Thursday, 8 May 2014

PBCC response to ACA programme



Wednesday, 7 May 2014




 1.ACA claim of trying to contact the Brethren for this report.No Brethren were interviewed or given any meaningful opportunity to make comment.  Despite at least 3 requests, the reporter Ben McCormack did not return our calls. This does not qualify as investigative journalism.
 2.Pictures of candles and music with religious overtonesImages and sounds were not of the Brethren. This was a digital mock-up and is both false and misleading.
 3.Rapid Relief Team is the secretive sect known as the exclusive BrethrenThe Plymouth Brethren Christian Church was clearly associated with the RRT team in the images displayed.  There is nothing secretive about it.
 4.The RRT testimonials and images.These speak for themselves and clearly demonstrate community benefit.RRT is a public benevolent institution.
 5.“Very expensive public relations company”Wells Haslem is not “a very expensive PR company”. They have provided advice on a very infrequent basis.
 6.Peter FlinnPeter Flinn left the church voluntarily in March 1970 and has not made any contact since that time. His false claims are without foundation and made in circumstances where he has had nothing to do with the Church for over 40 years.
 7.“Working the tax system and milking Centrelink for every cent they can”.These are totally false allegations – such behaviour has never been condoned by the Brethren.
 8.Mr Hales receiving millions in tax free donations every year.Another totally false allegation.
 9.Michael Bachelard – “He’s even written a book about the Brethren”His book published in 2008 contains many lies, falsehoods and factual distortions.  A detailed rebuttal was communicated to Mr Bachelard and his publishers at that time.
 10.Mr Hales owning Brethren School propertiesThis allegation is a monstrous lie and absolute falsehood. Every school property is owned by a charitable entity.  No title deed of any school property infers ownership either directly or indirectly by Mr Hales.These facts are readily available in the public domain and were obviously not checked by Ben McCormack.  So much for the quality of his “investigation”.
 11.Central office monitoring of the Exclusive BrethrenAnother total falsehood.Internet filters are required for protection from pornographic and other corrupt images and content. A large proportion of the general population would have similar filters in their homes and businesses.Parental control is practised.
 12.Monitoring of Brethren businessesEach business has their own accountant and Mr Hales has no access whatsoever to the financial records of any business unless his advice is sought by the owners of the business.
 13.“Brethren buy and sell to each other……”All Brethren businesses deal with non-Brethren customers and suppliers in the course of carrying on their activities and any interaction with other Brethren businesses is minimal.Many non-brethren are employed by brethren businesses.Home and business loans are normally provided by financial institutions.
14.Family Trusts and Brethren BusinessesAn unsubstantiated claim that “each Brethren business is run by a family trust” and makes only tax free distributions to families. This is completely false.The Income Tax Act does not permit family trusts to retain profits in a tax free form nor pay school fees via trust distributions.Diagrams shown are hypothetical imaginary nonsense!
 15.Centrelink welfare payments and our youth.Young people in the Brethren community stay home until they are married. They do not get married until they have regular employment income.The vast majority of youth amongst the Brethren are gainfully employed and do not get government welfare benefits.
 16.Government grants to schoolsAnnual audits by registered non-brethren auditors are undertaken to substantiate government grants to schools. The socio-economic band is used by the government to calculate the quantum of the grant. All PBCC schools are funded under the Federal Government funding maintained model.
 17.Tertiary EducationMany Brethren undertake tertiary and university education by correspondence after they complete their Year 12 studies.
 18.Schools laundering moneyThis is a nasty and mischievous innuendo.All schools have an annual audit submitted to the regulator and taxation audits have never revealed any anomalies or substandard practice.
 19.“The Exclusive Brethren pay little or no tax…”This is a malicious lie. Brethren pay taxes in exactly the same ways and at the same rates as non-brethren members of the wider community.
 20.“…don’t hesitate to excommunicate…”

 20.“…don’t hesitate to excommunicate…”Over the past 20 years there have been less than 1% of persons excommunicated from the PBCC church in Australia. It is clearly a very rare occurrence that only takes place in exceptional circumstances.


