5 Apr 2011

Totalitarian control of Exclusive Brethren members means children have no true intellectual or religious freedom

Banyule and Nillumbik Weekly    -  Victoria, Australia         April 5, 2011

No class for excluded Brethren students


CONTROVERSIAL sect Exclusive Brethren bans members from attending university on campus, despite its students being high academic achievers.

According to the federal government’s My School website, students at the sect-run Glenvale School achieved above average scores across all five areas of the National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy tests last year – writing, spelling, reading, numeracy, and grammar and punctuation.

Diamond Valley is home to one of the biggest Brethren communities in Australia.

Despite the high scores, students cannot attend university on-campus as, according to the sect, it would ‘‘…put them in conflict with their church fellowship’’.

Brethren spokesman Bob Lawrence, from PR firm Jackson Wells, told BNW, students who wish to continue their education can only do so via online courses or off-campus ‘‘delivery mechanisms’’.

Fifty per cent of the class of 2010 went on to tertiary education, and the other 50 per cent found jobs.

The school spends $19,965 per student, almost double what the average state school spends. My School revealed more than

$7 million of the school’s $11.7 million annual budget came from private donations.

Despite its private wealth, the school’s Community Socio-Education Advantage index is below the average.

Mr Lawrence said the school relies on a ‘‘high level of support from the community’’.

‘‘That support includes capital infrastructure which in all independent schools is mainly privately funded. Glenvale School has had an increased capital expenditure program to provide necessary education facilities for the students,’’ he said.

Last year, the sect won a controversial VCAT battle with residents to build its Melbourne headquarters, a 2000-seat ‘‘mega-church’’ in Diamond Creek. The sect also operates five smaller churches in the area.

Detractors, including former members, have labelled the religion a cult, saying it controls member’s lives and forbids them from engaging in society.

The school, which has 611 students across 13 campuses in Victoria, teaches grades three to year 12.

The sect also runs six other schools throughout Australia.

This article was found at:


Exclusive Brethren schools funded by Australian government allow parents to evade taxes when paying school fees

Intellectual abuse in Exclusive Brethren's government funded schools prevents kids from thinking too much

Exclusive Brethren demands apology for discrimination, survivor says cult should apologize for breaking up families

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

Interview with psychologist Jill Mytton about religious abuse [VIDEO]

Cult researcher reveals emotional cost of separation

Family care 'tied to Exclusive Brethren sect gag order'

Exclusive Bretheren children abused

Court finds Exclusive Brethren's use of children as weapons in custody disputes is "psychologically cruel, unacceptable and abusive", but father still loses access

Brethren mother flouts court order

Ex-Brethren father loses battle for children

Trauma claim in sect custody battle for two children

Sect 'brainwashed boy against dad'

Breakout - How I Escaped From The Exclusive Bretheren


  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. Mark Craddock, Christian Sect Doctor, Banned For Prescribing 'Gay Cure' Drug Used For Castration

    By Cavan Sieczkowski The Huffington Post August 5, 2012

    An Australian doctor and member of a conservative Christian sect has been banned from practicing medicine after he prescribed a teenager a chemical castration drug to be used as a "gay cure."

    Dr. Mark Craddock of Sydney, who is also a member of the Exclusive Brethren Christian Fellowship sect, prescribed an 18-year-old man who was also part of the sect with the drug after he came out as gay, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    In a letter to the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission, the unnamed man, who is now 24, said that when he came out as gay, a church leader told him ''there's medication you can go on." He continued, ''He recommended that I speak to Dr Craddock on the matter with a view to my being placed on medication to help me with my 'problem','' the New Zealand resident said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    The teen went to visit the 75-year-old doctor who then prescribed him with a "gay cure": the anti-androgen therapy cyproterone acetate, sold under the brand name Cyprostat, along with five repeats, according to ninemsn. He said the doctor did not refer him to a psychologist or discuss the drug's side effects.

