Both Australian and British Governments (and there are others as well) have wholeheartedly embraced a cult known as the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church. Prior to this they were called the Exclusive Brethren- and for good reason. They blindly have believed the multi-million dollar P.R. campaign this cult has devised and have literally given them tens of millions of dollars each year on top of other 'charitable' status benefits. These include not charging them any rates for their padlocked halls throughout the country.
As a group they could be classified as wealthy - their leader lives in a five million dollar mansion in Sydney and flies in Bombadier and Citation private jets with his bodyguards and extended family. His chain of businesses and family trusts ensure his family's integral wealth for generations to come.
And yet, this cult has a 50 year history of wrecking families and causing people dreadful loss and pain. This is of no consequence to the prevailing governments who believe their deceitful PR charade, which has been intensively waged over the past five years.
Mind you for a while it had them worried. The removal of taxpayer benefits from their cult has become one of the biggest issues they have faced in recent years. They rushed about burning the midnight oil with their P.R. gurus trying to dream up ways of looking like a normal church - without any degradation of their long-held rules about worldly contact and contamination. They held special prayer meetings - like God had any say in it. And they hit on the best ways to impress the 'world' - without actually really engaging it. Because, according to their leader, they 'must develop a hatred' for the world.
It needs to be remembered here that these people have done nothing remotely charitable for over 50 years. 1959 to be totally accurate. This was the year that their then New York based leader - James Taylor Junior decreed that they had to separate from the world. If you had family that were not members of the cult- you needed to treat them as dead and tell them so. I was a small boy when this happened and watching a parent tell their siblings and extended family that they could have nothing whatsoever to do with them anymore was a life changing thing. The tears - the pain of it all. It went on for years until their deaths. Then in 1964 he decreed that pets were evil and any love you had must go to the Man of God or God himself. So thousands of kids around the world stood by while their parents were forced to have their beloved pets put down. I for one - despite being a small boy, started to dislike them intensely at that very moment. But the worst was yet to come.
In the early 1970's they lost hundreds if not thousands of teenagers and young families who simply left because of a range of factors. Understand that 'left' here is not just about non attendance at their churches anymore. If is about being totally disowned by your family under threat from the Brethren elders - and treated as a dead person. My mother actually uttered those words - "It would be better if you were dead". Her lips said it but her eyes showed she did not mean it. That is generally the last you see of them - as well as brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. Gone forever. They also take your inheritance if there is one. Anything relating to you is burnt. Which is why I only have one photo of me before the age of 21. And when they die - you might make it to the funeral if you get your skates on. I made it to my father's funeral -having been advised that he was dead an hour earlier, but they formed a cordon round the grave so I could neither see nor hear the proceedings. Others report similar treatment. They look at you like you are the devil himself.
To add insult to injury they then turned up on the doorsteps of many of these people - mine included - thirty years later and apologised for their ruthless actions. They 'were sorry' they had treated us this way. By then - most had moved on with their lives and developed careers and had families. "Leave all that behind you' they said 'and come back to us!" Extraordinary! Hales said this was an act of grace on their part. They throw you out for nothing - ban your family from ever seeing you again, take your inheritance, call you wicked and leave you with a lifelong legacy of hurt. And then out of the blue- they say 'we were wrong.' I don't know what price you could put on that sort of 'mistake' but it would be worth the legal fight to find out.
The trouble with this mob is their constant changing of the rules. One day a thing is a sin and you will be thrown out for it. The next it is OK and they are making money out of it. However - if you got thrown out wrongly - there is not some immediate reinstatement because something now right was once wrong. This is explained away by saying that you 'moved ahead of the Lord. (Read the Man of God here - although to their thinking the two are interchangeable.) For that you lose your family- your wife- your kids - your business and anything else they can get their hands on. And they will fight you to the death in the courts to prove their point. Sure they might lose the case - but try to tell that to thousands of fathers who have been awarded contact to their children by the courts - only to have the Brethren frustrate every effort to do so. They turn up - but the children are gone. Sometimes to another state. And they are probably broke as well because they have had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the Brethren's heavyweight QC teams in court. You might have 'won' - but you haven't really won because the thing you were fighting for - your children - are savagely turned against the 'withdrawn from' parent and taught that they are wicked. They are coached to write cruel letters to their parent telling them they no longer wish to see them. On Today Tonight a few years ago - a parent whose children are now parents themselves- fingered through the letters of rejection he had received from them when they were little with tears in his eyes. "I just like to see their handwriting' he said.
It is the last ten years however that have been the real game-changer. The Brethren are ruled by this Man of God - or Elect Vessel. The current MOG Bruce Hales, is the son of the last one - John Hales. The senior Hales was thrown out himself three times for various misdemeanors. But he made it back in time to become the leader - to withdraw from anyone he thought was a threat to his position - and to anoint his son to the role as his own demise approached. And his son who many thought was not the best choice at the time although it would be suicide to say so, rules them with the same rod that has been wielded for the past 54 years when they became a closed sect.
