4 Feb 2011

Exclusive Brethren claim to uphold family values but completely shun any family member who disobeys cruel dogma

BBC News - UK January 17, 2011

The cost of leaving the Exclusive Brethren

By Nick Lawrence | BBC Inside Out West Midlands

Now Dario Silcock has left the Exclusive Brethren organisation, he feels he can pursue his career choice - studying for a degree in musical theatre at Trinity College in London.

But the 21-year-old from Oswestry, Shropshire, has left at a cost, no longer being with his family.

Dario Silcock says he misses his family but is happy with his new life

The Exclusive Brethren, which has about 20,000 members in the UK, adhere to a set of strict rules which Dario began to question as a teenager.

The organisation is an Evangelical Protestant Christian church and a rigid code of conduct based very strictly on Bible teaching is at its core.

Members cannot watch television, listen to the radio or go to the cinema as part of leading a life that avoids anything regarded as sinful.

They must also avoid people who do not follow Exclusive Brethren teaching.

Gay realisation

Confiding in a teacher about how unhappy he was in the organisation also led to her suspension from a Brethren school in Buckinghamshire over allegations of an improper relationship between the two.

Dario struggled with the rules and did not know where to turn for guidance, particularly when he realised he was gay.

He said: "I was happy when I was a child even though the older I got the more I was questioning what the religion was about.

"I wouldn't be allowed to go out with friends from school and school trips - I wasn't able to go out with.

"I didn't know but I had a feeling I was gay.

"That was quite a big problem for me because in the Brethren it's totally not accepted.

"So I started praying and I prayed probably up to the age of 18 that I would turn straight and I did feel isolated."

When he was 16, Dario was sent to a Brethren school, in Sefton Park, Stoke Poges.

It was where he met head teacher Sue Turner, whose support and advice saw her being suspended in July 2006.

His depression escalating, Dario confided in her over several months.

Brethren guidelines

But when the Brethren community found out, she was suspended after it was alleged she had had an improper relationship with him.

She said: "The overall implication was that I had been encouraging Dario to leave the Brethren community and that I had been trying to develop an inappropriate relationship with him which was absolutely not true.

"I always said to Dario, my advice was you're too young to leave at 16 and just walk away."

She was later cleared of any wrongdoing but resigned and lost contact with Dario.

They were reunited after he left the Brethren in 2007, aged 18, and asked her for help.

She said she agreed to help him as he was an adult.

"We opened up our home to him and he's been with us for the past three and a half years."

Sue Turner paid a heavy price for supporting Dario

Dario, who still lives with his former teacher, said he missed his family but also now felt happy with his new life.

"One thing they (the Brethren Elders) said, that when you leave you won't be happy, but I'm the happiest I've ever been at the moment," he said.

Ms Turner said she felt for his mother now he was no longer living with her.

Brethren guidelines do not permit members to live with people who are outside the organisation.

"We see ourselves perhaps as an additional family to support him," she said.

The Brethren told BBC Inside Out West Midlands that they see homosexuality as a deviation from a normal godly lifestyle.

"We believe in the preservation of the traditional family unit," a spokesman said.

The organisation said it would not comment on staffing matters when asked about Ms Turner's suspension.

This article was found at:



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  1. Evangelical woman wants CBC to stop reporting about messy divorce and husband's excommunication

    By SUE MONTGOMERY, The Gazette September 30, 2011

    A West Island woman belonging to an evangelical church that forbids radio, television and the Internet is seeking an injunction to stop CBC from reporting on the woman's messy divorce from her husband and his excommunication from the closed religious community.

    The motion, which is to be heard in Quebec Superior Court on Friday, says the couple was married in New York in 1996 and vowed to raise their children according to the followings of the exclusive Plymouth Brethren, of which there are about 106 members in Montreal.

    The airing of the program would be prejudicial to the children, who "dress somewhat differently than other children," the motion says. Members of the group, including children, don't socialize or eat with people outside the community.

    The woman, who can't be identified to protect the identity of the couple's five children, says the marriage fell apart when her husband "became obsessed with porn, strip bars and prostitutes."

    "The last straw was when he throttled me to the point I thought I was a goner," she wrote in a letter to Hubert Lacroix, president and CEO of CBC.

    The mother asked the court this year to order that the children follow the Brethren's code of conduct when they were with their father, but a Superior Court judge refused.

    In her June judgment, Justice Hélène Le Bel called the husband a good parent who "will not behave in such a way as to offend the religious beliefs or sensitivities of the children."

    The father is seeking sole custody of the children. A trial is scheduled for two weeks in November.

    During his visits with the children after the 2007 marital breakup, the father exposed the children to television and radio as well as "violent age-16-and-up videos," says the mother's letter attached to the motion. "His aim is to alienate and turn them against their friends within the Christian Fellowship."

    According to their website, the Plymouth Brethren have 40,000 members worldwide. They don't vote, but "hold government in the highest respect as God's ministers, used by Him to restrain evil and provide conditions for the promotion of the glad tidings."

    They have their own government-recognized schools for children ages 11-17.


  2. Evangelical group focus of child custody fight

    Ex-communicated father seeks sole custody of five children

    CBC News Oct 3, 2011

    A father who used to belong to a little-known Evangelical Christian group is fighting for sole custody of his five children, who remain in the closed community with their mother.

    The father, who cannot be identified, was ex-communicated from The Exclusive Brethren, also known as the Plymouth Brethren, a religious group that bans contact with the outside world.

    He currently sees his children every other weekend and every Wednesday, but he told CBC News that he's seeking sole custody because he wants them to be free.

    "I want them to have the opportunity to choose their lifestyle rather than having it forced on them," the father said.