    Cyprostat is a form of hormone therapy used to treat prostate cancer. The drug will "work by stopping testosterone from reaching the cancer cells. Without testosterone the prostate cancer cells are not able to grow," according to the UK's Prostate Cancer Charity. Hormone suppressants have been used to "chemically castrate" sex offenders, the Guardian notes.

    A hearing by the Medical Council of the Australian State of New South Wales determined, "Dr Craddock failed to adequately assess the patient and failed to provide appropriate medical management of the patients therapeutic needs," in an excerpt obtained by Gay Star News. The committee found that Craddock was guilty of "unsatisfactory processional conduct. He was severely reprimanded and practice restrictions were placed on his registration."

    There are more than 40,000 Exclusive Brethren around the world, according to the sect's official website. They "believe strongly in the traditional family unit. Marriage is held in the greatest [honor], as one of God's original thoughts of blessing for the human race."

    Some doctors, like Craddock, have taken somewhat dangerous steps in an attempt to "cure" homosexuality. In 2010, Dr. Maria New of New York City's Mount Sinai was reportedly experimenting with injecting fetuses with steroids to potentially make girls "more feminine" and reduce odds they turn out gay, the Oregonian reported at the time.

    The American Psychiatric Association has condemned the "treatment" of homosexuality, according to GLAAD, saying, "The potential risks of 'reparative therapy' are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."

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    Activists have championed against "gay cures" in the United Kingdom, which includes Conversion Therapy. Last year, Apple pulled Exodus International's "Gay Cure" app from its collection.

    Below, see 11 horrific "cures" for homosexuality:


    In 2009 Manifested Glory Ministries came under fire when a 20-minute video posted on YouTube showed a 16 year old being subjected to an exorcism to "cure" him of his homosexuality. The boy is shown writhing as church members stand on his feet, hold him under the arms and scream, "Come on, you homosexual demon! You homosexual spirit, we call you out right now! Loose your grip, Lucifer!"


    Electrocution has long been a go-to tool for "curing" homosexuality and is still used to this day. In October Nathan Manske, the founder and Executive Director of I'm From Driftwood, a 501(c)(3) non-profit forum for true lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer stories, shared the story of Samuel Brinton on HuffPost Gay Voices. Brinton was raised in rural Iowa and he spoke of growing up gay in a conservative, Southern Baptist family that subjected him to forced Christian conversion therapy. "We then went into the 'Month of Hell,'" Brinton explains in the video above. "The 'Month of Hell' consisted of tiny needles being stuck into my fingers and then pictures of explicit acts between men would be shown and I'd be electrocuted."


    Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, a German psychiatrist who practiced during the 19th century, prescribed a trip to a brothel, preceded by lots of drinking, to cure men of their homosexuality. Women who were "afflicted," it's noted, "were referred only to their husbands."


    Hypnotism was a common tool used during the 19th century to "cure" homosexuals. When Schrenck-Notzing wasn't busy sending gay men to brothels, he was hypnotizing them. In 1892 the German psychiatrist reported success in treating 32 cases of "sexual perversions." Of the 32 cases, 12 were classified as "cured," meaning "the patients were completely able to 'combat fixed ideas [about homosexuality], deepen a sense of duty, self-control, and right-mindedness.'"

    Fetal Intervention

    Günther Dorner, who worked with the Institute for Experimental Endocrinology in the middle of the 20th century, believed that homosexuality is "determined by prenatal gendering of the brain caused by endocrinological disturbances." He hypothesized that if you could alter any hormonal imbalances present in the womb -- as he attempted to do with fetal rats -- homosexuality could be prevented before it even developed.

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    'Overdosing' On Homosexuality

    In the 1960s British psychologist I. Oswald would pump a gay man full of nausea-inducing drugs before surrounding him with glasses of urine and playing audio recordings of men having sex. Oswald was attempting to "overdose" gay men on homosexuality in hopes that they would "turn to women for relief."


