Former Member Hits Out at Exclusive Sect

Timaru Herald (New Zealand)/September 1, 2005

She had been out of the Exclusive Brethren for 20 years before enough of the fear had left her and she felt able to write a book about the community she had grown up in.

Ngaire Thomas was born an Exclusive Brethren and for over 30 years knew little else. She was told those outside the community, the worldlies, were all evil. Now she believes that what happened inside the sect was less moral than the community she lives in now.

"I believe it is an abusive society. It is all about abuse and control of women and children and relationships.

"The only negative feedback I have had was from their lawyer threatening to sue me over calling them an abusive society, but I stand by that.

"Anyone that separates husbands and wives, and parents from their children and does not let people have choice or freedom of thought, that is abusive."

Mrs Thomas said when her husband was dying 10 years ago he had suggested she go to university. She took some writing papers among other things and took six months off in 1999 to write the book.

"The words just spewed out. They flowed. And as the words came the fear went and I started to feel compassion for these people.

"These are just ordinary people like you and me. What can they do to hurt me?"

Mrs Thomas and her family were shut out of the community after not measuring up to some of its strict standards.

She said the process was harrowing and went on for over six months when they were isolated from the rest of the community and the outside world.

During that time members tried to talk the family around.

"They wanted to keep us, but on their terms. I guess we just didn't measure up."

Mrs Thomas said it was devastating being turned out into the real world with no experience of it or anything to measure it by.

"We made some dreadful decisions but we got by.

"I have a degree in psychology and I am interested in studying the psychology of the group. It is definitely all about power.

"But I have found that those who leave the sect and are separated from their families are better to do so after they reach 25. Those who do it between 16 and 18 are more likely to end up in difficulty.

"They are more likely to fall in with the wrong people and not know how to resist temptation. The girls are more likely to be easy prey for men."

"Education is not valued past the high school stage so it makes it much harder for those that leave."

However, Mrs Thomas said that in the community youth were well looked after and there was no unemployment.

"They are good to work for if anyone gets the chance. They look after their staff well."

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