Saturday, 31 May 2014


From an ex member of the Hales Exclusive Brethren / PBCC


I am a South African and live in Pretoria at present. I grew up in the Exclusive Brethren (I don’t buy their new window-dressing name of “Plymouth Brethren Christian Church” at all), and in 1973 got married at the age of 24. Our son was born in 1977.

Both my wife and I were basically rebels in the EB. However, I was never sold on their “separation” doctrine but did enjoy the social side. In 1978, however, we decided to leave the cult, my main reason being that I did not want my son to grow up under the EB influences and restrictions.

Over the next two years the EB regularly visited my wife at home while I was at work, to try to influence her to leave me. These criminals knew where her weak spot was and repeatedly got across to her that something terrible was going to happen to our son if she remained with me.

Despite confirming all the time that she loved me, she eventually cracked in early 1981 and left me, taking our son with her.

In our initial contact after this, she said that she would always honour the fact that I was the father of our son and would never withhold him from me. She reminded me that the cult’sprevious world leader, Jim Taylor Jnr, had taught that, in a situation like this, parents had equal rights over children. However, only three days later, under the instructions of the EB, she refused me all contact with him. During these three days they had come up with more and more unreasonable conditions almost from hour to hour for me to have contact with my son. My wife had always been a soft and kind person, but now she was a hard as nails. However, this attitude backfired on her since it gave me grounds for an urgent application to court, which I filed immediately. This caught the EB completely unawares and when my wife came to court accompanied by several of them, they were all suddenly kindness and friendliness personified. They offered to allow me access to my son provided I did not push for custody! My legal people told them that the court would grant me access at the very least anyway, so I had nothing to lose by going for custody.

In the court proceedings we had the amazing situation that, while my advocate was still talking only about access, the judge out of the blue awarded me interim custody, giving as reason the “progressive hardening” my wife had shown after only a few days under the control of the EB. This happened at a time when it was almost unheard of in South Africa for a father to get custody of a child.

Now that I had the initiative, the EB were perfectly accommodating, and everything I did and said was acceptable to them, the complete opposite to what it had been when they had had the initiative.

The proper court case over our son followed some months later. The EB had special prayer meetings for several mornings before the court case. By that time I was in a very strong position since I had already proved that I could care for our son properly. Nevertheless I had more than 40 witnesses lined up, but this proved unnecessary since after my own evidence and cross-examination, the EB – not having been able to prove that I was a bad father and knowing they were onto a hiding to nothing – threw in the towel and conceded custody to me. This was in spite of the fact that I could only afford junior council while they had one of the best senior advocates in the country.

I was now in a position to dictate to a large extent the terms of the court order to formalise the custody/access situation. My advocate suggested I do my utmost to deny my wife all access to my son while she was with the EB. He felt that the court was now so aware of the evils of this cult that it would grant me this. However, I did not have the heart to do this and agreed to allow her to have him for alternative week-ends and alternative holidays. This kind gesture turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life.

The judge awarded costs against my wife but, despite having financed her all the way, the EB refused to pay, arguing that the litigation had been between her and me. I then filed for her sequestration, relying on the EB’s rigidly adhered to rule that a sequestrated person was in an unrighteous position and had to be excommunicated. I figured they would either pay on her behalf or excommunicate her. If the latter, she would have little choice but return to me. However, they broke their own rule and did neither! I then sued the 3 “priests” that used to visit her, for alienation of affection. I sued for the exact amount of my costs in the court actions that the EB had refused to pay. I was looking forward to confronting them back in court again but the cowards paid me out in full rather than stand the scrutiny of another court action!

I raised my son with the help of my mother, who moved in with us, for the next 11 years. During this time I had no direct problems with the EB and my wife was friendliness and cooperation personified (although she did say at the beginning that the EB would eventually “get our son”). She even, with the agreement of the EB, transported him to and from the Sunday School I had got him involved with, on the week-ends that she had him! This everyone who knew the EB found amazing since the EB regard going to another church as almost the ultimate of evils.

I loved him very much and during the years I had him, he was paramount in my life. Only the best was good enough for him and my whole life revolved around him, to the extent that I did not even remarry at that stage as it would have upset him too much.

From about his 10th year onwards, my son started showing negative symptoms. When anything even remotely negative was said of the EB, he quietly withdrew. He was somewhat aloof in his contact with people (non-EB) and did not mix as easily as one would expect of a child of his age. Whilst somewhat worried about this, I thought this might just be his personality, so, not wanting to put pressure on him from my side, I decided to ignore it, hoping he would grow out of it.