    American neurologist Graeme M. Hammond suggests bicycling as a cure for homosexuality. He believed "homosexuality was rooted in nervous exhaustion and that bicycle exercise would restore health and heterosexuality."

    Cold Showers

    In June of 2011 Hong Kong reportedly hired a psychiatrist to give a government-sponsored training session on conversion therapy. Among the techniques Hong Kwai-wah suggested for "curing" homosexuality were cold showers, prayer, and abstinence.


    Eugen Steinach (1861-1944), director of the Biological Institute in Vienna, believed that homosexuality was the result of hormonal imbalances. To prove his hypothesis, the scientist implanted sex organs in neutered rats and Guinea pigs and claimed to have conducted successful "sex change" operations on the rodents. Steinach's research didn't end with animals. He also transplanted testicles from heterosexual men into gay men in hopes of "remasculizing the recipient."

    Cocaine, Strychnine, Genital Mutilation

    Physician Denslow Lewis believed that women brought up in wealthy 19th century homes could develop "sexual hyperesthesia [excessive sensitivity to stimuli]" and become lesbians. In order to cure these women he prescribed "cocaine solutions, saline cathartics, the surgical "liberation" of adherent clitorises, or even the administration of strychnine by hypodermic." Though he claimed that some of his patients were "cured" and became wives and mothers, one went insane and died in an asylum.


    "Pray the gay away!" has become the battle cry of the conversion therapy movement. From Marcus Bachmann's alleged conversion clinic to an ex-gay iPhone app, those who believe homosexuality is not only wrong but curable rely on the power of prayer to make a miracle happen.


  6. Probe into strict Christian sect school that 'shut up' girl pupil for 37 days... for making Facebook page

    By Mark Nicol UK Daily Mail January 20, 2013

    A fundamentalist Christian church at the centre of a multi-million-pound dispute over charitable status is being investigated about claims of child cruelty.

    The Exclusive Brethren, which has 16,000 UK followers, has gained the support of more than 50 MPs in its bid to retain its charitable status – and the entitlement to tax relief on donations.

    But this newspaper has uncovered allegations of a shocking regime inside Exclusive Brethren schools – including pupils being confined at home for using the internet, elders tearing pages from textbooks to remove material about gay rights or sexually transmitted diseases, and teenage boys and girls being banned from talking to each other.

    Yesterday a local education authority confirmed it was investigating allegations of child cruelty and failures to teach the National Curriculum at an Exclusive Brethren school in Wiltshire. Wilton Park School, near Salisbury, opened in September 2011 as an independent day school for boys and girls aged from 11 to 18.

    The probe, by Wiltshire County Council, local police officers and the Department for Education’s Due Diligence Team was triggered by a teacher at Wilton Park handing over a dossier describing alleged abuses.

    These claims include the punishments imposed upon six pupils for setting up a Facebook page.

    Elders from the church are said to have responded so harshly because of the Exclusive Brethren’s teachings on modern technology – laptops are considered instruments of evil and internet access is tightly controlled to protect followers from defiling material.

    Pupils are also banned from emailing each other because, according to a school memo, ‘such communications promote special friendships and are beneath the dignity of our calling’.

    The dossier states that, on the elders’ instruction, six pupils were withdrawn, confined to their homes and forbidden to have any communication with anyone outside their close families. Inside the Exclusive Brethren community these punishments are called ‘shutting up’.

    The teacher, who is not a member of the Exclusive Brethren, wrote: ‘As an employee I have known of families that have been “shut up’’ for different lengths of time. I have never witnessed pupils being shut up before.

    ‘The pupils were shut up between the months of May and July 2012. The only girl was shut up for the longest number of days and was recorded to have had 37 days off out of a possible 70 [school] days between May 4th and July 22nd [when the school term ended]. All of her absences were recorded as authorised absences.

    ‘She was not allowed to have any communication with anyone apart from immediate family members, i.e. those who she shared a house with. She suffered both mentally and physically from this controlled withdrawal from her friends; she lost weight and was emotionally distressed.