  1. It's useful when the PBCC/Exclusive Brethren issue a statement like this because in doing so they reveal a great deal about themselves.

    One of the distinctive features of this group is the way they oversee the lives of their members. They make reference to the fact that young brethren live at home until they marry (what about gay young women and men?) and they admit that many of them follow tertiary and university courses by correspondence. The discerning reader will immediately question whether this group is a church or a cult. Mainstream churches never interfere in their members' lives in those kind of ways.

    IMO, this group of Exclusive Brethren is on the back foot as far as university education is concerned. They don't encourage their talented and academic young people to go away to university and pursue a course in medicine, the sciences, the humanities or even theology or the biblical languages. No mainstream church would behave like that. It's astonishing to me that the PBCC run schools where the pupils are not helped to choose full university courses away from their homes or even in their home towns. As far as I know, in recent decades no PBCC young person has been able to complete an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, and there seems to be no chance of anyone engaging in doctoral research.

    If Justin Welby declared, as Bruce D Hales has, that tertiary education is narrowing there would quite rightly be a public outcry.

  2. This Brethren response to the TV programme is not a convincing rebuttal.

    Point 1 is just a question of who you choose to believe. It’s not a difficult decision. Especially as the last thing said by the programme presenter is that their offer of a live interview is still open. If the Brethren want a “meaningful opportunity to comment,” they only need to agree the time and place.

    Point 2 is trivial. Who cares where the symbols of religion were obtained from?

    In point 3 the programme was fair and truthful, and the Brethren’s response is either false or ambiguous, depending on what the “it” refers to. The Hales Brethren have a long history of being extremely, ridiculously secretive. Almost all of their ministry and the proceedings of their meetings are kept secret to the point where people revealing them to non-Brethren are denounced in intemperate terms as a traitor and a Judas, with overtones of eternal damnation. They have a lot to hide, and they behave accordingly. I can expand on this statement if required.

    In point 4 the RRT testimonials demonstrate quite a lot of things, including the fact that they are artificially selected in a deceptive way to show only those that the Brethren want people to read, and many of them are written in characteristic Brethren language by people who claim that they are not Brethren. Laurie’s blog is more honest than this, allowing strong opinions completely opposite to his own.

    Point 5 is only a matter of opinion. It depends on what you count as very expensive for a PR firm.

    Point 6 is about Peter Flynn, who has been a consistently credible witness in the past. The Brethren say his claims are false, but they do not give us any reason to believe this. Everything Peter Flynn said on the programme was entirely convincing. The bits that I could check by reference to ministry, for example, were all accurate. About the strongest thing he said was to refer to the Brethren’s “dogmatic, dictatorial and bizarre rules,” a description that is entirely justified. It would still have been fair comment if he had added a few other choice adjectives, such as arbitrary, cruel, irrational, selfish, unchristian, unscriptural and anti-social.

    On point 7, I don’t know anything about Centrelink, but there is abundant evidence in printed ministry and in personal statements from insiders that structuring their businesses and trusts to reduce tax liability has been prominent in the thoughts of Hales Brethren for many years.

    I don’t have the required information to comment on what has been said about the financial structures and the way cash flows through the complex system of Brethren businesses, schools and trusts, but I do notice a lot of weasel words in the Brethren responses, words that could be true in some limited sense but still be misleading. I also know that in the minutes of a meeting of the UK Brethren’s Regional Coordinators Meeting on 5th December 2012 to discuss how to hold on to Charitable Status it was said that “Close to Illegal things are happening with congregation money,” so it is not surprising that programme makers think so too.
    . . . continued below

  3. . . . continued from above

    On point 9, I found everything Michael Bachelard said on the programme entirely convincing and well-judged. He has established a formidable reputation for his careful investigation and accurate reporting. His book “Behind the Exclusive Brethren” is an outstanding example of his work. It was carefully researched, and the evidence meticulously documented. I could find very few factual errors in it, which is unusual for books of that sort. The fact that Brethren deny many statements in it will not surprise anyone. I am frequently astonished by the readiness with which some of them will deny well established facts based on abundant, overwhelming evidence.