In retrospect, it is clear what was happening: During the times he spent with his mother, he was indoctrinated (brainwashed) by the EB to feel guilty about being with me. (I found out only years later that, whilst part of the court order regarding my wife’s access to our son was that he was not allowed to go to meetings, or meet with big groups of the EB, they circumvented this illegally by getting him to sit in the foyers of their meeting rooms during meetings and making him a hero afterwards! Had I known this at the time, I would have had her access removed altogether.) This is borne out by what happened next: At the end of 1992, when he was almost 16, he spent the school holidays with his mother and then refused to return to me, saying he wanted to stay with her. He sent me a letter in which he thanked me for bringing him up but then went on to say that I had “the wrong idea about the Brethren”. Neither in the letter nor at any other time had he expressed any complaint against me. Yet he seemed obsessed with staying with his mother and the EB, to the exclusion of me. Obviously only indoctrination can create an understanding in a child that he could not have both his parents but had to choose between them. The subtle, mind-bending control andcruelty of this wicked cult was indeed staggering!

The next few weeks were hell. I used all the legal means at my disposal to bring him back to me. Since in terms of the court order he was supposed to be with me, I had the law behind me. I even used the police in the process and even the EB’s own legal team told him that he had to stay with me. In this way I forced him back for a few weeks, during which time I requested him to read the file I had built up 11 years before in preparation for the court case for custody of him. I explained to him that this file contained my evidence, which had been tested in a court of law and on the strength of which I had won the battle for him. However, he had been so indoctrinated by this stage to listen only to the EB that he refused to read the file. So, much as expected, when next he went to his mother he again refused to return. At this point, realising that there was no way that I could force him back to me permanently, his mother underwent a complete transformation again to the hard and unfeeling person she had been when she previously had had the initiative.

I now decided not to involve the police again but to try, as a last resort, a measure of physical force to bring him back. I took my brother along and went to his mother’s house where we were confronted by a number of EB, a seemingly stage-managed situation. When he refused to come with us, my brother and I each grabbed him by an arm in an attempt to force him, but when he resisted I realised there was no further point and called it off. A few days later I was contacted by the police who advised me that my son had laid a charge of assault against me! Obviously this was the work of this wicked cult which had no scruples about getting a child to unjustly and dishonestly try to pin a criminal record on his father! Obviously once I had put my case in a statement, there was no prosecution against me.

To clear the air I visited my son a few days later. On my arrival he spontaneously hugged me. So much for the person who had “assaulted” him a few days earlier!

I phoned him on his birthday some weeks later. He sounded uncomfortable. I remarked on this and reminded him that I had been in this cult for more than 29 years and therefore knew what was happening: They were looking over his shoulder, so to speak, and making him feel guilty for being friendly with me. He did not deny this. I then told him that I did not want to put pressure on him and therefore would not contact him again but that any contact would have to come from his side. That was early 1993. The first I heard from him again was a letter in June 2000 to advise me that they had immigrated to Australia a year before!

My response to this letter was a rather angry one, taking issue with him over his effort in 1993, albeit EB-inspired, to make a criminal of me. There was no response from him but as the years went by my anger subsided. I realised more and more that my lack of contact with my son was probably more damaging to me than to him. So in 2010, after not having spoken directly to him for 17 years, I phoned and both his mother and he were extremely friendly, and thereafter we had regular contact by phone and email. In these communications I avoided any criticism of the EB. However, after advising him by email during 2011 that I was getting married again, the deathly silence set in again. I realise now that, when I contacted them again after all the years, they figured I was softening and was perhaps considering joining the EB again,owhich, of course, there is not a hope in hades!

I have been following the Charities Commission saga with a mixture of amazement and amusement. The current frantic window dressing of the EB in their bid to avoid tax money is the height of hypocrisy. This cult has become a business masquerading as a church. They are very, very far from beingplace of public worship and should be paying the taxes that businesses pay. In normal times, any charitable giving to organisations outside of the cult would be strictly taboo in EBcircles.

The Charities Commission should know that any evidence given by the EB cannot be trusted since they do not take the oath and will then lie quite unashamedly, even in court, since it is part of their teaching that “it is okay to lie to the devil”. Anyone opposing them is, of course, the devil.

I have been hesitant to tell my story for the benefit of the Charities Commission since they might feel it goes back too far (although it is current in the sense that my son has nothing to do with me). Marion Evans’ current story, however, makes it clear that nothing has changed for the better in the evil EB cult.

