Do Branch Davidians still exist today? A look at the religious sect 30 years after the Waco tragedy

They're the cult at the center of 'Waco: American Apocalypse' but do Branch Davidians still exist today?

Do Branch Davidians still exist? Pictured: Branch Davidians compound, Mount Carmel, in Waco, Texas
(Image credit: Netflix © 2023)

Do Branch Davidians still exist today?

Now that we've reached the 30-year anniversary of the Waco Massacre, everyone's wondering the same thing: what happened to the religious sect responsible for the notorious event?

One of the latest true crime docs on Netflix, Waco: American Apocalypse examines how David Koresh's extreme leadership resulted in America's deadliest government-led assault since 1890. On February 28, 1993, US officials served a search warrant for illegal machine guns against Koresh. This began the month-and-a-half-long siege at the group's base, Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas. After 51 days, more than 80 Branch Davidians lost their lives, including more than 20 children. 

Is it possible for such a toxic organization to still be active? Here's what we know. 

Do Branch Davidians still exist today?

To some extent, Branch Davidians do still exist today, but their following is nowhere near as large as it had been back in the early 1990s.

According to the History Channel's findings, Waco survivor Clive Doyle stood in as a lay preacher of the sect when Koresh passed. Come 2003, the group created a new branch, The Lord Our Righteousness, which was led by Charles Pace, according to Newsweek. He had left the area during Koresh's leadership.  

"I came back here after the slaughter and I feel that the Lord has anointed me and appointed me to be the leader. I don't claim to be a prophet. I'm a teacher of righteousness, that's the only thing I claim," Pace told NPR in 2013.

Some people have bought into Pace's beliefs—he claimed to run more of an online church than anything else, according to People in 2013—but some still remain loyal to Koresh.

What do Branch Davidians believe in?

According to the Texas State Historical Association, Branch Davidians are an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventists and came to be in the 1930s. The group believed that a prophet is the gatekeeper of Biblical secrets about the end of time. 

Fast forward 60 years: much like other cult leaders, including Warren Jeffs of the FLDS, Koresh's ruling over the Branch Davidians became abusive. He had several underage wives, illegally obtained weapons and claimed to be the son of God while filling followers' minds with apocalyptic messages.  

According to Kathy Schroeder, one of the most notorious surviving members of the Branch Davidians, nothing that Koresh had preached seemed out of line to his followers.

"People think that a man having sex with a bunch of underaged girls is a crime,” Schroeder says in the documentary. “And in conventional wisdom, this could probably be very well true. However, these weren’t underaged girls because you come of age at 12. All these girls were adults in our belief system.”

Similarly to other corrupt religious organizations, the Branch Davidians had very intense rules for its community to adhere to: they were restricted to vegetarianism, forbidden from dancing and watching movies, and Koresh even dictated when men were allowed to sleep with their wives. 

Did any Branch Davidians survive the Waco massacre?

Yes, there were surviving members of the Branch Davidians, including Schroeder. Nine of them served jail time on charges related to the initial raid on the compound, but all have been released from prison as of 2007. 

Waco: American Apocalypse is now streaming on Netflix. Have a look at other best true crime documentaries currently streaming.

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.