Exit and Support Network

I Got Out While There Was Time

I am writing to you to help you and all viewers of your site to recognize a dangerous presence under the old WCG umbrella. The presence I speak of is the Sabbathtarian Church (I have also seen it spelled Sabbatarian Church), located in Clarkson, Kentucky. The group was founded by Richard Dugan1 and his wife, Laura. They are adherents of Herbert W. Armstrong, and staunch believers in the doctrines of the old Worldwide Church of God. I was a member of their congregation for almost two years. Please warn others about these extremists.

Here is my story:

In 2004, I quit my job to move to western Kentucky to try to get my foot in the door, so to speak, in the music business. I had visited the area the previous summer, and met a man named Richard Dugan, who was a published musical artist. He had told me that if I were to move there, he would use his contacts in the music business to help me possibly get signed to a recording contract. Having been involved with music for over 20 years, and not really getting far, this sounded like a golden opportunity to get some recognition for my songwriting.

The place itself was beautiful, yet spartan. No running water (it was brought up in a tank from the bottom of the mountain), no electricity (except a generator which was run from sundown until midnight or so), and everyone lived in trailers that had been either donated, or been salvaged. I was immediately give a doublewide trailer to live in, equipped with a wood burning stove, and various pieces of cast-off furniture. I moved in happily, expecting that I would get to know God's Will, and further my musical aspirations at the same time. The rugged lifestyle didn't bother me much; I was just happy to be there. At first.

Then, I was introduced to the congregation members, who told me that it was foretold that I was to join them. I asked who had told them that, and they said that Richard was told by God personally. A lot of this flew in the face of everything I had believed up until this point, but I was trying to be fair, so I listened to their claims.

They told me that they were at one time affiliated with the WCG, but broke away in the 1980s to practice their own doctrines when HWA was beginning to be discredited from within and without. They opted for a stricter approach to spiritual matters than the WCG was espousing at that time--mainly Old Testament rituals and rules, which were scrupulously followed. As time went by, they accumulated more buses, and more members, and survived by working as tobacco setters in exchange for a plot of land to park their buses, and a small monetary stipend. In 1994, they moved to their present location in Grayson County, KY on a 400-acre hilltop. Initially living in the buses, they soon procured single, and doublewide trailers to live in.

The book The United States and Britain In Prophecy was a constant source for their justification in the plans and operations of the "Township." HWA was regarded as "A prophet like unto Jeremiah" by the congregation. He was quoted daily, and any occurrence that came close to fulfilling a prophecy of his, his name would be trumpeted around, saying that wasn't it wonderful that God had chosen such a great and wise man to be His prophet? (paraphrased)

I had been a borderline Christian before moving to their "Township," called by them "La Vita," in 2005. As I was a "city boy," I had to learn the ways of working on a farm with a spread of 400 acres. I was informed of the rules governing the community, about how work had to cease at sundown on Friday and could not commence until Sunday, how the community as a whole had to celebrate the various feasts from the Old Testament, and so on. Then it was explained that all of the so-called "holidays" that I had celebrated in the past were pagan, and I could no longer participate in them. They told me that if I visited my relatives on a Sunday, that I was engaging in a pagan ritual, because they believed Saturday was the Sabbath. The same with Christmas or Easter, Thanksgiving or New Year's Eve--all were considered "pagan, sinful, and evil."

I was told that the leader, a man named Richard Dugan, was a "prophet of God," and that it was the congregation's duty to serve him in whatever way he saw fit. As proof of his exalted status, he had two wives, both living with him. There were a few in the congregation that called Richard "Sire" in reference of the claim that he was to be the king whom Christ Himself would appoint, "Who would administer justice in the name of the Lord." There was another thing that concerned me, and that was the opposition they expressed toward any state or federal agency. They even said that because Kentucky is a commonwealth, that the state police are not legally police.

After about a month on the farm, I was given the job title of Liaison, which meant that, under the "civil government" (there was a so-called separation of church and state), I was now the second in command, second only to Brother Richard.

After being there for a while, and being bombarded by the words of Herbert W. Armstrong and various quotes from the Bible, which I was not all that familiar with, I started to study both. I found that their readings from the Bible left a lot to be desired, both in context, and in content. Often they would twist meanings to suit their purposes for that given time, and use the same verse differently another time.