I give permission for my story to be used on any forum. I do not mind the EB seeing it either. I could even have it sworn toif need be. I have beaten them hands down in 4 bouts of litigation by simply telling the truth. As the Bible says: “Thetruth shall set you free”.


  1. A very moving story - thank you so much for sharing it. With all the brethren spin over the last 18 months or so it is good to be reminded of what they are really like. Like you I do not buy the new image they are trying to portray. Behind the scenes there is another story to tell. And only a few days ago a young woman told me how when she chose to donate some of her spare money to a charity she was forced to read all the ministry relating to charitable giving and how any spare money should be given to the brethren. She left the brethren eventually and now cannot bear to look at their new website where they flaunt the very activities she was so chastised for.

    We need more stories like this one - sadly yours does not have a happy ending, at least not yet. My hope for you and others in similar positions is that one day you and your son will be reunited.


    1. With you 100%, Jill
      No true Christian would find this behaviour acceptable.Indeed, even those with no beliefs at all would find it completely abhorrent to act like this. Yet to the HEB it is completely normal. These people are a stench in the nostrils to all true followers of Christ. We are all God's children and this is no way to treat them. They will have to answer to God for the treatment they continue to routinely inflict on his people.

  2. Thanks for sharing, it really gives me a heavy heart when I see you did what you could to make sure your lad had both parents - a righteous move - which was used against you and, in fact, against your son too, although he doesn't see it yet, Maybe when his kids start growing up it will dawn on him what he did to you and maybe, just maybe, his eyes will open enough to glimpse the truth. Please God.

  3. A few weeks ago an Australian media tycoon dropped the c-bomb on TV and has been in damage control ever since. My local radio station ran a phone-in poll about the use of the c-word. One lady made me laugh when she rang and said "I abhor the c-word. I hate to hear it, I hate to hear my husband use it, I hate to hear my (grown) kids use it. But sadly there are some people that can only be described by the c-word". I too I feel this in regard to the EB.


  4. Of course the young EB (PBCC Ltd) hooligans on the U tube clip seem to be quite fluent with the use of this offensive word; and then the likes of Leonardo come on here and tell us how black the world is outside of the purity of the Brethren. I don't know about Leonardo, and his associates, but | am not affiliated to people where this word is ever used.

  5. It's shocking to read the narrative at the top of this thread and my heart goes out to the parents and son who've been involved in this ghastly situation for so long.

    Any non-Brethren person reading this and other similar accounts will feel a sense of outrage that such things can happen in the name of Jesus Christ, but the impression this group of Exclusive Brethren (PBCC) gives is that they think they are unanswerable and unchallengeable.

    I had hoped so much that the findings of the Charity Commission in January this year would provide a forum for discussion so that progress could be made in the matter of interpersonal relationships between the Exclusive Brethren (PBCC) and non-Brethren people. My own efforts to move things forward have so far come to nought. Garth Christie and Bruce Robertson haven't yet acknowledged the courteous letters I've written to them this year, requesting a chance to speak with them about how I and my husband have been affected by the Brethren's policy of separation. A senior member of the PBCC has questioned whether anything would be achieved by talking to me. It's hardly treating us "openly, honestly and fairly" as the Charity Commission requires.

    I send my concern and best wishes to all families and friendships where there has been a breakdown of love and courtesy because of the abhorrent PBCC policy of treating non-Brethren people as "matter out of place" (see the seminal work of Mary Douglas on the Levitical holiness code).

  6. Sad Joan - and yet they accuse me of refusing to meet them to discuss my research. But I have not refused but to meet before the charity commission decision would have been out of order. Since they were still sending me letters up to about a month ago - that is also not in the spirit of the CC findings.

  7. The Questioner2 June 2014 at 11:27

    It would be interesting if there was any evidence of compliance with the CC decision.

  8. This is an horrific first hand account of the actual reality of the Exclusive Brethren now renamed PBCC. I say horrific, because they try to con the general public and those in authority into believing they are just a harmless Christian group which follows the Bible, the reality is very different from the PR Spin. Its an insult and the height of deception to even imply or link the Bible, the Christian faith or Christ Jesus to their practices, which are not endorsed by Gods Word !

    Mr Leonardo, Frank Lee and others are keen to defend and support the PBCC Exclusive Brethren on other blog topics, so how do the defenders and supporters of the PBCC Exclusive Brethren defend and support the actions described in the account published above ?