    ‘When it was decided that she would be allowed back to school, it was controlled by the EB [Exclusive Brethren] elders. She was dropped off and escorted into a classroom.

    'She remained there with work to do all day. She was not allowed to have contact with anyone apart from one or two teachers. They were not allowed to have any form of conversation with her unless it was study related.

    ‘At the end of the day she was picked up by a parent and taken home. She remained in her home until the following school day.’

    A Brethren spokesman said: ‘Shutting up is not intended as a punishment but is meant to encourage people to consider the consequences of their actions. Where young persons are involved this decision is taken ultimately by their parents, though the advice of elders may be sought.

    ‘The trustees – all Brethren – decide what is best for the school based on their religious and moral beliefs.’

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  7. The six pupils were in Wilton Park’s sixth form. These boys and girls, aged 16 to 18, are subjected to gender segregation at all times – to reflect the school’s commitment to biblical values. Liaisons and relationships between pupils are prohibited and monitored using CCTV.

    Other stipulations include teenagers being forbidden to attend university or public events such as Premiership football matches.

    Pupils seldom play any competitive sport and have been banned from playing rugby by the church’s Australian leadership.

    As the dossier compiled by the Wilton Park teacher reads: ‘The sixth-form boys at the school are a very athletic group and they wanted to start playing full-contact rugby. They put forward a very articulate and well-thought-through presentation as to why they felt this was necessary. The trustees told them they would come back with an answer within 24 hours.

    ‘Their answer, as dictated to them by “Australia”, was clear that full-contact rugby should not be played as it promotes savagery. So for Exclusive Brethren schools in the UK, decisions are no longer made locally or even nationally.’

    Teaching staff at Wilton Park must also abide by strict codes of conduct and dress, as set out by the school: ‘Female staff must wear dresses or skirts (at least knee-length) and clothing must be modest and not revealing or low-cut.’ Male teachers must have short hair and shave.

    The launch of the investigation comes just weeks before the Exclusive Brethren’s appeal against the Charity Commission is heard by a legal tribunal. The Commission recently decided the church did not qualify for charitable status.

    Unless the verdict is overturned, the Exclusive Brethren stands to lose its entitlement to tax relief. As a charity, the church currently claims 25p from the Inland Revenue for every £1 received in donations under the Gift Aid scheme.

    The case is worth so much to the church that it has spent £1.5 million on a legal campaign.

    THE five-day tribunal in March will hear evidence about the church’s charitable works. But other witnesses, including former members of the Exclusive Brethren, may gave their testimonies from behind screens – such is their fear of the potential consequences.

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  8. An Education Department spokeswoman confirmed she was aware of the dossier and added: ‘We are working with police and local council to take any action necessary.’

    A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said: ‘An allegation has been received in relation to this school.

    ‘The council is committed to protecting and safeguarding every child in Wiltshire. We take all allegations of child abuse seriously.’

    An insider's view of the notoriously strict Plymouth Brethren schools

    AS part of our investigation, The Mail on Sunday was given unprecedented access to another Exclusive Brethren school.

    All 192 pupils at Linton Park School, near Maidstone, Kent, come from Exclusive Brethren families – in keeping with the church’s stance of separation from the community, including other Christian groups. The pupils are aged from seven to 18.

    Deputy head teacher John Welch admitted that his staff – who don’t belong to the controversial church – censor books to remove content that the school’s trustees consider incompatible with their faith.

    He also admitted the Exclusive Brethren’s stance on issues such as gay rights and abortion made teaching ‘delicate’.

    Mr Welch, a former policeman, said: ‘I’ve been working in Brethren schools since 2001 so by now I know the areas that are sensitive.

    But today I still have to get approval for resources such as DVDs. Blasphemy is another area so we blank out any swear words.

    ‘Recently I was teaching post-1945 British history and the legalisation by Harold Wilson’s government of abortion and homosexuality. Many communities would say these were advances in society, the Brethren would not. It is delicate.’