    The Exclusive Brethren has 40,000 followers worldwide and about 100 in the Montreal region. They have two churches and a government-recognized school in Baie d'Urfé, on Montreal's West Island.

    The group believes women belong at home and does not allow its members to be educated beyond a high school diploma. It also forbids socializing outside the community, using the Internet, and going to the cinema.

    The 35-year-old father grew up in Winnipeg within the Exclusive Brethren community, but moved to Montreal in 1994 to help build the group's presence in the city. Two years later, he met and married his ex-wife and they had five children. The father said he became increasingly dissatisfied with the religious group, and the control it exerted over its members. He said he worries for his children, saying their lives are decided for them if they stay in the community.

    "The court will judge which parent can offer these children the best possible development in their lives," said Marie Annik Walsh, the lawyer representing the father in the custody battle. She added that the question of education will also be a factor.

    Earlier this year, the mother requested a court order that the children follow the Brethren's code of conduct when they were with their father, but a Superior Court judge refused.

    That same judge, Justice Hélène Le Bel, said the custody trial will look at the role religion should play in the lives of the children.

    The case will go before a Quebec Superior Court on Nov. 10.

    The Exclusive Brethren have hired three lawyers to argue the mother's case. The community and the mother refused to speak to CBC News, and filed a failed injunction to stop the story from going to air.


  3. Amish Beard Cutting Case: Shunning In Religious Community Is Central To Hate Crime Trial

    By JOHN SEEWER, Huffington Post September 15, 2012

    CLEVELAND -- In the stern, self-regulating world of the Amish, those who act out time and again by wearing the wrong clothing, going to movies or otherwise flouting the church's doctrine can find themselves utterly alone.

    Fellow Amish in rare instances won't break bread with them at the same table, won't work with them and won't worship with them under the religion's centuries-old practice of shunning. In stricter settlements, shunning can break apart families, cutting off all contact between parents and their children.

    Saloma Furlong was shunned, or ex-communicated, after she left her church the first time over a family issue, and she was barred from attending her cousin's wedding after she returned home. "It was a very lonely two weeks," said Furlong, who eventually left behind her home in northeast Ohio for good and was permanently shunned.

    The Amish take the tradition so seriously that most churches won't accept someone who has been shunned until they make it right with those who've disciplined them.

    At the root of Amish hair-cutting attacks in Ohio and the federal hate crime trial that followed, prosecutors say, was a dispute over religious differences and a decision by Amish bishops to overrule the leader of a breakaway group who had shunned his former followers. Amish scholars say taking away a bishop's edict was unheard of and stunned communities far and wide.

    Six years ago, about 300 Amish bishops gathered in Pennsylvania to discuss the group's leader, Sam Mullet Sr., who had ordered the shunning of families that left his settlement near the West Virginia panhandle.

    Mullet had come to the attention of the bishops because, according to witnesses at his trial, there were concerns he was brain-washing community members. Prosecutors would later say he forced men to sleep in chicken coops as punishment, and one woman testified that Mullet coerced women at his settlement into having sex with him so he could turn them into better wives.

    The bishops eventually vetoed Mullet's shunning of the others, infuriating him to the point that he sought revenge last fall in a series of five hair-cutting attacks, prosecutors say.

    They charged Mullet and 15 of his followers with hate crimes because they contend they acted over religious differences and targeted the hair and beards of the Amish because of its spiritual significance in the faith. All could face lengthy prison terms if convicted on the charges that also include conspiracy and obstructing justice.

    Jurors began deliberating in the trial Thursday morning.

    None of the defendants has denied that the hair-cuttings took place, but Mullet has insisted that he didn't plan what happened. In an interview last fall, he defended what he thinks is his right to punish people who break church laws.

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    Shunning – also known as avoidance _is a rare happening in the Amish community. While outsiders might view it as punishment, the Amish consider it an act of love to help those who have strayed from their beliefs.

    Each individual church decides when to shun others and what kind of punishment they face. "It's not like there's a rulebook," said Steve Nolt, a history professor at Goshen College in Indiana.

    Only baptized church members can be shunned. And it almost always starts with a warning to stop breaking church rules – whether it's to quit drinking or stop talking on the telephone – and weeks or months of discussion.

    "Shunning is something the individual does to themselves," said Karen Johnson-Weiner, a professor at the State University of New York in Potsdam who has written extensively about the Amish. "It's community-wide tough love."

    There also has to be agreement within the congregation, but the bishop has the most influence in revoking someone's church membership.

    "That's a hard thing for a bishop to do," said Andy Hershberger, who testified in the trial that Mullet's son was among a group that cut his father's hair last fall. His father was one of the bishops who overruled Mullet's shunning order.

    Furlong, who left her home church for good after a dispute with a bishop, said shunning gives Amish leaders too much control. "They can use it like a hammer," she said.

    Because the Amish identify so closely with their faith, being shunned and faced with the loss of their salvation is extremely painful.

    "It's such an intense thing. Nobody can really explain it," said Furlong, who wrote a book called "Why I Left the Amish" in 2011. "That's a pretty tough thing to reckon with."

    Matthew Schrock, who left Holmes County's Amish community in Ohio during the mid-1990s, wasn't formally shunned, but no one would hire him because he was fighting with his father, who was the bishop. "There were a lot of people who wouldn't talk to me," he said. "No one was willing to risk the appearance of them siding with me."

    Shunning has its roots in biblical teachings and is used in some Mennonite churches as well. Jehovah's Witnesses also practice a form of shunning. But it's essential to Amish beliefs.

    "They want the person to see their error," Schrock said. "But under that, I think, is this desire to maintain the integrity of the group."