a serious imbalance of power between men and women.
It should be concerning to members of Congress that Amy did not disclose her membership in the sect to the Senate, while information about her involvement and leadership in the People of Praise Community has been scrubbed from the internet. It appears that she—and the male leaders she is beholden to—are trying to hide her leadership in the community; however, a Washington Post source has provided documentation supporting she is (or was) a handmaid and a top woman leader. The public has a right to hear about her sect’s commission of crimes and abuse of women.
I believe crimes and abuse against women are being committed systematically and methodically by People of Praise under the cover of religion. But this is not about religion. It is about power men are given to keep women under their control.
I have witnesses who can corroborate my abuse and know former members who can give written testimony (and perhaps in person) as to the abuse and subjugation of women in the People of Praise sect. The confirmation hearings should include this testimony.
I would very much like to testify to the Senate in person as I believe the public should hear first-hand about Amy Coney Barrett’s support of patriarchal ideology and resulting oppression of women. This should be a disqualifier for the highest court in the land.
Coral Anika Theill
Aka Kathryn Y. Warner (nee Hall)
Author, Advocate & Military Reporter
Memoir: BONSHEA Making Light of the Dark
Contributing Writer for Leatherneck Magazine, “Short Rations
For Marines” & “RECLAMATION: A Survivor’s Anthology”
10/8/2020 05:30:14 pm
Putting Judge Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court is completely crazy. She will help the Evangelicals and the uber rich set civil rights back to 1752.
10/11/2020 07:41:10 am
John - Agree 100%.
10/13/2020 08:48:27 am
I deeply and whole heartedly agree!!!!! The republican illegal and unconstitutional attempt to lie to the American citizens is a crime against .women.
10/15/2020 05:34:15 pm
Mr. Lee, this is a very concerning letter and needs to be addressed by the Senate.
10/16/2020 09:21:50 pm
I disagree in your characterization of our country being a Christian nation. It never was and never will be known as a Christian nation specifically. There are Christians in our country just as there are Christians in other countries but America was not founded on Christianity. Our Constitution guarantees our right to believe in any form of religious practices but refrains from identifying with any specific religion.
10/15/2020 10:21:57 pm
How can this article be shared? This is critical information that is not being shared with the media and it definitely should be.
10/16/2020 01:50:20 am
Just copy the url in the address bar and you can then paste it anywhere - on social media, in an email, etc. If you're emailing your govt. officials, just paste the url link in the email.
10/19/2020 05:55:27 am
My sister belonged to a sect like that in Salem, Oregon and Redondo Beach, California. His beatings of her were so severe the retina in one eye detached and she became blinded in one eye. Her hearing was also affected. When she decided to leave him, she didn't have enough money to take both of her children on a bus out of town and back home to California. She had to choose, so she chose to take the older child.
10/22/2020 03:44:04 pm
We cannot have this person. Let her testify. Wheres action pg???
10/8/2020 05:43:00 pm
Adrienne Simidian Baksa
10/10/2020 09:14:50 am
What a truly painful read.
10/10/2020 03:45:51 pm
You are a brave and strong woman Coral and your story does SHINE THE LIGHT. Not only have you suffer severe abuse AND parental alienation which is also abuse on the children by the sect and your ex, you have been denied justice for the crimes committed against you and against the rights of the child.
10/16/2020 09:27:15 pm
You have said it perfectly and I can only add that I agree wholeheartedly. I wish the best for Coral's recovery as I know it will take time. I sincerely hope she is surrounded by people who only have her wellbeing at heart. I also hope she regains a relationship with her children.
Joan Meyer Nye
10/10/2020 04:39:36 pm
I am a retired lawyer, and I consider these facts to be very important in assessing Judge Amy Coney Barrett as impartial judge, on US Supreme Court or any other tribunal.
10/10/2020 08:01:59 pm
Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are a very brave person. I hope everyday is better for you than the last. We definitely can not have such a warped view of Christianity informing the decisions of the Supreme Court.
10/10/2020 09:11:33 pm
Thank you for helping to prevent this nightmare from becoming reality
10/11/2020 11:07:46 am
This is terrifying-her voice needs to be heard.
10/11/2020 11:09:30 am
It is shocking to understand that this is happening in America today, and that women are subjecting themselves to inequality by choice! Hoping you can testify at the confirmation hearing!
10/11/2020 11:20:14 am
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I appreciate the courage it took to do so.
Bonnie Joy Barker
10/11/2020 01:40:49 pm
Thank you for coming forward. People need to watch the movie, "Betrayed". As we have seen, this is what is upon us, and we need to stand up to the individuals who use the cloak of religion and patriotism to maintain power and control...once in secrecy, now pretty much out in the open...as they perpetrate mass trauma on the many for the financial "benefit" of the few. I put quotations around 'benefit' because what goes around comes around.
10/11/2020 01:56:57 pm
Terribly troubling. Thank you for your courage. This needs to be picked up by the major media outlets ASAP! Good luck with your testimony!
10/11/2020 03:05:31 pm
I was forced, much like Coral was, to near constant abuse by my husband, who was close friends with the founding members of Word of God community, which fostered the People of Praise. It was a close relative of Paul DeCelles who was told by male leadership that she was to change her major from chemical engineering to nursing, and she complied. We were not mindless stepford wives, but we were treated as such, and there was no reference to persona linformation , and I was unknown, when the male leadership told me to take a job for which I was not qualified, and to give most of my salary to the community in Ann Arbor. They tried to exorcise me of a "spirit of independence"... which is not a biblically based demonic entity, but I think pressure to destroy my personality. I was to be assigned to a barracks with other females, while my husband was assigned to a basement room with other males.
