New London – The group that runs the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival have withdrawn their invitation to the tall ship Peacemaker, and the controversial church group that runs it, for next month’s annual event.
The 150-foot Peacemaker arrived at City Pier two weeks ago and had planned to stay during the event, which is scheduled for September 11-12 at New London Waterfront Park.
After learning more about Twelve Tribes, the religious group that operates Peacemaker, OpSail Connecticut board chairman Kevin Cavanagh said board members have expressed concerns. The Southern Poverty Law Center has called Twelve Tribes a racist-leaning fundamentalist Christian sect that shuns gay men and has been the target of allegations of child abuse.
Cavanagh said 13 board members did their own research and all voted to withdraw an offer to Twelve Tribes to pay the boat’s dockage and electricity charges, in the amount of $ 1,200. OpSail Connecticut, the private nonprofit that has hosted a festival every year since 2013, holds permits for the City Pier docks during the festival and has requested that Peacemaker not attend.
Cavanagh said the information obtained about the group “did not conform to our values and the values of the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival.” He said he relayed the information to a member of the Twelve Tribes group in what he considered a cordial conversation.
The Peacemaker has been open for free tours at City Pier for the past two weeks and has welcomed many people on board during this time.
Peacemaker Captain Lee Philips has said Twelve Tribes has been unfairly labeled a religious cult and false accusations abound online, perhaps because the group is so different from most churches.
Philips said the group, which has followers across the country and around the world, lead a simple community lifestyle in which goods are shared and children are taught by the community. He said the way of life is reminiscent of the original separatists who fled England to lead lives “based on Bible principles”.
“It comes down to taking care of each other and loving each other,” he said.
The group’s website calls Twelve Tribes “an emerging spiritual nation”.
“We are a confederation of twelve autonomous tribes, made up of autonomous communities. By community we mean families and singles who live together in homes and on farms. We are disciples of the Son of God, whom we call by his Hebrew name Yahshua, ”the website read.
Philips said the ship traveled to 120 different ports from Canada to Key West, Florida, from 2007 to 2016 and only recently started sailing again. Philips said it was unsure how long Peacemaker would stay in New London, but work underway at the shipyard – a spar on a mast – is expected to be completed by next week.
“After that we’ll see,” Philips said when asked where the ship would be heading next.
New London Dockmaster Barbara Neff said the Peacemaker will be charged $ 1,000 in mooring fees, and with the ship scheduled to stay until September 15, she said she now expects to that Peacemaker will be gone by September 9th.