    Sadly the account published above and the tactics used by the PBCC Exclusive Brethren are not unique. The tactics described are the modus operandi of the Exclusive Brethren and there is nothing Christian or Biblical about it.

    As for complying with the CC agreement of Jan 2014 which the PBCC Exclusive Brethren signed up to, there is no compliance that I can see. Relatives of ours have not made contact and efforts from our side have been rebuffed. The PBCC Exclusive Brethren are carrying on creating harm and detriment just as before. Nothing has changed regards divided families, or harm, or detriment, or contact (or lack thereof) with those relatives, friends and family outside the group. This is an evidential breach of the CC agreement of 2014.

    1. Me thinks Leonardo and Frank are here to draw out a reaction.
      An classic ambush technique.

      Jill, if you can't substantiate the findings of your "research",
      it is not surprising you now feel reluctant to face these people at a meeting.
      Most normal people would say there is not much to be gained from investigating something that doesn't demand an explanation.

      Pray allow me to give you an few examples -
      If you look at the sky on a sunny day it appears blue in colour. Yes we could investigate the science behind it, but it will still just be blue in colour.
      God is love, we don't have to explain it, rather we accept he first loved us.

      The PBCC are not going to change anything as a result of your so called "research" Rather they make adjustments to their lives based on the word of God. My suggestion is you first analyse the reasons / purpose for conducting the "research" and your end objective.
      See here - A wooden handle may be used to stir the contents in a pot, but it doesn't change what it consists of. Don't stir-up trouble, but rather make your peace with God and men.

      Hope you get the drift of what I'm getting at here.

      G Hetherington

    2. G. Hetherington,

      I have closely and critically examined Jill’s research, including a lot of her raw data, looking specifically for weaknesses and potential sources of error. After doing so, I think her findings in the form in which they have been published so far at meetings of learned societies are the best that can be derived from the available evidence, and would stand up to peer review. I am also satisfied that she has examined and interpreted the evidence honestly and objectively.

      You advise her to analyse the reasons / purpose for conducting the research and her end objective. This seems superfluous advice because she did this in writing before she started the actual investigations, and stirring up trouble was not among these objectives. Indeed, the most troubling of the findings was not one that she had foreseen, wanted or expected. I know she does not like trouble, but it is sometimes the inescapable result of telling the truth and following the evidence wherever it may lead.

  9. Such a sad story to read and it brings back so many horrible memories. Their cruelty just never ends. I too can not read the load of crap that they have on their website - full of deceit and lying. There isn't anything Christian about that group.

  10. I spoke on the phone with the Charity Commision (local...) today after writing a long letter about my experience; it seems that im not going to help the case either, since regarding schools....they do not care about anything other than 'how the teachers are treating and educating the pupils'. That was the end of the story, nothing else matters. And of course I could not lie - all teachers I know who work at EB schools do a brilliant job, and are outstanding members of staff, and the actual standard of teaching (albeit with strict guidelines and massive amounts of pages torn from textbooks etc...) is excellent. I feel its a lost cause where the CC are concerned. They will not take into account 'shutting up, ex-communication, or anything else that affects pupils outside of schools'. And told me that hundreds of other charities 'only go out of their way to fund charitable causes to maintain their own charitable status'. So in that sense, ive told her nothing useful whatsoever.

  11. In England at the moment there's public concern and debate about the dangers of children and young people being raised and educated in religious traditions which are intolerant and extremist.

    I have always been worried that Exclusive Brethren children and young people in the PBCC group are educated separately from their non-Brethren peers. That seems an unfathomable position for a self-declared mainstream church, financially advantaged by its charitable status, to take when the society of which they are part values and promotes social cohesion.

    Further, teachers in the Focus Learning Trust schools have reported that pupils are not encouraged to go away to university because the PBCC leader, Bruce D Hales, believes that higher education is 'narrowing'. There are worries also about the homophobic, sexist and racist attitudes of some pupils in these schools.

    I know that Bruce D Hales has taught his followers that if they leave his Exclusive Brethren group they go into 'oblivion'. That seems extreme to me.

    Does anyone else share my concerns about the way children and young people in the PBCC are raised and educated?

    1. Yes Joan, in all ways. Watching the BBC coverage of this issue tonight (Thur) I kept wondering what teachers in the PBCC Focus Education Group schools were thinking... Hearing things like, "Teachers were found to be doing too little to protect students from the risks associated with extremist views; head teachers and governors were not doing enough to mitigate against cultural isolation which could leave students vulnerable to the risk of marginalisation from wider British society."