    According to pupil Nathan Woodcock, 15, his community is being unfairly targeted.

    He said: ‘We do a lot of work for the public benefit and I really enjoy helping the less fortunate. For instance, we put on “Pie Days”, when the homeless come to our meeting hall and we feed them.

    'The public don’t understand we only eat and drink with people with whom we share the Lord’s Supper.’

    The Exclusive Brethren, which has 16,000 followers in the UK and 46,000 worldwide, formed in 1848.

    In that year they broke off from the much larger Plymouth Brethren – an evangelical Christian church founded in 1832.

    The church’s worldwide leader Bruce Hales, based in Sydney, Australia, assumed the leadership after the death of his father.

    Hales preaches that the world is ‘evil’ and that separation from it is the ‘greatest thing that the Lord has provided’.


  9. Charity Commission accepts Plymouth Brethren application

    by Michael Trimmer, Christian Today January 10, 2014

    The Preston Down Trust, part of the Devon-based Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, has had its application for charitable status accepted after agreeing to make changes to its governing document.

    The approval by the Charity Commission marks the end of a long process of debate, appeal and evolution at the Plymouth Brethren.

    The Charity Commission's initial refusal in 2012 led to an appeal which had to be temporarily halted because of legal fee issues, before eventually resulting in a decision in favour of the Church on Thursday.

    The controversy rested on whether the trust's religious activities could be described as "advancement of religion for public benefit", part of the criteria for the Charity Commission's acceptance of religious organisations.

    In official documentation on the subject, the Charity Commission states that in order for a religious organisation to be recognised as charitable, they have to demonstrate that their aims are for the public benefit.

    "It would not be sufficient for any such organisation to show that it is established solely for the benefit of the followers or adherents of the religion," the guidance states.

    In its decision document on the Plymouth Brethren, the Charity Commission outlined concerns about "the doctrine of separation from evil, which… resulted in (i) both a moral and physical separation from the wider community and (ii) limited interaction between the Brethren and the wider public".

    This doctrine resulted in policies such as limiting the attendance of church services to those who were already considered members and forbidding members to socialise in any way with non-members.

    The commission said it had received evidence relating to allegations of "detriment, harm or disbenefit" following its 2012 decision to refuse charitable status to the Plymouth Brethren.

    Disciplinary procedures against members were found to include the controversial practice of "shutting up", where members of the congregation are not permitted to speak to a particular individual.

    The possibility that this practice was inflicted upon children was investigated in early 2013 by Parliamentarians.

    This practice had previously resulted in the physical separation of family members to such an extent that non-Brethren family members were not permitted to attend their Brethren relatives' funerals.

    The decision document also claims of legal action against former members, and members who left the Church being "ostracised and consequently treated differently from other members of the public".

    Dialogue between the Preston Down Trust and the Charity Commission resulted to changes to the trust's governing document and the Commission being satisfied that it met the requirements for charitable status.

    It is uncommon for the Charity Commission to take such an approach, a fact that was remarked upon by Tory peer Baroness Berridge, who was involved in gathering evidence in relation to the Church.

    "The grave concerns of the Charity Commission should not be underestimated as they have required the EB (Exclusive Brethren) to agree to a 'faith in practice' document and it is remarkable for them to require a religious group to, in effect, alter its practice and doctrine to qualify for charitable status," she said.

    She also echoed concerns about the Plymouth Brethren's practices, saying: "This religion is not one I recognise as Christian."

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  10. The Plymouth Brethren welcomed the outcome in a statement that read: "This decision is a great relief to us and we are hugely encouraged and comforted, that after a thorough explanation of our Christian beliefs and practices, which are based on the infallible and eternal Word of God as set out in Holy Scripture, the Charity Commission has agreed that the doctrines and practices of our Church advance religion for the public benefit."

    The decision to grant charitable status could still be appealed and the Charity Commission will be reviewing the status in a year's time.

    Baroness Berridge added: "I recognise that those harmed by their experience of the EB may be disappointed by today's decision and may have relevant standing to appeal the decision."

    Explaining its decision to grant charitable status, the Charity Commission said the trust had "demonstrated a willingness to make amends and to do what it could as a Christian organisation to ensure, as far as it was consistent with its religious beliefs, it would act with Christian compassion in the future".

    Changes include ensuring worship services are open to all members of the public and making it public what the accepted dress code is to those who wish to attend.

    In a section of the new governing documents entitled "Compassion", the trust sets out how that pastoral care should be provided "including but not limited to where fault occurs".

    "No action should be taken in any way to treat vindictively, maliciously or unfairly persons whether within or outside the community, including those who were within the community and who are leaving or have left the community," it says.

    "Every care should be taken to provide for and support the welfare and education of children and young persons within the community.

    "Where persons seek to leave the community, reasonable assistance should be afforded to them in terms of support and/or financial assistance relating to employment or other matters, where they have been dependent on the community for that support."

    The new governing document also states that "reasonable steps" should be taken to allow the continuation of family relationships when a family member leaves community, including providing access to family members, especially children.

    The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church welcomed the Charity Commission's decision in a statement, despite noting that it did not agree with all aspects of its opinion.

    Spokesperson for the Plymouth Brethren, Gerry Devenish, refused to be drawn on the specifics of what they disagreed with but told Christian Today that their core values "as a mainstream Christian church remain unchanged".

    He said the Charity Commission's opinion document "speaks for itself" and was positive about the new governing document making the Church "more accountable".

    William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, was quoted on ThirdSector.co.uk as saying: "I am pleased that the PDT has agreed to adopt a new governing document and am confident that the organisation now qualifies for charitable status.

    "This was a complex and sensitive case, which involved strong views and feelings on both sides of the argument. I am grateful to all those who shared information with us, and for their patience in awaiting today's decision.

    "I hope that the organisation's new explicit focus on compassion and forgiveness will help allay the concerns of people who remain uncomfortable with some of the practices of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church."




    The Plymouth Brethren discourage interaction between their followers and outsiders, and the church encompasses all aspects of social and professional life for its members. Critics say it has gone from being a Christian sect to full-blown cult.

    By: Bill Redekop, Winnipeg Free Press May 10, 2014

    STONEWALL — Quietly, and out of earshot of Winnipeg, Stonewall had its own mini "British Invasion" a decade ago.

    Newcomers from England started to descend on this town just north of Winnipeg that has historically been a limestone quarry and agricultural service centre.

    They bought homes, started businesses, built a church — all the usual stuff.

    Stonewall councillors were pleased their town was chosen by the English-speaking immigrants. Local residents were charmed, as North Americans tend to be, by how the newcomers snapped off their words with British accents.

    But residents soon found there was something different about the newcomers. They didn’t want much to do with the townsfolk. They wouldn’t socialize with them, other than a few words on the street or in a store. It wasn’t long before local people started to regard them as "standoffish," as one Stonewall resident put it.

    In time, the community learned the newcomers were from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC), a religious sect that practises "separateness" from the rest of society. The two-metre-high rod-iron fence around their church attests to that.

    It’s one of the few physical barriers. Most Plymouth Brethren barriers are social. They won’t eat in the same room as non-members, including in restaurants.
    Brethren are not even allowed to visit the homes of non-Brethren, or "worldly people." They don’t go to the cinema, the theatre or sporting events.

    Plymouth Brethren are sometimes thought of as a British version of Hutterites, without the colonies. Both are conscientious objectors to military service; neither group votes; both forbid television and radio in their homes. The Brethren forbid computers with anything other than email functions and some business software, and all their computers and programs are purchased from a Brethren-owned company.

    Plymouth Brethren also maintain a dress code, but not one as rustic or obvious as that of Hutterites.

