PROMOTIONAL YouTube videos created by the Exclusive Brethren – a wealthy subset of the Plymouth Brethren – show ‘blissful’ families living lives free of all ‘worldly’ external influences which they regard as ‘demonic’.
But in reality the Brethren can give masterclasses in mind control, misogyny, family break-ups and excommunication to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Brethren concept of “separation from evil” means that the members try to lead their lives with as little interaction as possible with non-Brethren – except when it comes to getting their mitts on public funding.
Byline Times reports that the Conservative government have paid companies connected to the Brethren hundred of millions of pounds to provide ventilators and PPE equipment during the pandemic.
The Brethren reportedly received between £180 million and £300 million.
In a comprehensive breakdown of the contracts awarded to the Brethren, Byline News kicked of with Unispace Global Ltd. It was awarded a more than £108 million contract on May 16 for garments for biological or chemical protection.
According to Companies House, multi-millionaire Gareth Hales, right, has significant control of the company and records an Australian address. He is the son of Exclusive Brethren world leader Bruce Hales.
In January this year, he was accused of assault by two former Brethen on a public street near to his father’s mansion in Australia.
The sect enjoys tax reliefs and rebates reportedly worth as much as £11 million a year in the UK.
And in Australia the Brethren first made headlines on the political scene after it funnelled hundreds of thousands of dollars into former Prime Minister John Howard’s re-election campaign in 2004, and was later referred to in Liberal Party documents as “friends.”
After winning office in 2007, Labor leader Kevin Rudd described the group as “an extremist cult that breaks up families,” but continued the pattern of increasing funding to its schools.
It has around 20,000 UK members and includes a number of businesses and non-profit groups under its umbrella – charitable organisations such as the Rapid Relief Team, business consultancy UBT, and OneSchool Global (OSG).
According to its website, OSG operates 130 campuses with 2,500 staff across 21 countries. It says :
The school is generously supported via the donation of time and financial support by the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.
Former teachers have alleged that they were required to tolerate bullying, racism and homophobia.
At the beginning of the year, the No More Faith Schools campaign objected to plans to state fund two schools in Northern Ireland run by the Brethren.
OSG had asked for two of its private schools to become one state funded school operating across two sites.
A proposal published by NI’s Education Authority says the OSG is aiming:
To preserve and protect our children from anything that would be against the OSG ethos based on Christianity and adherence to the teachings of the Holy Bible.
The proposal adds that the school’s ethos will be:
Faith based in accordance with the Plymouth Brethren religious community.
In a submission to NI’s Department of Education, the NMFS campaign has objected to the plan on the grounds that:
• It would undermine efforts to teach children from different religious backgrounds together.
• It is unsustainable. The school will have 100 pupils across the two sites – just 20% of the minimum required for sustainable operation at post-primary level, as recommended by the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
• The school would be unattractive to families from outside the Plymouth Brethren, reinforcing its insularity and unsustainability.
The NMFS campaign wrote:
An insular religious community with a history of serious safeguarding failures is not well placed to run a state school. We would urge the Department of Education to invest public money in education that serves the whole community.
A NMFS spokesperson said:
The Department of Education would be well advised to give this proposal short shrift … The solution is not to fragment the education system with more minority faith schools, but to redouble efforts to build an integrated schools system.
The last time the Brethren made it big in the news in the UK was in 2017. After an extensive lobbying campaign supported by a large number of friends within the Conservative Party, the Brethren struck a deal with the Charity Commission that overturned an earlier decision by the CC to refuse charitable status to a trust run by the the cult.
One of the Brethren’s key supporters was MP and ardent Brexiteer Peter Bone, above. He even tabled a motion in Parliament aimed at amending the Charities Act to restore the presumption that all religious groups are for the public benefit and therefore can be charities.
The CC, after hearing about family break-ups and shunning within the cult, felt the Brethren offered no public benefits whatsoever. It believed that the Brethren’s services were not sufficiently open to the public and that the Brethren’s practices and doctrines had little beneficial impact on the wider community.
Conservative MP Charlie Elphick also accused the Charity Commission of trying to suppress religion in this case.
Byline Times said:
Given considerable concern about the billions spent on PPE contracts during the Coronavirus crisis without competitive tendering – much of which appears to have gone to Conservative friends and donors – this new revelation suggests an ever narrower sectional interest when it comes to public funds.
The extent of cult’s power in Australia is detailed in Behind the Exclusive Brethren: Politics Persuasion and Persecution. It is an expose by journalist and author Michael Bachelard.
Hat tip: Andrew.