282. Memorandum From the Military Adviser to the Vice President (Matheny) to Robert Pastor of the National Security Council Staff1

Over the past couple weeks—at the request of a former staff member of the Vice President’s—I have been assisting a Mr. Steven Katsaris concerning the well being of his daughter, Maria, who currently resides in Guyana.

Maria Katsaris is one of several hundred “converts” to a religious sect (not unlike that of the Reverend Moon’s) known as the First Temple Church. It was started in Northern California as a community self-help operation and, over time, gained a reputation for responsible civic action on behalf of the poor of the region. The founder, a Mr. Jones, and his followers have now migrated to Guyana and there are, at best estimate, several hundred Americans (in their late teens to early twenties) who live there on a few acres of land near the Venezuelan border.

Mr. Katsaris, who lives in Ukiah, California, has tried on several occasions to talk to and gain permission to see his daughter. Finally, in desperation, he went to Guyana last week in an unsuccessful attempt to do so. Frank Tumminia, the Desk Officer at State, and our Consul there, Mr. McKay [ McCoy ], were very helpful to Mr. Katsaris but admit that there is no legal basis for overriding the Temple’s refusal to allow Katsaris to see his daughter. In the midst of all this is an ambiance—[Page 682]painted mainly by Katsaris—of suspicious activity on the part of Jones and his followers: unexplained suicides, highly ambivalent communications between followers and their parents and friends (Katsaris has many examples of this on the part of Maria), several disappearances, etc.

The man’s story seems plausible for the most part. Given State’s concern on his behalf and their willingness to be of help would support this. His characterization of his daughter’s complete turnabout is vouched for by Mondale’s former staff member who also knows his daughter. In fact, Mr. Jones appears to be in some sort of trouble in California concerning the “deeding” of property to the Church by several of its converts, but thus far has not had charges filed against him that would warrant the State Department requesting Guyanan assistance in returning Mr. Jones to the U.S.

All this is to say that this case represents something which may become of interest to you (apparently there are several hundred irate parents all over the country who would like to see Mr. Jones derailed). Mr. Katsaris has returned to California with great uncertainty as to the future status of his daughter. His address for your reference is: 915 North Church Street, Ukiah, California 95482; telephone: (707) 743-1364. Frank Tumminia at State, who talked with Mr. Katsaris both before and after his visit to Guyana, can supply more detail should the need arise.2

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 24, Folder: Guyana, 1/77–12/78. No classification marking.
  2. In telegram 2425 from Georgetown, October 3, the Embassy reported on the Katsaris case. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770360–0442)