The Times versus the Exclusive Brethren

The Times versus the Exclusive Brethren

The Times newspaper has run several reports this month exposing the barmy beliefs of the Exclusive Brethren, a cult that has 17,000 followers in Britain and enjoys charitable tax relief worth up to £13 million a year.

Other media are now getting in on the act. Yesterday the Huffington Post reported that schools run by the Exclusive Brethren are under investigation following claims by former teachers that they were required to use science textbooks with pages ripped out, prevent boys and girls from talking to one another outside classrooms, and tolerate bullying, racism and homophobia.

Life at Britain’s 34 Brethren schools is under the microscope following a decision last year to grant them charity status, which allows the group to avoid taxes estimated to be worth millions of pounds every year.

After their first bid for charitable status was rejected, the sect fought back with supporters writing thousands of letters to the Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales. The Commission then buckled under the pressure.

The sect’s leader is an Australian named Bruce Hales (followers call him “the Prophet”).


Eight former teachers have spoken to the media and described school buses segregated by gender, classroom racism and textbooks with pages on evolution, fossil fuels and sexual reproduction ripped out.

One teacher said:

Anything that showed the earth as being 4 billion years old was removed or glued together.

The same thing happened with pages about contraception, while:

Anything that showed gay relationships as being normal was defaced in that way as well.

Another former staff member said:

They don’t see anything wrong in saying that black people are going to hell.

A former member of the cult, Laurence Moffitt, has been meticulously tracking the story on his blog, where he reveals that:

I was born into the Exclusive Brethren cult in 1967, was excommunicated in ’93 whereupon my family was destroyed.

On March 20, Moffitt posted a letter written to the The Times by Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations:

Sir, The logic of the argument advanced by the chairman of the Charity Commission defending his organisation’s decision to award charitable status for the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (letter, Mar 19) does not withstand scrutiny.

William Shawcross asserts that the commission was the first public authority to put on record the ‘detriment and harm’ caused by the doctrines and practices of the Brethren. He then states that, after concessions, it registered various Brethren organisations as charities. Awarding charitable status to these bodies under any circumstances means that they can claim Gift Aid, which boosts the resources of the very organisations the commission previously found caused ‘detriment and harm’.

The reality of the matter is that the commission has taken a positive decision to facilitate the Brethren’s existence. A full explanation of the process and the individuals involved in granting this ‘harmful’ organisation charitable status must follow.

Moffitt also posted two letters written to the paper, castigating it for attacking the cult.

William Hathorn, of Maidstone, Kent wrote:

Sir, Christians showing zeal for their faith have at various times over the centuries been attacked. Your reports sadly continue this. People who have left an institution will of course attack it later to prove to their own comfort that they have made the right move. 

If our lives are ‘cut off from society’, how is it we employ many non-Brethren and have nearly 100 per cent non-Brethren customers? Brethren also pay their taxes impeccably. 

I feel you have attacked a group of people who by living simple, upright lives are in a tiny way supporting the good of British society. 

And Susan May, of St Austell, Cornwall, chimed in with:

Sir, It seems to me (I am a Christian but not a member of the Brethren) that every opportunity is taken to malign the Exclusive Brethren without a word said in their defence. Although their way of life may be somewhat different from that of most people, in my opinion and that of many in Cornwall who have benefited from their contribution to the local economy, they are hardworking and valuable members of the community.

Hat  tip: BarrieJohn, who alerted me earlier this month to the first reports in the The Times.

14 responses to “The Times versus the Exclusive Brethren”

  1. barriejohn says:

    Why would ANY Christians be looking for financial support from “the world”? Here is a favourite verse that was quoted to me over and over again when I was a member of the (Open) Brethren:

    “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” (Isaiah 31:1 KJV)

    I rest my case!

  2. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: And much of their help comes from the taxes of atheists.

  3. Lucy1 says:

    I have taught the children of Exclusive Brethren, not in one of their schools, I hasten to add. It was interesting. No computers, no dancing, no eating with other children, no marking of holidays, but not too bad overall. The class made a christmas cake, and the EB children wanted to make one, but were forbidden. They came up with the idea of calling it a winter cake!! There was hope for them.

  4. Marky Mark says:

    (And much of their help comes from the taxes of atheists.)

    Not only should all religious organizations and cults be excluded from a tax exempt status, they should never be funded by the public…let them try to survive on their own funding.

    I have yet to read or hear about any atheist organization being tax exempt or receiving public tax funds…

    (They came up with the idea of calling it a winter cake!! There was hope for them.)