    Brethren women are required to wear ankle-length skirts, long hair and some kind of head covering — it used to be a kerchief but now is often a ribbon. The attire is urban, individualized, and becoming less strict to the point where women are now seen wearing designer clothes with hem lines climbing to knee level.

    Men dress business casual. They keep their hair short and are clean-shaven — not even sideburns are allowed. While that doesn’t sound like it would set the men apart, it does.

    "They are conspicuously well-scrubbed," said a Stonewall resident who has had dealings with the Brethren.

    This "new" Christian sect has actually been in Manitoba since the 1880s. The Stonewall group was only the most recent wave. Plymouth Brethren are also in Winnipeg (Charleswood) and the village of Woodlands, not far from Stonewall in the Interlake.

    It’s a group that shows quite remarkable business acumen. The Plymouth Brethren bought up half of Stonewall’s industrial park upon arrival, and immediately set up a cluster of companies.

    But attempts to learn more about the sect and interview its members showed how it has managed to stay under the radar.

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  12. Charity Commission chair calls for evidence about Plymouth Brethren congregations

    by Sam Burne James, Third Sector March 19, 2015

    In a letter to The Times, William Shawcross says the regulator's decision on the Preston Down Trust was independent and robust, and urges people to contact the commission with evidence about the activities of Brethren congregations

    The chair of the Charity Commission has invited anyone with evidence about Plymouth Brethren congregations to present it to the regulator as part of its ongoing monitoring of Brethren charities.

    In a letter to The Times published today, William Shawcross says that the regulator’s 2014 decision to register as a charity the Preston Down Trust, a Devon-based congregation of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, had been "independent and robust".

    His letter comes in response to an article in the Tuesday edition of the newspaper that documented the campaigning efforts of the church in the five-year legal battle that led to the PDT being registered.

    In response to the article, the commission confirmed that its officials had been followed by members of the church, which adheres to a doctrine of separation and has been accused of breaking up families and using harsh disciplinary practices. The commission said it was sent letters by more than 3,000 of the church’s members and 200 MPs after initially refusing to register the PDT.

    Shawcross’s Times letter says: "Anyone reading our published decision will see it was independent and robust. We were the first public authority to put on record the ‘detriment and harm’ caused by the doctrines and practices of the brethren.

    "We recognised the Preston Down Trust as charitable only after it satisfied us that it met the public benefit requirement by accepting a new deed setting out its core religious doctrines and practices, acknowledged past mistakes and agreed to greater engagement with the wider public.

    "We will make public the conclusions of our monitoring of those Brethren halls that we registered as charities. If any member of the public has evidence relating to these charities, we would be glad to receive it."

    Since the registration of the PDT, a further 69 Plymouth Brethren congregations have been granted charitable status by the commission. When it registered the PDT, the commission said it would monitor the new charity’s compliance with its governing documents and that the commission "regularly monitors charities that were the subject of a complex or high-risk registration process to ensure that they are operating in line with their trusts and charity law".

    Two further letters on the subject of the Brethren are also published in The Times today. Harry Adam of Atworth in Wiltshire says that the church’s practices "do not reflect any generally accepted view of ‘Christian’ behaviour". Another, from Jake Whiteside, a spokesman for the PBCC, says that the PDT decision "was taken after extensive examination of evidence, lasting more than 12 months". He responds to criticism of Brethren schools made in Tuesday’s Times story by saying: "They are unusual in one area: they are particularly successful."


  13. The class that was scared of biology

    ‘They thought it was linked to the Devil’

    Alexi Mostrous and Billy Kenber, The Times March 21 2015

    Life at Britain’s 34 Brethren schools appears idyllic. Numerous inspection reports praise the quality of teaching, the well-behaved pupils and the comprehensive facilities.

    Academic results at the schools run privately by the Exclusive Brethren, also known as the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, are excellent, with 83 per cent of pupils obtaining five A*-C grades in English and maths, compared with a 56 per cent national average. And yet the schools have another, more controversial side.

    the rest of this article is locked behind a pay wall at: