AP 06/27 2110 Ecclesia By WILLIAM C. CRUM Associated Press Writer SANDY, Ore. (AP) -- Th
AP 06/27 2110 Ecclesia
By WILLIAM C. CRUM Associated Press Writer
SANDY, Ore. (AP) -- The leader of a group that says it plans
to run a farm and athletic camp for inner-city children said
Saturday that young people need a "new kind of hero" and "I am
Eldridge Broussard Jr., a former college basketball star, made
his first public appearance since about a group of about 70
children, ranging from elementary to high school age, and adults
moved into the Portland area about two months ago.
In an emotional news conference, Broussard told a handful of
reporters gathered at a farm near Mount Hood that his portrayal
as "a shadowy guru" in a national newsmagazine was unfair. He
insisted that the group was not a repressive church.
Broussard, also is the founder of the Watts Christian Center
in Los Angeles, said his organizations were dedicated to
education. But he asked how children could be expected to study
when they see "illiterate" professional athletes earning millions
He said young people needed "a new kind of hero."
He added: "I am he. I can help our country. I believe that
with all my heart."
In Los Angeles, relatives of members of the group said they
had been refused contact with their loved ones and questioned
whether the children were receiving medical attention and
"I don't believe they're free. I don't believe anyone (that)
they're free," said Richard Robnett, whose daughter, son-in-law
and two grandchildren are Ecclesia members.
The parents appeared at what was supposed to be a press
conference with Broussard, but which was attended instead by his
28-year-old sister, Betty Brooks, while he remained in Oregon.
The parents' squabbles are with their children, not the group,
Mrs. Brooks said.
The stated goal is to train children for Olympic competition
and to steer them away from drugs, with a focus on tough
discipline and manual labor.
Broussard, a National Intercollegiate Athletics Association
All-America basketball player at Pacific University in Forest
Grove, said he was sure he could win the confidence of his
neighbors, some of whom have criticized the group publicly for
not revealing its plans.
Some neighbors said they became suspicious of the group when
they saw young children jogging in hailstorms and undergoing
other seemingly harsh training.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank