The Sunday Mail - Queensland, Australia January 16, 2011
Child to remain in remote 'cult'
by Kay Dibben
A GIRL, 14, will continue to live with her father in a north Queensland religious community, labelled a destructive cult by her mother, after a Family Court ruling.
The mother, in her late 40s, who after many years living within the community left it and began a de facto relationship, sought an order that the girl live with her. Since the couple separated three years ago, the child had been alternating on a weekly basis between living with her father in the community and living with her mother in a nearby town.
The religious community is led by a man who believes in polygamous relationships and, according to the mother, is a self-proclaimed prophet.
The mother claimed it is a violent and controlling community, in which women are considered sub-citizens and all decisions were made by the leader.
The community has about 150 members living in three settlements in Queensland and NSW, the court was told.
The mother claimed in court that her daughter was exposed to teachings that denigrated the worth of individuals, particularly women.
But the girl told the Family Court judge Justice Garry Watts she believed her mother was living in sin, and she wanted to stay living within the community.
The leader told the court he had in the past taken a second wife because the woman to whom he was legally married could no longer continue to bear children.
The mother said community members were encouraged to use physical discipline against children, including hitting and punching, which was disputed by the father and other community members. But the child told the judge she believed that a husband could physically discipline a wife at times.
Justice Watts said there was confusion amongst community members about the meaning of scripture in relation to the ability of a husband to physically discipline his wife.
Justice Watts, despite finding that the leader had considerable influence over community members' behaviour and children from age 12 were authorised to physically discipline younger children, did not accept it was a destructive cult.
In a decision last month, the judge ordered the child live with the father, who would have sole parental responsibility, but also spend time with the mother, and that she attend a mainstream school.
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