AP 06/27 2110 Ecclesia By WILLIAM C. CRUM Associated Press Writer SANDY, Ore. (AP) -- Th

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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 he." 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 of dollars. 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 education. "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.


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