Lester Kinsolving Series on Peoples Temple

In September 1972, Lester Kinsolving, an ordained Episcopal priest and religion editor for the San Francisco Examiner, wrote an eight-part series of articles that documented allegations of physical abuse, financial misdeeds, and suspect theology within Peoples Temple. It was the most extensive – and most critical – coverage of the Temple to that date, raising issues that would not be explored again for five years, with the publication of the New West article in August 1977.

The first four articles ridiculed Jim Jones’ claims of divinity and his ability to raise the dead, criticized questionable financial dealings, and exposed involvement of Mendocino county employees and public officials in the Temple.

Temple members mobilized to write letters to the editor of the Examiner and picketed the newspaper’s offices in protest. The Examiner dropped the final four articles slated for the series, but whether the editors had succumbed to the Temple’s pressure is still open to question.

The four unpublished articles in the series charged that the Temple was responsible for the death of Temple member Maxine Harpe, that Jones had defamed an African American pastor by alleging he had propositioned two young girls, and that the Temple had armed guards in Redwood Valley. Kinsolving also reported that members were punished in group meetings for crimes against the church, noting the example of a young boy being forced to eat his own vomit.

THE PROPHET WHO RAISES THE DEAD, September 17, 1972
“HEALING” PROPHET HAILED AS GOD AT S.F. REVIVAL, September 18, 1972
D.A. AIDE OFFICIATES FOR MINOR BRIDE, September 19, 1972
PROBE ASKED OF PEOPLE’S TEMPLE, September 20, 1972

Unpublished
THE PEOPLE’S TEMPLE AND MAXINE HARPE
THE REINCARNATION OF JESUS CHRIST — IN UKIAH
JIM JONES DEFAMES A BLACK PASTOR
SEX, SOCIALISM, AND CHILD TORTURE WITH REV. JIM JONES

The text for these articles also appears at the Jonestown Apologists Alert, a blog site run by Lester Kinsolving’s son, Tom Kinsolving.

Last modified on November 7th, 2016.
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