The People’s Temple, founded in 1955 by an Indianapolis preacher named James Warren Jones (who lacked formal theological training and thought himself a prophet) asked his congregation to move with him to Guyana, in South America. By 1977, his cult of 1200 people lived under his socio-communistic regime in Jonestown.

Concerned cult member relatives asked the United States government to investigate and intervene.

In late 1978, U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan visited Jonestown, but violent threats ended his trip early. While boarding the plane, Jonestown guards shot at Ryan, killing him and four others; a few people escaped the slaughter. Once Jones learned of the escape, he convinced cult members that the government would retaliate by taking away and then torturing their children and seniors. Jones “foresaw” they had no recourse but suicide.

Parents subsequently fed their children a mix of tranquilizers, sedatives, and cyanide. Most adults followed suit, concluding with 918 deaths, including those who were shot.

Cult and religious power must be restricted or eliminated.