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Parent Award Returned Amid Inquiry

August 5, 1999

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) _ This year’s winner of the Parent of the Year Award has returned the prize because of his alleged links to a cult accused of child abuse and prostitution.

Zach Prendergast won the award because of the home and life he and wife, Naomi, have built for their 12 children.

But he also has been a leader of the Children of God cult, a group started in California in the 1960s by the late David Berg, according to former acquaintances interviewed by the Houston Chronicle.

The cult has run into legal trouble around the world. Among other things, it has been accused of having female members work as ``happy hookers for Jesus,″ and has been linked to child pornography in South America and physical abuse of members’ children.

Former members of the cult identified Prendergast as the leader of an indoctrination camp for children in Italy in the 1980s.

The award, authorized by Congress in 1994, is issued by the National Parents Day Foundation in connection with National Parents Day, the fourth Sunday of each July.

Questions about Prendergast’s ties to the Children of God led him to return the award, said Gary Jarmin, spokesman for the National Parents Day Foundation.

Jarmin said the foundation was unaware of the Prendergasts’ affiliation with the Children of God when it issued the award. ``There’s nothing in the information we received on them to indicate that they were involved in anything like that,″ Jarmin said.

There was no answer at the Prendergasts’ home Thursday in Longmont.

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