They believed Herbert Armstrong was a prophet, a seer, and a man on a Divine Mission. Or so they said. They insisted, that as well as studying Scripture, I must read HWA's book, The United States and Britain in Prophecy, because it had many clues to how the end was going to come, and how those who are devout will be spared to rule over the humanity that survives "the end times" (which they said was now, and that the end was coming soon).

To be fair, I decided that I had to read for myself what HWA said. I found his book (The United States and Britain in Prophecy) to be total malarkey, with inaccurate historical data, presumptions of God's wishes, and filled with suppositions and rhetoric that would make anyone sound like a prophet, a seer, a Divine Missionary. Having found his methodology questionable at best, and fraudulent at worst, I decided to put no credence in the teachings and words of HWA from that day forward. When I brought my concerns to Brother Richard, I was rebuked for "not having faith in his (Richard's) leadership," and told to work harder to believe. My opposition to HWA affected the congregation badly, as it made me seem as if I did not want to be part of the "family."

It was also about this time that people were getting angry with me because I would not say I believed something if I didn't. I would have discussions with Richard that would turn into arguments because I would not allow the twisting of Biblical verses just so he could prove his point, a common tactic among the congregation members. It got to the point that some members called me a heretic for not believing in, and even denigrating Herbert Armstrong. There was even conflict over birthdays. I received a gift for my birthday in 2005, and I was told I should not have accepted it, that I was behaving like a pagan, a heathen. Towards the end of my time there, I was getting into so many arguments and disagreements with the congregation members. I began to question the leader at every turn, often getting into big arguments with him whenever he was misusing Scripture for his own ends.

I began to see that I had to get out of there when the talk of "The end times" got more and more pronounced. They had a plan, in which they were going to take shelter in a cave that was adjacent to an old well on their property, so as to escape the "coming holocaust," thus saving them to rule over the post Judgment-Day world. Well, I wasn't going into a cave, I told them. Their answer was that maybe I wasn't fit to be "Tuatha De." I had expressed disbelief on many occasions, and on many grounds, for their planned movement into the cave. And my refusal to take part in their fantastic view of things made me feel unwelcome. So, one evening in early August 2006, I informed Richard I was leaving. I left 2 days later. I don't know if they would've tried to stop me if I had given them more notice, but I wasn't going to take that chance. I had a friend wire me a bus ticket, and I left Kentucky.

I definitely feel that this group is dangerous, and if left unchecked, things can turn out very bad indeed. These people have access to firearms, and have on more than one occasion said that they would, if it ever came to it," fight to the last man." They on numerous occasions referred to the "family" as separatist. I heard them once compare themselves to the Branch Davidians. That was why I left. All the talk of a police state to come, and a holocaust that would consume the pagan non-believers left me with a sense of dread as to their interpretations of just whose word was to be trusted, and whose word was not to be. I was siding with the Bible, not Herbert Armstrong. And that, to them, made me a heretic. I believe whole-heartedly that the danger posed by such a group is enormous because of their masquerade as a legitimate religious sect.

Whenever someone says that they are appointed by God PERSONALLY to a particular job, ask questions. The wrongdoer will detest them, and the righteous will invite more. David Koresh, Jim Jones, Charles Manson all claimed to be of Divine origin at one time or another. Were they? No, they were usurpers, taking authority because they say it is God's will. Remember, the only people who are afraid of scrutiny are people who have to hide in the shadows, so they can accomplish their own agendas.

Your Brother In Christ,

By Kevin
March 13, 2007

Kevin's March 15, 2007 email to ESN:

I want to thank you people for helping me to deal with the burden that I have been carrying since I left Kentucky in August `06.With your help, and the Lord's, I'm sure I'll be OK. I just read the section of your site which tells how to tell if the group is abusive, and brother, it was as if you were describing the "Sabbathtarian Church" to a "T." I never realized it, but I was a party to all of those things happening, and it never dawned on me to see it for what it was. Thank you again for your kindness and care. --Your Brother In Christ

Footnote by ESN (update):

1 Richard Dugan committed suicide on May 2, 2007 after a three-hour standoff with police. (WBKO, USA, 5-2-07 and "Is the End of the World Upon Us? News Story - WLKY Louisville, KY)

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