Wednesday, 30 October 2013

An interesting and pertinent comment posted by Charles.

The following was said in Parliament in 1978 (as reported in Hansard 1st August 78) by Malcolm Rifkind:

“In 1974 the Commissioners appointed Mr Hugh Elvett Francis QC to conduct an inquiry under the Charities Act into the doctrines and practices of the Exclusive Brethren. Mr Francis submitted a report in 1976 recommending that, pending a decision by the courts, the Commissioners should not register any meeting house of the sect which had adopted the doctrine of “separation from evil” as practised by the followers of James Taylor Junior. “

Mr Hugh Francis came to the following conclusion, “The doctrine is harmful and calculated to disrupt family ties and perfectly normal and proper business relationships. It has caused widespread distress and anguish among many deeply religious and decent people and is against the true interests of the community.” The Exclusive Brethren’s response was to appeal claiming that the Charity Commissioners had acted outside their powers in promoting the inquiry and in refusing registration. It was ruled that the inquiry had not infringed the rules of natural justice. It had been purely fact finding, (as reported in The Daily Telegraph).

Malcolm Rifkind continued “The Charity Commissioners, however, after considering representations made on behalf of the pro-Taylorite group, decided that in the present uncertain state of the law, to which I referred earlier, and in view of the legal proceedings then pending, it would not be right for them to adopt Mr Francis’s recommendation. I emphasise to hon. Members who signed the early-day motion that the Charity Commissioners had not acted to remove charitable status from any of the trusts mentioned but have said that the questions are so special that the courts, not the Commissioners, must decide. In the meantime, the Commissioners are preserving the status quo. The proceedings which were pending in 1976 subsequently lapsed, but have now been renewed. The issues are thus sub judice and I ought not to comment on them any further.”

This whole thing was not settled until 1981 and can be examined in “The Report of the Charity Commissioners for England and Wales for the year 1981.” The Kingston Meeting Rooms Trust (Feltham) Holmes & others v Attorney General (The Exclusive Brethren). Rule and Others v Charity Commissioners for England & Wales and Another (The Exclusive Brethren).


  1. Thank you for that bit of history Charles. I expect some of the legal arguments used before 1981 will be recycled and used again in the near future. The main difference between then and now is that in 1981 if you called yourself a religious institution, you were automatically presumed to be of public benefit. For instance the Taliban, a fanatical religious sect, would pass that test. Perhaps also the Church of the Belly-Button Fluff, the Church of Scientology, the Pastafarians, and the Jedi.

    One of the reasons why the presumption of public benefit was abolished is that some religious charities were collecting gift-aid and sending a lot of it overseas where UK regulators could not monitor what was done with it. Some of it probably came back in the form of bombs and bullets, which don't confer a lot of public benefit.

    A lot of money collected by the EB has gone overseas too. Some of it was probably used in promoting and disseminating EB teachings and practices, and therein lies a very sorry tale.

  2. I wonder what advice the Exclusive Brethren (recently re-branded Plymouth Brethren Christian Church) is getting from their legal team. Their lawyers must be raking it in as the EB get more and more worried as their Charity Commission tribunal ‘D-day’ approaches. Are they advising them to accept the decision, or do the lawyers really believe they have a serious chance of overturning the ruling? Surely they would have done a little bit of research and found that this group is not what they first appear.

    Perhaps their best advice was to re-brand and re-name to distance themselves from the notorious reputation that the Exclusive Brethren has earned over the years. They may even be able to borrow a bit of credibility from the larger group called the Plymouth Brethren who are widely known for their mission work.

    Did they then suggest the creation of a website that portrays the EB in the best light possible, lists its good deeds, posts self-congratulatory remarks, pretends to be open by inviting comments, but delete within seconds any that are not to their liking?

    Could it be that they have been advised to start a temporary gift-bomb campaign to create the impression that they serve their communities. And to make sure it is high profile and well advertised. Feeding fireman should grab some headlines (until they go on strike). A few park benches are nice and visible, will not cost too much, and should be labelled so it is obvious who the donor is.

    What about allowing a select few members of the public into their meeting rooms. May seem a step too far for the EB, but if they have a designated, roped-off area they may be able to convince the flock that they’re are still being separate. And visitors would find the content of the service unacceptable, so best have a pre-planned, Bruce-free, version in case a worldlie shows up.

    Maybe their advice included seeking out potential witnesses who may have evidence that puts them in a bad light so that they can ‘work on them’. Or setting aside a small fortune in the hope that they can buy the silence of the main oposers. Even if it is assumed that most people will keep quiet for a few £million, not everyone is buyable. And they may have underestimated just how many folk there are with shed-loads of evidence that this group does not act in the public interest. But if the value of staying listed as a charity is as much as some have estimated, they may think that it is worth investing tens of £millions, even if that only defers the inevitable for a few years.

    I am no lawyer, but I can’t see the Exclusive Brethren winning this one. I would advise the EB to start with the following:

    Scrap your doctrine of separation.
    Allow families to have normal and natural relationships.
    Open your meetings to the public.
    Allow your members to be educated.
    Learn to love your neighbours.
    Conduct a full audit of harm caused to date, and compensate the victims.

  3. I do not believe the EB will ever scrap their doctrine of separation, because it would undermine the reputations of the last four leaders, who all have put enormous, unrelenting emphasis on their version of separation, pushing the idea at every possible opportunity, but they might be persuaded to modify it to bring it into line with Biblical standards as well as normal standards of good behaviour.