Hales Junior's primary agenda was money. And business. Making money. Profiting from business. Including those owned and run by other people. He reinstated an old mate from Melbourne who had been kicked out twenty years earlier and worked out his re-entry package which would include special business meetings engineered by the pair- held around the world from Europe to the Antipodes - where they charged attendees the best part of a thousand dollars to attend. These gave you the raw principles of business in reams of photocopied paper and a diatribe peppered and camouflaged with religious quotes to give the whole thing a religious raison d'être.
The business world for the Exclusive Brethren had become tough. Because they were banned from using computers, mobile phones and facsimile machines, doing business was becoming tougher, as many companies would not deal with people who had no internet capability or mobile phones. Previous Men of God had labeled and decreed that these things (which incredibly included garage door remote controls) were 'tools of the devil.' So businesses like that owned by Bruce Hales' in Sydney had to constantly run to a 'worldly' neighbouring businesses to send and receive faxes. This practice wore thin with the neighbours over time.
Because Brethren businesses could not receive an email or have their own websites, they were out of the communication loop and their businesses were suffering. Hales worked out a compromise that would make a mockery of all those who had been thrown out from their midst and their families wrecked previously for having a computer. He developed his own specialist software package that allowed very limited internet access -and this included people who would monitor what the Brethren looked up - and sold the hardware himself at hugely inflated prices. Not content with that - he also sold anything that an office could want right down to the tea and biscuits. Today Tonight did an expose on Hales' computer prices compared with a leading retailer. A thousand dollar laptop was loaded to make Hales a thousand dollars as well. And because these people are 'captive' they do as they are told. They buy them by the thousands.
Another perennial Brethren problem was to underscore this entire new push for approval and religious status acceptance from governments around the world including Australia. That problem was their kids mixing with other kids at public state schools. It was an 'influence' that they could not control unless they established their own schools around the world. So they did. They had a handful of people who had formal university educations who at least knew something of education systems, even though tertiary education itself had been universally banned for the past 42 years among them. They went after tax payer dollars and got them by the tens of millions.
There were hiccoughs. They had to employ 'worldly' teachers as they had none of their own. Some of these teachers could neither understand the need for - nor adhere to their strict curriculum which was watched over by their heavies in each school. Their allowed book list was so heavily policed that they actually published a banned book list. Evolution is of course not taught, Charles Darwin was obviously mad and things like sex education are not taught. But Hales had to make some compromises to at least try and adhere to the State education curriculum and allowed musical instruments. Things like stringed instruments, drums, brass and woodwind which were banned decades ago as being worldly - were now reluctantly allowed. They even set up things like school choirs. I remember my sister in the early 1960's was threatened with being 'withdrawn from' if she did not leave the high school band immediately. It still rankles her fifty five years later as it should.
The raft of ways they try to pay for these schools is extraordinary with tax free donations from their own businesses to book publishing. Interestingly enough, on a now superseded website they made mention in glowing terms of their schools being open to all children. In reality - one child - who's parent taught at a Brethren school was that sole 'worldly' child in all of their schools. No other 'worldly' children are allowed to enroll.
You may well argue that other private schools get government assistance and you'd be right. But they at least develop leaders of industry and others whose job it will be to take the world forward. The Brethren do not allow their children to work for worldly employers nor to enter politics or any association to further mankind. They work for themselves and only themselves. In fact it is mandatory.
Then when their status came into question with the British Charities Commission they went into overdrive - no doubt relying heavily on the combined creative of their 'worldly' P.R. team. They threw nearly 1.5 million pounds at their case. Because they had been isolated from the world for over fifty years and told by their leader of the day, James Taylor that they were not to give to charity, they had a hard job coming up with ways to show that they were a 'normal' church who loved helping people other than their own. It was a dilemma. They sent round a memo to all their sect members asking for any examples of good deeds. They even went back as far as the second World War and found a few old diggers who had done their National Service at the time. Their stories were promptly put onto You Tube.
Because their churches are locked - meaning you can't get in unless you are one of them- they could not do anything with the actual religion bit. They stopped trying to recruit people for that years ago. They do street preach once a week as a token public demonstration that they are a religious group- but not one worldly soul has been saved by this practice in fifty years. If you witness one of these rather comical happenings - it is usually three men in white shirts mumbling something that sounds like it could be religious at three passing cars and a dog tied up to a street bench.
They had to come up with a way to seem to engage with the public - without truly engaging with them at all. And it was then that their brainstorming produced a 'winner' - a scheme where they would not have to open their churches to people - but rather- just the carpark. They would erect a marquee and give away a free pie or hamburger and a bible. For one hour only. Once every few months. Had they established an Exclusive Brethren Soup Kitchen and manned it every night in a poorer area - they might be doing something with a modicum of real charitable intent in it. But they do not commit on that level. At best they get a few nosey neighbours wandering in to see what they are on about. They get a hot dog and a bible and are ushered towards the gate shortly thereafter.
