Thursday, October 18, 2007

Focus on the Exclusive Brethren in Australia heats up

For some months I have been following the unfolding story of the abusive practices within the cult of the Exclusive Brethren. In this cult the women have to wear long dresses and scarves on their heads. If any family leave the cult, then they are immediately cut off from the rest of the family. This means that in custody disputes the children are not permitted to be with the other parent.

Stories about child abuse within this sect keep on surfacing, but most of these stories have been on "A Current Affair". However, the Australian newspaper media are also on their case, this time with a story from a former Family Court judge who has made serious allegations concerning the tactics that are used by the Exclusive Brethren in the Family Court System.

Non-Brethren parents have for decades fought bruising Family Court battles to try to get access to their children.

Mr Nicholson, who retired in 2004 after 16 years as head of the Family Court, revealed last year that he had been visited by two delegations of Exclusive Brethren elders trying to persuade him to help them keep families apart.

Brethren children often tell their non-Brethren parent as part of custody disputes that they are evil and that they do not want to spend time with them.

"You'd have to be highly suspicious that, if not coached, that the children had in effect been brainwashed into believing that they shouldn't see the other parent," he said in an interview with the ABC's Four Corners, which did not go to air. "To treat children in that way is abusive of them, and it's psychologically very damaging to the child. It's in effect telling the child that their parent is worthless … and that really is quite unacceptable."

Mr Nicholson said church members were "reluctant to comply with court orders", which "had to be enforced with vigour".

However, the Exclusive Brethren spokesman denies these claims and says that the parents in separated families have been complying with court orders.

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