  5. Marky Mark says:

    No tax exempt status for Atheists, but we have to put up with people like this;

    ‘Duck Dynasty’ star fantasizes about atheist family’s brutal rape and murder to make point about God’s law

  6. Smokey says:

    Is Britain brown-nosing ALL the religious fundamentalists?

    Why the everlasting fuck are they doing this?

  7. barriejohn says:

    Marky Mark: Atheistic and humanistic organizations are entitled to tax exemption, etc, as long as they meet the curret requirements for charitable status.

    Although it is galling to see “The advancement of religion” laid down as a qualification, the sticking point with the Exclusive Brethren has been the overarching requirement that any charity must provide public benefit. This they spectacularly fail to do (in commom with a great many religious groups), so it is absolutely outrageous that our taxes are helping to fund such a truly exclusive and harmful self-interest group.

    BTW Many of the books that we had relating to reproduction had pages that were found to be glued together when I was a teenager, but I don’t think that any of our teachers were responsible!

  8. barriejohn says:

    Some of the history of the Brethren movement’s engagement with the Charity Commission can be found in these articles:

  9. 1859 says:

    ‘If our lives are ‘cut off from society’…’ if this is true why do they seek society’s granting of charitable status? Could it be for monetary reasons? Duuuh!

    To be really ‘cut off from society’ they should try North Greenland – but then I guess there are limits to exactly which of society’s benefits they want and which they don’t.

    No one with a religious agenda of ANY description should be allowed inside a classroom.

  10. 1859 says:

    A teacher friend of mine was hired as a private tutor to an orthodox jewish boy of 12 years old. The same shit happened – my friend was warned by the father that he was not to mention dinosaurs, reproduction, the age of the Earth etc., etc., It was absolutely tragic because the boy in question was extremely intelligent but was being drip-fed selected rubbish.

  11. Vanity Unfair says:

    Just out of curiosity, I had a look at the Charity Commission’s website
    and at its charity-finding service.
    Using a broad search for registered charities and their names, objects or activities, I came up with the following:
    religion or religious : 29,005 entries
    secular or secularism: 448 entries (a look at the entries shows that nearly all are of a religious nature.)
    humanist or humanism: 17 entries (including one Islamic and some very general ones)
    freethinking or freethought: 1 entry (and that only a mention of the contents of its library)
    atheist or atheism:none at all.
    It’a almost as though there were an illegal discrimination applied.

  12. Robster says:

    Of course the Exclusive Brethren are cut off from society. If they weren’t they would hardly be “exclusive”. There seems to be various degrees of Christian idiocy. The Brethrens are top of the class.

  13. John says:

    A few salient points:-
    1. There is a Strict Baptist sect within the Baptist movement, though I have no idea as to whether or they have charitable status.
    2.Conway Hall Ethical Society (formerly South Place Ethical Society) are now – I believe – a registered charity because the basis for charitable registration now no longer requires a commitment to promote religion but to provide a public benefit. The principal argument against the so-called “exclusive” brethren having charitable status is that they are a cult who provide no public benefit whatsoever. Arguably, that is because they do not intend to provide any form of public benefit either, which is why they label themselves “exclusive”.
    3. The reason politicians “brown-nose” religion is because it fulfils a role within society which politicans have always approved of, i.e. it is a very cheap form of social control mechanism.
    4. Religions are increasingly resorting to “lawfare”, i.e. taking legal action against anyone, anything or anybody they disapprove of. This is yet another case like it. The scientologists are another example of how this works, as well as other religious cults like judaism.
    5. Ultimately, the only way to stop all this nonsense is to threaten the power of politicians so that they stop making concessions to religious cranks of one flavour or another.

  14. barriejohn says:

    John: The Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, as they now like to style themselves, make a big thing of their charitable works nowadays, in a deliberate attempt to portray themselves in a favourable light in the eyes of the gullible. Those of us who know anything about them are not so easily taken in. The weird thing to me – quite apart from the fact that Brethren teaching (even amongst “Open ” Brethren) is that the salvation of souls rather than good works should be their chief aim and concern – is that Hales has somehow managed to reinvent his own particular sect as THE Plymouth Brethren, whereas the reality is that they are only one branch of the Brethren. There are umpteen different Exclusive sects, such as Derbyites, Kellyites, Glantonites, and so on, all differing on points of doctrine and practice. This is all propaganda and image-building, and no one should be taken in by it.