Peoples Temple Statement of August 21, 1977

Peoples Temple made an effort to prevent publication of the New West article, and when those efforts failed, launched a campaign to discredit its critics and to refute their claims. It also sought to remind its supporters of what the missions of the church were, and how dedicated its members were to following them.

One document in this campaign was a statement of August 21, 1977,  released about three weeks after the New West edition hit the newsstands and even as many Temple members were on their way to Guyana. The statement attacks the enemies of the Temple as engaging in “unsubstantiated charges, exaggerations, misrepresentations, half-truths, and outright lies,” and as participating in a “well-coordinated conspiracy” much like those which brought down other organizations. It also presents “our Guyana project” as  “a bustling, cooperative community of several hundred [which] has developed recreational, educational, medical and other community facilities.”

While subsequent statements from Jonestown concerning the conspiracy against it would be much more political, the statement includes much religious language. It offers itself as a “witness for the truth of Jesus Christ’s mission on earth,” it struggles to live the Christian example of a “community without class or racial distinctions and discrimination.” and it aligns itself with the Christ who brought a “revolutionary faith” to the world and who suffered persecution from the existing order.

“So we are not surprised by the attacks upon our church,” the statement says near the end, and then concludes with a defiant, “We shall not be moved.”

Temple Statement of August 21, 1977, RYMUR 89-4286-2035, pp. 42-43