They make a big deal of their recent 'charitable' works publicizing every incidence. But they don't get involved in charity as the world knows it. Not one Brethren member is - or ever has been - a member of Rotary, Lions, Apex, Red Cross, a Fire Brigade or any other mainstream charity. Where the Anglican Church and Salvation Army and Catholic Church have massive humanitarian programs - the Exclusive Brethren have none. They make the odd sandwich for firefighters or fill the odd sandbag where there is a flooding problem- but always on their doorstep. They would never go to a third world country to provide any assistance. In fact they would be forbidden to as it takes them away from their church.
Their whiteboard sessions bred slogans like "Reaching out for 50 years" which is as insulting to some as it is patently untrue. They have done no real public good in the truly charitable sense prior to this P.R driven flurry, for at least fifty years. It is quite understandable as they shun the world and despise the people in it. They say so themselves at the insistence of their leader. In Britain and other countries they established a quasi-disaster response team with the same name as that established in America by Billy Graham Junior. Brethren Rapid Response teams now rush to floods and snow covered roads and fires to make sandwiches and to fill sandbags. Of course there is nothing wrong with that per-se except that they treat the people they have thrown out on the street so appallingly.
They will help a 'worldly' flood victim but not a confused ex-Brethren kid sleeping rough with no family support whatsoever. Suicide among ex-members is an ongoing problem. But their love of their fellow human being is hugely qualified. They will help someone who is not 'one of them' but will spurn someone who was 'one of them'. This is where their charity becomes blurred. This is where it shows up for what it is. A very public display of very recent good deeds to try and justify their status to deserve taxpayer funding for their schools and so-called gospel halls.
If that is not enough they then rush home after every 'disaster' and write passionate blog comments on their own website which are thinly veiled as having been written by 'worldly' people. The use words like 'totally' and 'awesome'. But they only fool those that really don't know them.
Hales himself is laughing. He has just built a multi-million dollar mansion in Sydney and still flies the world in private jets with bodyguards at his side. Why he needs them is anybody's business because as several people have pointed out on the survivor's website Wikipeebia.com -set up for ex Brethren to communicate and support each other- nobody wants to hurt him. Talk to him maybe. But no ex-member has ever threatened him so his distrust must result from a feeling of self importance. Apparently he needs this protection inside the confines of the Brethren compounds as well so maybe he fears retribution from within.
He makes his money from a multitude of schemes and businesses not just contained to running a global internet business that his 40,000 followers are 'encouraged' to purchase from. I asked someone tenuously hanging in there for the sake of his family what would happen if he were to buy a computer and software from Harvey Norman. He said "I would be thrown out so quick my feet wouldn't touch the ground. But I love my wife and kids - so I wouldn't tempt fate." Interesting that something as simple and commonplace as buying a computer could be such a life changing issue for some. Hales, like most cult leaders also receives millions in monetary gifts every year from his flock.
But several things are for sure. The Plymouth or Exclusive Brethren are not a mainstream church. They do not get involved in normal charitable endeavours on a committed basis. They do preach separation from the world and the people in it. And they have irreparably damaged thousands of individuals and their families around the globe and continue to do so. To deprive someone of their parents and family for most of their lives is a wicked thing and just as sinister as some of the sins of the Nazi Party 70 years ago. Up until very recently, many of those they threw out are not told that their siblings or parents have passed away.
Even the sudden name change was a ploy to divert attention away from the bad publicity they were receiving at the hands of the television and print media. And it worked. People are now confused as to who they really are. And sadly this includes Governments who give them millions of dollars for their own closeted goals. Not the least of which seemingly is to make their leaders rich men.
As a footnote- it is worthy of mention that these people have not produced one university graduate in over forty years. They have no public servants in their ranks. They only have a couple of doctors left who are now elderly citizens although one of those was barred from practicing in his seventies because he had prescribed a chemical castrating drug to a lad who had told them he was homosexual. (He has since left and lost his family in the process.) They have no qualified engineers - no rocket scientists, no more teachers. Why? Because Universities are social engineering cesspits and are banned. Curiously Hales being an accountant by trade allows correspondence courses in accounting. You must not work for a worldly business - although they themselves do employ outsiders - a fact they love to publicize.
You must marry within the sect. You must bear children if you can - contraceptives being forbidden and you must comply with their rigid dress code. This in particular makes Hales so mad he often takes the time in one of their religious meetings to spell it out to them. Recently his diatribe was on sideburns of all things. Grow them and you'll be seeing a footpath outside very soon.
And yet Governments will continue to throw money at the Exclusive/ Plymouth Brethren. Their P.R. hype for the moment is working. But they need to remember this. Any so called church that only opens its car park gates to the public once every few months for an hour- (but not the actual church) is a CULT. Not a church. Churches don't lock the world out. They welcome it in!