The founder of the Watts-based Ecclesia Athletic Assn. took his case to the public on a television talk show Thursday, maintaining that cultural differences are to blame for the allegations of child abuse against his group, which he said “spanked” children but never whipped or beat them.
Eldridge Broussard Jr., whose 8-year-old daughter, Dayna, was allegedly beaten to death by four Ecclesia members, said Oregon authorities are “misinterpreting” the treatment of the 55 children they have taken into protective custody because disciplinary standards are different in Oregon from Watts.
“I wish someone would come from Los Angeles and examine these children, someone who knows what the children look like in Jordan Downs projects, Nickerson Gardens, Imperial Courts,” Broussard said on the Oprah Winfrey show. “Then we could get a more balanced approach.”
‘Systematic Beatings’ Alleged
Authorities have alleged that children who violated the rules of the Ecclesia group were subjected to “systematic beatings” with paddles and electrical cords--sometimes as many as 800 strokes at a time--while their peers were forced to watch and keep count of the lashes.
Officials said Broussard’s daughter died Friday as a result of that sort of beating, and that her flogging was witnessed by other Ecclesia children at a farmhouse in Sandy, about 25 miles east of Portland.
According to one source, an Ecclesia child who witnessed the beating reported that the Broussard child tried to fight back by biting the group members who beat her. The child reported that the members restrained the girl by holding her feet and her neck.
This particular child was also the victim of beatings, the source said. “His back looked like he was a slave. Those scars will be there when he’s 60 years old.”
The boy also reported that Dayna Broussard’s back “was worse than his.”
Won’t Describe Scars, Marks
Broussard, who viewed his daughter’s body after an autopsy had been conducted, declined to describe any scars or marks during Thursday’s television show. However, he indicated he did not think her beating was particularly brutal.
“When I looked and I bent down I saw all of the autopsy stripes and I had to say, ‘Where were you pointing to, with all of the beatings and all?’ And they said, ‘Look right here. Can you see right here?’ I said in my mind, ‘Uh-oh, now we’re in interpretational problems.’
“In Watts, parents see brutalities that would trip the minds of the average American,” Broussard continued. “The people that are part of my school, when you say brutal, they see ears coming off, they see giant huge lacerations. . . . You go into Oregon, (brutality consists of) a mark, you know, a little blood, a little scratch.”
As he has before, Broussard also blamed the news media for his daughter’s death.
“Irresponsible media,” Broussard told Winfrey, “put me in a precarious position where for the last year I have had to walk around this country as a suspected cult leader. . . .”
Replied Winfrey: “But the media, Mr. Broussard, did not kill your daughter.”
“Yes, they did,” he retorted, and the talk show crowd groaned loudly.
She Doesn’t Need Tears
When Winfrey asked him why he was not more emotional over the death of his daughter, he replied: “My daughter does not need me weeping and crying. . . . She needs me to get the whole truth.”
Several minutes later, however, Broussard did begin crying. He begged Winfrey to investigate his case. “I don’t believe anyone else will give me a chance if you don’t come and see this,” he said.
During the second half of the program, Broussard was joined by a woman member of his group whose children are now in state custody in Oregon, and by the mother, who complained that her grandchildren were not receiving proper medical care and said her daughter had been brainwashed.
‘My Kids Are Fine’
“In my opinion, my kids are fine,” Ecclesia member Deborah Barnett said.
Said her mother, Mary Stanton: “I feel like if it’s not a cult it’s the closest thing to it. . . . All I remember is the power slogans on the doors (of the group’s Los Angeles headquarters) and them reading all the writings on the wall that they recite every day and the complete control I think Mr. Broussard has. I know he has control over my daughter.”