      Similarly to the Focus Schools inspection setup, some Muslim schools in the UK have also succeeded in putting themselves outside of the Ofsted inspection list. That bothers me a lot, both re the PBCC and fundo Muslim activity... IMO both hugely damaging to children's upbringing.

  12. A current HEB has just told me this, reference comments on here as to the CC decision...
    Nothing is changing as a result of the CC decision. BDH's comment about it, referred to in a local meeting here in the UK: "It was as pieces of straw."

    1. I was speaking to a current HEB two days ago - he said in his S-W England locality of over 100 Breth, no CC document has been read out, and Breth generally in his city have not read the decision privately either.

      Apparently BDH has expressed surprise that the UK Breth are not "more enthused" about the favourableness of the CC decision, but my HEB friend said he thinks that is because most of them simply know nothing about it.

      If BDH expects enthusiasm for a document that flies in the face of most of the stuff Brethren hold dear (physical separation, self aggrandisement and spiritual pride, disciplinary rigidity and cruelty, fake/surface charitableness) then it makes me wonder if HE has actually read the CC decision...!

  13. Joan - I share your concerns and have done so for many years. Having experienced a childhood in the HEB myself it was damaging enough then.

  14. The Questioner6 June 2014 at 06:56

    From this weeks' Queen's speech: http://www.cypnow.co.uk/cyp/news/1144640/emotional-abuse-children-criminal-offence?utm_content=&utm_campaign=050614%20daily&utm_source=Children%20%26%20Young%20People%20Now&utm_medium=adestra_email&utm_term=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cypnow.co.uk%2Fcyp%2Fnews%2F1144640%2Femotional-abuse-children-criminal-offence

    1. “Emotional abuse of children to become a criminal offence.”

      And about time too! The Australian legislature got there before us.

      We will probably have to wait for case law to clarify what will count as emotional abuse, but I can think of many examples from Brethren case histories that would probably qualify.

  15. As I understand it, the teachers in Brethren schools do not contribute directly to extremism or fundamentalist indoctrination; indeed, any respectable teacher would absolutely refuse to participate in such a process, but the schools might justly be accused of keeping the children isolated from other children and isolated from most cultural influences, thereby making extremist indoctrination and extreme sectarianism possible. These are possibly the main reasons why the Brethren schools exist.

    The schools also exercise pretty draconian censorship of school books, which also makes extremism possible. The teachers are also forbidden to discuss several important topics, which have sometimes included sexual health, contraception, human relationships, drugs, human rights, career options and higher education.

    This must leave teachers with great difficulty in assuaging their consciences. Can it be right to participate knowingly in an educational system that leaves children seriously misled about some important areas of knowledge and maintains compulsory ignorance of other areas?

    I think it is only a matter of time before governments feel they are obliged to comply more fully with their commitments to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. These commitments oblige them to protect the interests of all children, whether in State schools or in private schools, whether exposed to Islamic extremism or Christian extremism.

  16. I agree with Joan's comments and have also been struck by the similarity of PBCC extremism and that of other groups. Breaking rules is at the heart of the hypocritical EB (PBCC Ltd) structure and just about keeps the lid on in most aspects of the organisation.

    Thus, teachers have to break the rules in an attempt to provide a more rounded education. They run the risk of being "denounced" and having to face disciplinary action. This is intolerable and is a reminder of the pressures faced by many under authoritarian and extremist regimes.

    As Nottachurch mentions, the inspection set-up is not really fit for purpose since it only serves the PBCC Focus Group schools, and one or two other independent organisations who operate outside of the main state and private sectors.

    I also do not think that extreme faith schools, and others, should be financed from the public purse, even if only through tax concessions. They should, of course, certainly not be in receipt of free school status and direct funding.


  17. The Questioner6 June 2014 at 10:17

    Focus schools are not financed directly by the public purse except via the back door of other charitable trusts (in Scotland I believe they are charitable entities).

    The inspection set-up is a farce but I believe that Ofsted is going to tighten up private inspections and inspectors. I do hope so.

    1. I understand the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has not yet decided whether the two Focus schools in Scotland qualify for charitable status. An article published on 1 May in the Third Sector newsletter says OSCR had almost completed its assessment of 40 fee-charging schools that it had decided to scrutinise in September 2012. It said it had completed its activities with regards to 34 of these, and four of those schools, including the Focus schools, are still having their charity status considered.