The Exclusive Brethren (EB) cult may be regretting their campaign for charity status. They have spent £500,000 on face-to-face contacts targeted on all MPs and peers. They have used all the tricks of the lobbyists trade to create a myth of victimhood. 'Us today, all religions tomorrow' is their favourite deception which has irritated many parliamentarians.
There is no threat to any other religious group. Baroness Berridge asked how many religious organisations had successfully applied to the Charity Commission for charity status in the past year. The answer was 1,175, with just one – the Brethren – turned down for public benefit reasons.
A Tory MP has advised EB not to issue a rebuttal to the Baroness's speech because it would give her wise words greater currency. Debate is denied while the frantic lobbying is permitted. Truth should be buried by fiction in the MP's opinion.
In the interest of open debate, the wise words of the Baroness should be widely disseminated.
Conservative peer Baroness Berridge used a Lords debate on the role of religion in UK society to defend the Charity Commission’s decision to refuse charitable status to the Exclusive Brethren and dismiss concerns that it represents the ‘thin end of the wedge’.
The Baroness, a former director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, even called for a Church-led inquiry into the Brethren – a “theological and psychological inquiry perhaps chaired by a former Archbishop”.
And she announced she would be hosting an event in Parliament for former Exclusive Brethren who had been expelled or escaped from the clutches of the organisation, so that MPs could hear for themselves how it operates.
'Doctrine of separation'
She explained that she has family in the Brethren herself, so knows how they work: “They hold to the doctrine of separation, so exclusives cannot live in semi-detached houses, as they share a party wall with non-Brethren.
"They cannot eat with non-Brethren, cannot have friends with non-Brethren; they have no TV, radio, cafes, restaurants, etc. They can attend only Brethren schools and they now work only for Brethren businesses. Attending university is banned.”
Baroness Berridge said: “If this is Christianity, it is not as we have ever known it before. I commend the Charity Commission on seeking to deal with this Christian sect, but many who would give evidence to the First-Tier Tribunal fear the implications for families still in the Brethren. The charity Commission must ensure that victims can give evidence and tell their stories anonymously.”
Charity status of other religions 'not at risk'
She added that none of the major Church denominations are at all concerned that their own charitable status is under threat. The Commission has been quite clear that its decision on the Brethren turns on the doctrines and practices of the Brethren, she said.
“Groups about whom there is credible evidence that they harm health, split families and send no one to university can exist in a liberal society, but whether they should be charities is very much open to doubt,” she added.
“The religion and public benefit guidance needs to be clarified, but we also need clarity on the outer limits of what is acceptable behaviour for all religious groups.”
The Baroness had earlier posted a question asking how many religious organisations had successfully applied to the Commission for charity status in the past year. The answer was 1,175, with just one – the Brethren – turned down for public benefit reasons.