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I-Team: Former Members Of Cape Religious Group Allege Emotional Abuse, 'People Don't Realize The Mind Control'

ORLEANS (CBS) - Nestled in the Cape Cod town of Orleans, from the outside, the Community of Jesus is an idyllic stroke of architecture, art, and music.

"People don't realize the mind control that goes on in the background," said one former member whose identity WBZ-TV's I-Team agreed to protect.

Another former member named Carrie Buddington agreed.

"I definitely was repeatedly traumatized while I was there," she said. Buddington left a decade ago, still haunted from when she says she was forced to give up her baby to be raised by a group of teenagers in the community for three years in the 1980's. It's an allegation the church won't comment on.

"I think that's a pain that will always be with me," she told the I-Team.

It was because others in her group home noticed her daughter cried a lot, she said. "I would go and pick her up to comfort her and sit in the rocking chair with her, and the head of the house would come and yell at me for being soft on her," said Buddington. "She was reacting to my sin, and the best thing for her was to take her away from me."

She says she was allowed to visit her daughter from a distance.

"She bonded with them, and when she finally was placed back with me she can remember wondering why she was being placed back with a strange woman. She didn't know I was her mother," Buddington said.

Last year, a Canadian judge ruled in favor of students who sued a now-defunct Community of Jesus affiliated school, saying it "created an abusive, authoritarian and rigid culture."

"You just exist in fear because you feel trapped," said the anonymous former member, who was raised in the Community of Jesus. The person alleges a disciplinary practice in which people were singled out and placed at the center of a circle. "And they're yelling at you about something you did, and making you feel like the worst person on Earth."

Community of Jesus
The Community of Jesus in Orleans. (WBZ-TV)

The I-Team asked members of the Community of Jesus about these stories, and were referred to attorney Jeffrey Robbins.

"Of course none of these things you say were alleged by someone to have occurred… are the 'policy' of the community, or in any way consistent with its way of life. The suggestion otherwise is not merely offensive, it is outrageous," he said. "It is disgraceful."

"There is the presentation that is for public consumption, and then there is the life behind the scenes," said Judy Pardon. She and her husband Bob Pardon are counselors who run the New England Institute of Religious Research. They've helped members like Buddington and more than a dozen others, break away from the Community of Jesus.

She says when members of religious groups lose their ability to make individual choices, it's a sign they're getting involved in something destructive.

"Are you able to be you? Can you make your own decisions? That's when you know something's wrong," said Pardon.

"Manipulative groups exist," said Buddington. "They cause members harm, and it is going on now, and it's in our backyard, and I just wish people would not ignore it."

Robbins says Buddington was a member for 40 years, a long time he says, to stay in a place she's now made it her life's work to scorn.

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