Peoples Temple and Carolyn Pickering

Peoples Temple had gadflies other than Lester Kinsolving. Carolyn Pickering, a reporter for The Indianapolis Star, had written several critical articles about the then-local church during the 1960s, and her interest in the Temple did not end with the group’s departure for California.

In September 1972, The Indianapolis Star published a four-part series by Pickering on Peoples Temple, reporting on its roots in Indiana and extending through its years in Ukiah and San Francisco. It ran simultaneously with the Kinsolving series – his began on September 17, 1972 and was slated to run through September 24; Pickering’s began on September 21 and extended through September 24 – and reported some of the same charges against the church. While the coincidence of the timing of two extended newspaper series on the same subject – the only such series in the Temple’s history – strains credulity, no evidence has been uncovered suggesting that the two reporters coordinated their reporting with each other.

The Pickering Series
“Former City Preacher Feels Heat of Publicity in West,” September 21, 1972
“Woe-Beset Woman Says ‘Prophet’ and Aide Harassed Her and Mate,” September 22, 1972
“Family Pleads with Aged Aunt Not to Throw Away Her Bible,'” September 23, 1972
“‘Prophet,” Attorney Probe Asked,” September 24, 1972

The Temple struck back against Pickering much as it did against Kinsolving, although her newspaper’s distance from California made it much less of a threat. The single document located in Temple files which challenges “the several articles that Carolyn Pickering wrote” opens with descriptions of the positive work the church has done over the years. Once it starts analyzing the Pickering series, however, it becomes quite detailed in its rebuttal.

The Temple Response to Carolyn Pickering, RYMUR 89-4286-HH-6-A-24 – HH-6-A-37

Originally posted on May 25th, 2013.

Last modified on December 31st, 2019.
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