10/11/2020 04:55:40 pm
This is such disturbing information that needs to be brought to light at the hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. This group needs to be investigated and her name removed from submission for SCJUSTICE!! So disgraceful that this continues. So brave of Coral to come forward.
10/11/2020 08:26:13 pm
This woman needs to be heard by the Judiciary Committee
10/11/2020 08:36:04 pm
This information is essential for the Judiciary committee to make an educated decision. Please allow her testimony.
10/11/2020 09:18:58 pm
Let her testify.
10/11/2020 10:11:42 pm
Please please do something quick to get to testify. Find out who will help you.
10/11/2020 10:38:50 pm
Allow her to speak. And take her seriously.
10/11/2020 11:21:29 pm
Please allow Coral Anika Theill to testify on behalf of women and families everywhere, at Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearing.
10/12/2020 02:15:33 am
I support you. Your voice is important and valid, and your experiences and the injustices done to you, your children, and no doubt so many others NEED to be heard . Amy Coney Barrett has no business being a judge at all, much less looking herself in the mirror trying to defend that she can even remotely deserve this nomination and fill and uphold the lifetime seat with true honor, impartiality, dignity, logic. She is complicit in all of these CRIMES against you, your children, and all the others who have and still are being victimized, manipulated, and coerced. No! We cannot stand for this! We must fight for the voices that need to be heard, especially now!!! # LetHerTestify #I'mSpeaking(Kamala!)
10/19/2020 08:33:17 pm
It seems to me that the restrictions and punishments levied amount to slavery which is illegal.
10/12/2020 03:06:18 am
Dear Senate Judicial Committee-
10/12/2020 07:17:30 am
This goes to the very heart of this nomination. Who will really be making decisions for the court. And religious fanaticism has no place in our highest court
10/12/2020 03:25:12 pm
These people need to be removed from existence. Life sentences in prison should do it, and execution for the heads of this cult. It is evil.
10/12/2020 06:06:02 pm
The GOP Senators are basically bending the law to work for them. They created new rules when Merrick Garland should have had a hearing and different rules for this woman to be Supreme Court Justice. She belonged to a religious cult and she has said she would get rid of the ACA and Rowe vs Wade. The GOP particularly like the last two and they are pushing this nutcase through within a few weeks of an Presidential Election. This is horrifying.
10/12/2020 08:55:20 pm
The lack of deliberation in the Barrett SCOTUS hearing process raises many red flags. This is a lifetime appointment. What are GOP trying to hide? We need to hear this compelling testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The American people deserve to know more about the philosophy of their potential future SCOTUS Barrett, and how she intends to interpret Constitutional Law in a fair and balanced manner. It seems to me that in the 21st century we should not seat a member with such antiquated views, which may have been perfectly acceptable in the 1600s, but are today radically extremist views about the world.
10/12/2020 09:04:29 pm
Amy's church should be investigated before she is able to complete this hearing.
10/13/2020 07:56:03 am
Thanks for sharing your true story. I believe you. I want you to testify People of Praise reminds me of The Handmaid's Tale in real life and the USA needs to be protected from this! I agree with all of you above too. With my full support, Iris.
10/13/2020 01:00:07 pm
This is insane. Please don't send this country backwards.
10/17/2020 05:40:53 am
Let this woman testify and share her story please!! This is horrible and disgusting!
10/17/2020 12:15:20 pm
Please I implore you to Coral to testify before our government about the horrors and abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex husband and at the hands of our family courts and at the hands of ignorant citizens who either ignored her pleads for help and/or further abused her in her time of need.
10/17/2020 07:06:52 pm
Any requests that McConnell and his fellow GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee permit other women to testify as to their experiences with Amy Coney Barrett—and/or with the People of Praise—should be viewed through the 1991 prism of the Senate Judiciary Committee of that year that approved Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. Neither Anita Hill nor the several women who experienced sexual harassment at the hands of Thomas were allowed to testify, although Hill was questioned (after Thomas gave his own exculpatory version of events). That was a scandal. Surely this should not be repeated by yet another insensitive and politically ambitious GOP Judiciary Committee.
10/21/2020 10:16:09 am
Wasnt the Senate Judiciary Committee that approved Thomas chaired by Senator Biden and therefor Democrat?
10/21/2020 10:13:00 am
While not a lawyer, this seems to be nothing more than a form of sex trafficing. Male sexual domination, conspiracy to traffic in sex, conspiracy to rape, rape, conspiracy to commit unlawful detention, unlawful detention, conspiracy to kidnap, kidnap, etc., etc. As is so typical of crimes against women of this nature, it involves the willing participation of other women. As is typical of cults, the veil of secrecy and obstruction is drawn tight leaving the victim alone up against the word of many in the cult. This must be immediately and thouroughly investigated and penetrated by the FBI as its criminal activities cross state lines and greater benefit of the doubt accorded to victims in light of the forces arrayed against them. If Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed and later found to be an adherent indeed of a criminal cult involving forced marital rape, she should be summarily impeached if she fails to resign.
2/16/2022 01:37:09 pm
This is two years ago. What happened? Many women were treated this way to varying degrees during the past two decades of brain-communication/behavior-studies. Now we see what a cult fueled by control can do! I was ostracized, scapegoated, targeted, gaslighted, blacklisted, hypnotized and even drugged. Hope the technology is on trial and laws are created to protect innocent civilians. As I type, words are changing that I can’t “come home” for saying this -
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Cindy Dumas, M.A. has been researching, writing, and raising awareness about the Custody Crisis since 2003, when she was unable to protect her children from their abusive father. She fled into hiding when Family Court failed her and was tricked into returning home, when her children were given to their abusive father.