Over the years, Jones had established relationships and contacts with people in high places, including mayors and other politicians. This allowed him to dodge some of the media coverage and calm the suspicions of others. In this article, you will learn what happened to the Peoples Temple when allies of the organization could no longer protect them from the press.
Fleeing to Guyana
The political protection of the Peoples Temple did not last forever. In the beginning, many newspaper articles had not reached print because of phone calls and letter writing campaigns that Jones initiated. However, the growing local media attention, as well as the influence of former members of the Temple that had escaped, would become too heavy to handle. All of this prompted Jones to make a drastic decision.
Jim Jones convinced the members of the Peoples Temple cult to relocate to Jonestown, Guyana. About 1,000 members agreed to join him. The community was isolated and shaped by Jones in South American jungle space. He named the site after himself. The reason he moved the cult to Guyana is because Jones was constantly worried about losing his followers.
A damaging article was slated to appear in the newspaper , filled with allegations of fraud, assault and potential kidnapping. Jones would never see this article; he had already fled the country. The contents were eventually read to him over the telephone. As with many of the plans that Jones created, he made careful preparations. By July of 1977, the Immigration and Naturalization Service in San Francisco’s Federal Building had received about 500 to 600 requests for passports. Jones left quickly, but the plans for the majority of his Temple members had been planned several weeks in advance.
A Leaderless Temple
Jim Jones had fled the Temple headquarters of San Francisco, but there was still staff and members left behind. Meetings were held on Fridays and Saturdays, but the number of attendees had decreased. The Temple was no longer receiving the kind of donations they once raked in. Because of this, the organization was forced to sell some of its property. Personnel workers started to dwindle and the remaining staff became overworked. Although the Temple in California suffered greatly when Jones departed, a press release stated that they would remain in the city and state.
Jones kept in contact with the Temple headquarters by using a short wave radio. He would make impossible requests on the remaining staff, such as writing thousands of letters to the FCC and IRS. Members that seemed not to follow his orders were sent to Jonestown. The Temple also had to deal with a handful of lawsuits , prompting the hiring of a lawyer and conspiracy theorist to speak on their behalf.
Defections were detrimental to the Temple, especially when they involved high-ranking members of the organization, such as San Francisco Temple leader Terry Buford, who left in October of 1978. The political influence that the Temple enjoyed was also affected by the departure of Jones. Many influential allies turned their back on the Temple, which added fuel to the media fire. Others stayed loyal and spoke on the behalf of the organization.