    Point 17 is about Tertiary education. I am delighted to hear that many Brethren are now undertaking tertiary studies. I understand they still need permission to do this, and the range of subjects they are allowed to study is strictly limited, as is the method of delivery of the courses. The next step the Brethren leaders need to take towards acceptable behaviour is to allow the students a free choice of the subjects to study and the method of studying it. In an honest society there should be no areas of compulsory ignorance.

  4. Point15: young people in the Brethren community stay home until they are married, or are kicked out for disagreeing with the cult.


  5. Point 8
    'Mr Hales receiving millions in tax free donations every year'
    My guess is that is TRUE

    Instead of replying 'Another totally false allegation', be open and honest, and as it's public giving, publish amounts from Cities and also the route by which it got to his pocket

    1. Michael Bachelard was more cautious in his estimate. He said, “. . . hundreds of thousands, if not millions.”

      But I agree that when organisations are receiving tax concessions and government funding, transparency should be obligatory. Most churches, at least in the UK, make it very clear and in considerable detail where their money comes from and where it goes to. They make it clear to members and anyone else that wants to know.

      Cults don’t. That is one of the many differences.

    2. I was aware of a place 'committed' to giving to BDH every month
      That seems like earnings and Taxable

      The amount was over £2 per head on average
      IF that was done worldwide, and in the absence of the factual evidence, I assume it is likely
      2 x 46,000 x 12 months = just over £1m per year

  6. Point 9 makes me laugh, but also cringe a little with exEB embarrassment. It sounds as if the Brethren think that because they publicised a rebuttal of Michael Bachelard's book about them, the book is thereby nullified and sort of turned to ash. Lol. If their rebuttal of his book was as misjudged, misguided and misleading as this latest ACA programme rebuttal, it probably only had the effect of making MORE people want to read it! Silly peebs - their noses are so deep in the trough of money-making and spiritual pride, they can hardly breath ordinary people's air any more.

    I do so wish they would climb down from their imaginary tower and get to grips with real truths. There are so many lovely and valuable people closeted away in the half-life that is Brethrenism, and that makes me sad.

  7. Ian8 May 2014 12:21

    1.Yes.But i doubt they will ever consider taking up this kind of offer.Especially if they will need to face questions in any impromptu manner

    2 Yes.For a start the current affair program possible wouldn't have even been allowed access to exclusive brethren religious services,so as to tape exclusive brethren service.So as you put it, its trivial

    3 is in the very least guilty of manipulating the truth to suit the agenda.

    4 doesn't do justice to the fact that their rapid relief team (RRT),is in fact an extremely slow team (EST) in regard to providing any real relief to those whom their group has already caused extreme harm.Your point about Laurie is correct,and actively displays the big difference between attitudes of a cult,and attitudes that allow freedom of speech that helps uphold openness and honesty.

    5 ditto

    6 yes the fact that Peter left years ago,doesn't do anything to prove how his conclusion must be wrong.A number of north Koreans had left north Korea many years ago too,yet if they still come to the conclusion that Korea is run by a dictatorship.Then what is it that will prove this conclusion is wrong.

    7-8 is not so doubtful.Considering other practices of deceit and trickery that have already been publicly exposed ,in regard to exclusive brethren practices.Their involvement in deceptive election campaigns comes to mind

    9 that an exclusive brethren rebuttal exist, to claims that are made by Michael Bachelard .Still doesn't necessarily prove that what he claims,is in fact wrong.

    20 is perhaps like Kim Jung Un making claims, that in the last 20 years only 1% of Koreans were executed.At the first glance on the surface, it may sound totally convincing to someone like Kim Jung Un and his henchmen. Yet outsiders use of critical and analytic thought would soon show these figures to still be unconvincing in regard to whether the Koreans do all live within freedom and happiness

  8. Item 21
    ALLEGATION: Pigs do not fly
    REBUTTAL: Pigs do fly

  9. It would have been much quicker if they just published:

    "Whatever they said, we don't."

  10. To rebut something means to overthrow it by argument, evidence or proof. A denial is not a rebuttal. Any mug could write a denial and try to pass it off as a rebuttal.

  11. No 1 - They state they were not interviewed or given any meaningful contact, so why would they attempt contact with Ben McCormack if there was no reason to. They wouldn't have any knowledge of the impending story unless, in fact, they were given the opportunity and declined to be interviewed.

  12. While the PBCC continues to receives financial support from the public purse, and yet exudes considerable private wealth in its style of housing and choice of schooling, it's not surprising that there should be concern about their finances.

    Transparency matters. Mainstream churches hold an Annual General Meeting when audited accounts are presented for scrutiny and approval and the appointment of the treasurer is confirmed by a vote of those present. These meetings are open to the general public and the press.

    I've never heard that the PBCC is open about its accounts in this kind of way.

    In the UK, as far as personal gifts to a leader are concerned, if the gift is to support her/his work it's regarded as income and is therefore taxable.

  13. Mr A. J. Gardiner, author of The Recovery and Maintenance of the Truth, was a tax inspector. He explained that if a “gift” is associated with services rendered then it is taxable. When he was invited by the Brethren in various places to take meetings and later received gifts from the same places, he declared his gifts as taxable income.

    1. AJG did not use a private aircraft to travel from place to place! I recall him travelling by train (not first class either). I would question whether using a chartered aircraft is a legitimate business expense from a taxation point of view. However if gifts are not declared as income then it does not really matter.

    2. Looks like the mog travels Blair class

      Presidents use 747's, whilst another dictator travels IL62
      Looks like you'll have to up your travel Mr Bruise, after all you upped the deception and cruelty

    3. AJG was absolutely correct.
      We had the command back in the 60s that JTJr had to be ministered to every month by every locality. I am not aware that this has changed. I also recall that in more recent times the EB were told to vary the amounts so that they did not look like regular payments. And of course the infamous Symington stashed his away in cash to keep the prying eyes of the Revenue authorities away. All of which amounts to tax evasion, which is of course illegal. And to think the EB used to preach about being righteous!
      However, it is possible that at least here in the UK H.M. Customs & Revenue will shortly be on the case. Not only will tax be charged for as many previous years as they care to pursue but they will also charge interest on the unpaid tax and penalties for non disclosure. It is long, long overdue.

  14. Point 9. When the Exclusive Brethren misrepresented themselves to The Charity Commission and to Parliament they did so by lies, falsehoods and factual distortions. It is a serious offence to lie to Parliament.


  15. The philosophical sense of some scriptures like Act:10:34-35 and James 2:9 have physically proved their own worth.Having now manifested themselves in the reality we experience today.By understanding that it is respect and favoritism of religion and religious practices, that has been at the root of what developed this ongoing situation.And the worst part is, it will now also be a very hard situation to try remedying too.Specially when it seems like too many groups of theists, still seem to far prefer to remain silent,disinterested and impassive in regard to this ongoing issue.

    To me it seems to be, that unless people experience the harm personally.Or unless there is some form of fame to be gleaned.Then too many folks just don't tend to think to care

    Which is quite understandable really.When religion has simply been allocated right of place to demand favoritism and respect.

  16. I feel one of my leafleting campaigns coming on......certain people require certain warnings.....especially in this remote corner...and if anyone has Mr Hales actual contact details, i'd be happy to send him one too. Thanks in advance. From anonymous group: "Down with this sort of thing!"....

  17. Point 20 - What they conveniently overlook is the sad fact that many more would leave their cult if they had the real opportunity to do so.
    It is difficult to escape from a cult particularly if it means leaving your family behind, losing your employment and lacking the educational qualifications that would enable you to find a job with similar remuneration.
    Family, Friends, Fear and Finance are the great deterrents to people leaving the Exclusive Brethren hence the low percentage of people being excommunicated.