    Most decent people practise separation from evil, injustice and illegality, but the HEB do not. They practise separation from non-members, which is an entirely different thing, and the way they practise it is neither scriptural nor moral nor socially acceptable.

  4. Ian,

    I agree.


    Remember that they have managed to overturn some previous edicts of these very great men.

    1. Radio waves are Satanic. Satin is the prince of the power that is in the air. So cordless phones, remote controlled toys, remote garage doors, etc, are strictly forbidden. But in this day and age radio waves enable more efficient business communications.

    Radio is Satanic? Not any more.

    2. Mobile phones were described as the Devil's instruments. They were also the biggest time waster in modern business. But many know that communication is key to efficiency in business. And now there are 2 major rivals; Apple and Android. The current MOG has decided that God killed Steve Jobs because he created instruments of Hell. But the other (non-Apple) bits of kit we all use are OK……

    Mobiles are Satanic? Not any more.

    3. Computers should net even be touched (JHS). In fact the EB started to introduce them under a different name - 'Wordex' machines. But now they are happy to call them 'computers'. They even say that they never had an issue with computers, it's the internet porn they don't like. (I was banned from school computers by JHS before the internet was even born).

    Computers should not be touched? Not any more.


    4. Education should be limited to O'level (JHS), and you should work with your hands (JHS). If you have a degree, you should p*ss in it (JHS). If you have a degree you should hang your head with shame (JHS).

    Now, under BDH, we start to see the campus lifestyle getting the blame. Perhaps they could soon say, "Now there is options for Open Uni and distance learning, the EB are free to go and learn". They could get an education that is not on campus. (They always could, but if they want it now, then a new take on the previous MOG's [Pope's] teaching could help a bit).

    P*ss on your degrees? Not any more.

    5. TV is a pipeline of filth.

    TV has always been branded as a pipeline of filth, but is there a potential revenue stream? What if Sky and NOA teamed up to provide some 'safe' content (at a hefty premium to the user probably). I have heard that BDH has already been in contact with Sky for this very reason. Anyone confirm?

    Not any more. Just pay NOA for the freedom of choice.

    Ian, I am not holding my breath. But it does seem possible to swiftly change the infinite wisdom of previous MOGs if there is a need (probably money) to be met. Could it be that the Separation edict may be side-stepped if they were to lose tens of £millions each year in benefits and tax breaks for not being listed as charitable? I can often recall the phrases, “the Lord has moved on”, and “the cloud has moved”, when changes were being made to previous heavenly directives.

    My gut feeling is that they will collapse within 5 years. The need to come in line with what is permitted as a charity, and the needs for power and money of those at the top, are too distant from each other. I hope that they learn to be charitable. I don’t think they will. They even describe 2T2 as their charter. I hope I’m wrong, but I think they will fall in the next 5 years due to arrogance. My prayer is that they learn, but my faith is weak.

    Sorry if that’s too negative. Just my opinion.


  5. Eddie,

    Your list of changes illustrates convincingly that Brethren teachings are far from immutable, and each of the changes that you mention came with financial advantages. So if you view HEBism as a business or a federation of businesses, then the changes are quite rational, because they all helped to make money.

    However, EBism is not purely a business. Since it is run as a dictatorship, it also needs a twisted religious component to maintain the leader’s perceived authority and to qualify for tax concessions.

    So the changes are not necessarily rational and not necessarily safe from the point of view of the leadership, because every little change is a little blow to their credibility, and an enormous change like scrapping separation from non-members would be an enormous blow to their credibility, because separation from non-members is a theme that has been hammered relentlessly by the last four leaders.

    Besides, separation from non-members prevents members from learning facts that would demolish the credibility of their leaders.

    If, on the other hand, the leaders were to stand by their unacceptable practices, of which separatism is only one, and as a result HEBism and its various trusts were to lose their charitable status and tax concessions, I think they would have lost one of their main reasons for existing. A Brethren spokesman quoted by the news media said their continued existence would be at risk.

    So if the only options open to the leadership were either to scrap their version of separation or lose their charitable status, it would be an extremely difficult choice, because either option could spell disaster for the leadership.

    I reckon the best course of action for the leadership (from their point of view) is to make the minimum changes necessary to qualify for tax concessions, maybe only on a temporary basis, and just hope they can live with the loss of credibility.

  6. Ian,

    You say that their best course of action may be to:

    ".....make the minimum changes necessary to qualify for tax concessions,"

    But this may mean that they (perhaps temporarily) have to do away with their Separation doctrine. Remember the last time the EB and CC were engaged with each other? It was noted that those who follow JTj's teaching on Separation were not for public benefit? But the law was unclear then - it is now.

    If they need to revise their teaching (even if temporarily) to get their charitable listing, I think that they may well do it.

    However I, for one, believe that they are not a church at all, but a (Hales) family business. Dollars will dictate their moves. If they think that they can overturn the CC and get re-listed then they will act accordingly, probably spending several tens of millions in the process. If they think that they can't win this case, they may chose to grab the liquidity and run. Who knows? One scenario I can't see happening is the EB deciding to accept the judgement and just carrying on as usual with less support from the taxpayer.

    IMO - Their actions will be driven by the dollar.