Charity Commission forces a detrimental religion to change its ways

“The Charity Commission should be commended for their hard work, as the first statutory authority to put on public record that “there were elements of detriment and harm which emanated from the doctrines and practices of the (Exclusive) Brethren…” (EB but also known at the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church)  Any assertion that the Charity Commission in considering this matter has had an anti-Christian agenda or bias is ill founded and unfair.   The revelations of the current behaviour of the Exclusive Brethren outlined in this decision [inter alia: severing all ties with family members who leave the brethren, forbidding former members to attend funerals of relatives, discipline of members which involves physical separation from their family members, exercising such control over all aspects of the life of members which restricts any freedom of choice] should be condemned by all Christians.   I want to stress that this religion is not one I recognise as Christian.

It has been a privilege to assist many former members of the Exclusive Brethren as they have taken the difficult step of telling their story.  As the Commission’s decision will be reviewed in a year I would warmly encourage anybody who has been separated from family members who remain within the Exclusive Brethren, to re-establish contact and report any concerns to the Commission.  Should any current member wish to leave they can be reassured that the EB have had to give explicit and binding undertakings to give’ reasonable assistance’ to anyone seeking to do so.   I recognise that those harmed by their experience of the EB may be disappointed by today’s decision and may have relevant standing to appeal the decision.  However,  the grave concerns of the Charity Commission should not be underestimated as they have required the EB to agree to a “faith in practice” document and it is remarkable for them to require a religious group to, in effect, alter its practice and doctrine to qualify for charitable status.  It is to be welcomed that the EB  is “evolving and increasing its level of engagement with the public” and  I am confident that the Commission will regulate the EB to ensure that their conduct is, in fact, charitable.

Unless the decision is appealed, the issue now falls to be considered by HMRC and anyone with any relevant information concerning the financial affairs of EB charitable trusts, educational trusts or businesses should forward this to them.

I remain keen to support those who feel that their lives have been adversely affected by the doctrines and practices of the EB.   For this or for any clarification of this statement please do contact my office on berridgee@parliament.uk”

*For further information on the doctrine and practices please see “A pocket Guide to Sects and New Religions” by Nigel Scotland, Lion publishers.