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Parent Award Returned Amid Inquiry

August 6, 1999

LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) _ A man lauded as this year’s ``Parent of the Year″ has given back the award after he was linked to a cult accused of child abuse and prostitution.

Zach Prendergast, who has 12 children with his wife Naomi, won the award just last month.

But the National Parents Day Foundation says it did not know that Prendergast had connections to the Children of God cult, started in California in the 1960s by the late David Berg, when it gave him the award.

``There’s nothing in the information we received on them to indicate that they were involved in anything like that,″ Jarmin said.

According to former acquaintances interviewed by the Houston Chronicle, Prendergast was a leader in the cult, which 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 ``Parent of the Year″ award, authorized by Congress in 1994, is issued by the 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.

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

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