(Transcript of Australian ABC TV’s Four Corners program).
Reporter: Quentin McDermott
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Daily around Australia, members of a small religious sect gather for prayer, Bible readings, or Holy Communion. They’re a Christian congregation of simple, god-fearing folk.
ADRIAN VAN LEEN, DIRECTOR, CONCERNED CHRISTIAN GROWTH MINISTRIES: Very nice people and very, very sincere. People who I think are very genuine in what they believe, and what they want to do.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: These are the Exclusive Brethren. They believe they are chosen by God, and they long for The Rapture – when the saints on earth will be separated from the rest.
GARY BOUMA, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PROF OF SOCIOLOGY, MONASH UNIVERSITY: The Rapture is a teaching that there will be a time when all of those who are Christian and alive at a particular time will be swept up into the next life, and left behind will be those who are not pure.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Members of this sect are forbidden to vote or to socialise with those outside the fellowship. But quietly, Brethren have campaigned hard in elections, supporting conservative parties and family values. