27 Nov 2010

Australian cults "thriving under protection of politicians, police & courts" despite recent evidence of extreme abuse

The Age - Australia March 21, 2010

Cults should be given nowhere to hide


Despite criminal investigations, these groups continue unfettered.

THE recent evidence of the psychological harm caused by religious cults could not be more graphic.

On ABC TV's Four Corners, Liz and James Anderson told how their indoctrination in Scientology saw them part with hundreds of thousands of dollars buying the outpourings of guru L. Ron Hubbard. Eventually they also lost one of their daughters, signing guardianship to a Scientologist slave labour camp called Sea Org.

Today Tonight then revealed how a NSW-based Exclusive Brethren doctor, Mark Craddock, had chemically castrated a young man to suppress his sex drive because he was gay. When Today Tonight dared to film him with victim Craig Hoyle outside the Brethren headquarters, they were pursued around Sydney by cars full of young thugs who are facing criminal charges.

Despite this latest evidence, the Senate rejected Nick Xenophon's request for an inquiry into Scientology when both major parties voted against it. We've been down this road before. Through much of 2006 and 2007, the Greens tried to get a Senate inquiry into the Exclusive Brethren, and the major parties vetoed it. The Liberal Party's serial cult apologist, Eric Abetz, dismissed the victims of these damaging organisations as people ''voluntarily allowing themselves to be brainwashed''.

This means that, in Australia, cults are thriving under the protection of politicians, the police and the courts.

When it comes to notions of religious freedom, our thinking is dangerously woolly. The only cult indoctrination we take seriously is by Islamic terror groups. The recent counter-terrorism white paper recognised the process of radicalisation that young Muslim men undergo before committing acts of violence.

But the same techniques of coercive persuasion make Scientologists sign away guardianship of their children; have abortions at someone else's demand; or make Exclusive Brethren members teach their children that their estranged father is ''of the devil''.

All this causes damage that is lifelong and debilitating. And yet politicians are petrified of being seen to infringe the right of an apparently religious group to do whatever it wants. We need to ruthlessly tighten up our understanding in this area. The state should only allow a religion as much freedom as the members of that religion themselves enjoy. So unless the faithful are free to argue, to question their leaders, to be gay, to quit and go to another church with their families intact, then the religion itself should be taxed, regulated, should lose school funding and be put out of business.

We could use the International Charter of Human Rights as our model of appropriate behaviour. And we should have a commissioner of religions to enforce the law. Religious freedom should not be granted unconditionally. And by their practices we should know them.

Kevin Rudd and others have urged victims of the Exclusive Brethren to report criminal activity. But the criminal law is not up to dealing with cults. In 1998, the federal government's Model Criminal Code committee recommended that the states and territories rejig assault laws to deal with the effects of cult indoctrination.

The committee said it should be a crime to cause ''harm to a person's mental health, whether temporary or permanent''. All states and territories should put this clause into their crimes act, the committee found.

Then damaged individuals would have an option. At the moment, the only recourse is to sue. A criminal sanction would mean the victim would simply be a witness to a case investigated by police and run by the state.

One or two successful criminal prosecutions and jail terms for cult leaders should be enough to convince the rest of them to allow people to see their children.

But the implementation of that recommendation has been woeful. We need to get it clear that cults that deliberately harm people while they hide behind the skirts of religion are not legitimate. They should not enjoy the protection of the law against their victims. They should not have taxpayer concessions or get government funding for schools. And they should be answerable for their crimes in the dock.

Michael Bachelard is a senior Sunday Age journalist and author of Behind the Exclusive Brethren.

This article was found at:



Brisbane Times - Australia March 20, 2010

Cult survivor relives history of servitude


Helen Pomery and David Lowe remember a former life of servitude.

"I had to submit and be obedient to my husband," Ms Pomery, a 60-year-old Brisbane mother, claims.

"I had to submit and be obedient to the church elders and I had to cut off my daughter."

This, she was assured, was key to her eternal salvation.

"We lived at Samford on acreage. We were ordinary. We just happened to go to an extraordinary church..."

The church - the Brisbane Christian Fellowship (BCF) - nestled in the Samford Valley in Brisbane's north, has a loyal following.

Church elders preach sacrifice, submission and obedience, she claimed.

To the church faithful, they are God's messengers.

But beyond the public face of the church, strategically hidden from the congregation, is human devastation.

Families have been torn apart, and psychological counselling required by former members.

Not that Ms Pomery could see the potential for damage when she arrived with her husband and three children in Maryborough from South Australia.

"We were Christians, we were looking for a new church.

"Then the Brisbane Christian Fellowship sent a pastor to our house.

"They present well; they had a lot of credibility. They are very kind and responsive people. You get embraced by the fellowship and you think `this is lovely.'"

But as her husband became more involved with the church's elders, demands became more strict.

The BCF demands followers attain sinless perfection.

As part of this, female followers are expected to sacrifice their free will to men, Ms Pomery says.

"The elders held a men's sexuality seminar out here and they said that my body was not my body it was his body, so my husband had every right to demand that whenever he chose.

"I know of wives whose husbands said that they couldn't use the car to go out other than to the shops. So the husband wrote down the (odometer) reading in the morning and checked the (odometer) at night.

"I know of other wives whose husbands gave them a list each morning and said, `You will complete the tasks on this list today.'

"The women have to keep submitting and obeying. They are not allowed to have a voice."

Yet women are not the only victims of emotional abuse here.

Mr Lowe, an electrician by trade, joined the church 13 years after his wife.

"After 13 years of not having my family home on weekends and during the week...I went in," he says.

"I slogged my guts out, gave all my money to the church...and what for - for nothing."

"They preach you are a slave and you should be happy to be a slave."

Rosanne Henry, a specialist in cult recovery in the United States, says the directives are the classic fruits of mind control or thought reform.

Cults, she says, exploit normal needs by extraordinary means.

The first is `love bombing'.

"We all want to belong and feel loved and valued," she says.

Ms Pomery shared her journey at the Cult Information and Family Support Group Queensland Conference held in Brisbane last week.

Her church life became unbearable when her eldest daughter married a leader's son.

The family was in the inner-fold.

"When you're closer to a cult leader he has to have (you) under his complete control. He will make sure that the elders have their allegiance to him, above their allegiance to their wife and children," she says.

"Those men (elders) will sacrifice their marriages; they will sacrifice their children; and they will do anything they are told to do.

"It's an acid test."

Helen was first targeted because she dared to write a journal.

"The elders said to my husband that my journalling was part of my rebellion in that I was having private thoughts and I was not submitted to my husband.

"I was disciplined. I had to write confessions. I was banned from taking communion. In the end, I was banned from going to the church. I was kept home to write assignments. This is in a marriage of 30 years."

Women in the congregation receive their orders from the elders in writing.

"My daughter - she was 26 at the time - was given a letter to leave the house," Ms Pomery says.

"She was given a week to leave the house, because she dated a boy outside the group. Dating, courtship and marriage are all tightly controlled.

"The conditions put on me were that I was not allowed to phone her. I wasn't even allowed send her re-addressed letters that came to the house. I was to cut her off as if she were dead.

"I submitted to that for six months, but I heard via other family that she was feeling ill and she was sick, so I reached out to her.

"A year later, in 2001, I was given a letter to leave the house.

"I left. I was only allowed back if I could fulfil three conditions: I had to submit and be obedient to my husband, I had to submit and be obedient to the elders and I had to cut off my daughter.

"I couldn't fulfil those conditions. I would have gone back and tried to submit, but I said I wouldn't cut off my daughter. As a result of that I was never allowed back to my family home.

"To them, I was unsubmitted, wicked, and despicably evil."

Helen was excommunicated.

"I was suicidal. They had taken everything I love, everything I hold dear."

"There have been several suicides in the group because people are just tormented, isolated, hounded, bullied. You name it, they do it."

Helen found her salvation in a close friend - not a church member - who recommended she seek psychiatric treatment.

"I have been out for nine years, but I would still say that I am in recovery."

Mr Lowe says the elders wore him down to breaking point.

"If you're subservient and doing what they want they build you up, but as soon as you start to express doubts you become a target and they put the boot in," he says.

"I just couldn't jump through their hoops anymore.

"Eventually I thought, blow it, I will lose my salvation, that's my problem. And I did leave.

"But I didn't want my family to lose their salvation, so I didn't try to get them out.

"Once I came out and people began to shun me, wouldn't talk to me, had nothing to do with me, wouldn't even come to my home."

Mr Lowe compares himself to a cancer patient, now in remission. He longs to see his children again.

"If I had known then, what I know now, I would have tried to get my children out. There is a chance I will see them again."

Rosanne Henry says education is key to the recovery process.

"The experience was extreme psychologically and emotionally and spiritually for most people [who leave religious cults] - ... and so they need to understand how that happened.

"Psycho-education about thought reform and mind control is critical because that was what was used on them in the group. They need understand what happened and why it happened.

"That was their world and they need to understand it so they can get rid of it."

She says, normalcy may never be attainable.

"But there's ways to get a good life back."

The Brisbane and Melbourne Christian Fellowships did not respond to requests from brisbanetimes.com.au to comment on the allegations made by Ms Pomery and Mr Lowe.

The woman who answered the phone at the church in Brisbane told us she was not authorised to comment.

"It's up to the men to decide. We can only pass on messages to them."

This article was found at:



ABC News - Australia March 19, 2010

Rudd still cold on Scientology probe

By online political correspondent Emma Rodgers

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is still cold on the idea of a Senate probe into the Church of Scientology, but has left the door open for possible support for another kind of inquiry.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has vowed to make a third push for a Senate inquiry into the Church after last year airing allegations made by ex-members of coerced abortions, criminal activity and abuse.

But both major parties will not support the inquiry, saying the Senate is not the right place to examine criminal allegations.

Mr Rudd has told Channel 7 he still has deep concerns about alleged mistreatment of members but is not convinced a Senate inquiry should go ahead.

"We've got to be very careful about using parliamentary forums to air potentially criminal charges or criminal allegations," he said.

"Let me take some further advice on the separation between general concerns about the Church of Scientology - many of which I deeply share - and on the other hand, allegations of criminality... which are properly left with law enforcement authorities.

"If that's capable of some separation, maybe."

Senator Xenophon has told ABC2 he thinks the Government's position is moving.

"I think that there is a shift in the mood and the language and I'll be working on that in the Parliamentary break," he said.

"Whether there are other options in terms of an independent inquiry, that could be a way forward.

"I still think the the best way forward is to have a Senate inquiry."

The Church has welcomed the news there will be no inquiry for now, saying anyone with allegations of criminal behaviour should go to the police.

This article was found at:



Australian Senator "won't abandon cult survivors", speakers at atheist convention urge gov't to adopt public benefit test for religious tax exemptions

Ex-cult members speak out over abuse


Sunshine Coast woman calls for cult inquiry

'Cult' orders faith before family


Exposing the abuses and frauds of cults makes advocate a target for regular legal and physical threats


  1. Sects in Australia

    Fringe religious groups that have left their mark on the nation


    OSCAR-WINNER Cate Blanchett‘s debut as director will tell the story of a woman who flees a cult only to fall into a nightmare of imprisonment and government detention.

    Screen Australia says the actor will direct Stateless, a television series based on the story of German-Australian woman and former Qantas air hostess Cornelia Rau who was wrongly detained as an illegal immigrant.

    Rau hit the headlines in 2005 after she escaped the controversial Sydney sect known as Kenja only to be held at the Baxter detention centre in South Australia as a suspected illegal immigrant.

    Kenja, which rejects the tag, is just one of a number of cults that have left an indelible mark on Australian society.


    An Australian company founded in 1982 by Kenneth Dyers and partner Jan Hamilton, parts of their first names combined for the title.
    Kenja says its goal is “to increase understanding of the spiritual nature of man and our relation to the human spirit, coupled with practical training in the basics of effective communication — time, space and energy”.

    Dyers and Hamilton say Kenja is the target of a “witch hunt”.

    Kenja employed a form of meditation which cost $130 and involved two people staring into each other’s eyes called “energy conversion”.

    It raised the ire of the RSL and Department of Defence by using the Australian Army’s “rising sun” logo.

    Perhaps the most well-known member of the sect was Cornelia Rau, once a group member who suffered mental illness and was later detained by the Australian Government for 10 months. Cate Blanchett is set to direct a film about her life.

    Children of God

    Started in California in 1968 by David “Moses” Berg, COG had nearly 1000 Australian followers in the early 1990s, when a series of police raids seized more than 120 children over fears they were being subjected to sexual and psychological abuse.

    Four houses in northwest Sydney were among those targeted. One court was told the sect said children should have sex with adults and that young girls should act in a “provocative, enticing and pleasing way”.

    A father said that children were forced to watch adult sect members have sex in communal bedrooms and told of sex between children as young as 12.
    Legal battles raged in Victoria and NSW until the children were returned to their families at the end of 1992. A damages claim was confidentially settled seven years later.

    Twelve Tribes

    Founded in Tennessee in 1972 by former carnival showman Eugene Spriggs.

    Twelve Tribes denounces Christianity as the “whore of Babylon”.

    They forbid tea, coffee, sugar, chocolate, condoms, contraceptive pills, TV, media and internet (but has a website).

    Child rearing is strict. Children who break rules are hit with a plastic stick and are not meant to cry. There is constant adult supervision (called “covering”), no whistling and no make-believe.

    At their commune in Picton in Sydney’s southwest, talking among children was banned unless an adult was present, says a former disciple who, in the sect’s eyes, had sinned by surfing, smoking marijuana and playing drums in a band.

    Twelve Tribes has had or rented properties at various coastal and inland NSW sites.

    continued below

  2. Mangrove Ashram, Central Coast

    Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard late last year of multiple allegations made against Swami Akhandananda Saraswati, leader of a yoga ashram (like a Hinduism retreat) on the NSW Central Coast.

    The inquiry’s opening day heard that 11 children had been abused while living at the ashram in the 1970s and 80s; nine former child residents were due to give evidence.

    Akhandananda told victims that having sex with him was “for their own spiritual growth”, the inquiry heard, and abuses had often taken place in the company of Shishy, a follower who had begun a sexual relationship aged 16 with Akhandananda after he moved from India in 1974.

    The swami beat children with a wooden stick and threaten them with death or exile if they told of the abuse, the inquiry heard.

    Order of St Charbel

    A commune based near Nowra run by William Kamm, who was paroled last year after he had spent nearly a decade in jail over charges relating to sexual assaults on two 15-year-old girls.

    Kamm, also known as Little Pebble, claimed to have 84 mystical wives with whom he would spawn a new human race after the world was burnt by a fireball.

    He claims links with the Catholic Church, which does not recognise the Order of St Charbel, and says that church’s obligatory celibacy for celebrants does not apply to him, even when he becomes Pope.

    Kamm insisted that Pope John Paul I would make him sole successor to the papacy; when John Paul I died in 2005, Kamm issued a press statement saying “heaven clearly changed its plans”.

    Jesus People USA

    Began in Chicago in 1972 and became largest group to survive after the “Jesus movement”, which had roots in 1960s counterculture, receded in the 1980s but lived on in places including Cairns, Sydney and near Parkes.

    Its Australian chapter was dominated by millionaire property owner Daniel Landy-Ariel, who admits to having two wives and promotes an orthodox Christian lifestyle in which followers speak the ancient language of Aramaic.

    The group came to light largely when convicted murderer Luke Hunter managed to live within the sect.

    Former follower of nine years, “Jeremiah”, told The Weekend Australian he saw a chair smacked over a girl’s back amid “some of the worst violence” which helped keep women as “subhumans”.

    Mr Landy-Ariel acquires possessions of those who join, saying the practice is out of respect for his 41-day water-only fast in 1996.
    He has also said he does not condone or authorise violence.

    Scott Williams

    A self-styled pastor who as a teacher in Ballarat in the mid-70s, attracted attention for trying to indoctrinate high school students.

    He moved with his wife to Germany, where he began recruiting young men at a military school, allegedly having them engage in mass naked massage sessions, after which he would select one to “surrender and submit to the Lord’s training” by spending the night with him.

    His church, Christian Assemblies International, allegedly gave only about five per cent of a $20 million fund to charities, the rest going to maintenance of properties owned by Williams.

    ABC’s Four Corners ran extensive expose last year after a four-year investigation, alleging Williams used a warped brand of evangelical Pentecostalism to mask a homosexual sex ring while using members’ donations for himself.