The New York State Department of Labor announced this week that there will be an investigation into the religious group Twelve Tribes, after revelations the group is using young children among their workforce.
The discoveries were made in Cambridge, New York, about 200 miles northwest of Ithaca. Twelve Tribes maintains a community in Ithaca, one of dozens they claim around the world. The group used to operate the Mate Factor cafe on the downtown Commons, though it's been closed for an extended period of time under the guise of renovations.
The investigation stems from an Inside Edition report last week that featured former members of Twelve Tribes, which has been frequently described as a hard-line Christian cult, speaking out about labor practices involving children as young as six years old. Two former members wore secret cameras to film conversations with the children in a soap manufacturing facility and farming operation run by the group.
The video also contains instances of physical child abuse, either via spanking or beating with a switch. New York's Commissioner of Labor Roberta Reardon announced the investigation days after the report.
"The public has put its trust in our agency to protect New York's workers, and of all the labor violations we see, those against children are some of the most abhorrent," Reardon wrote in a released statement. "All children have the right to be protected. The Labor Department will aggressively enforce the state's labor laws that guard all workers, especially children."
In the video published by Inside Edition, the leader of Twelve Tribes in Cambridge denies the allegations of child labor when confronted by a reporter, though the video shows clear evidence to the contrary.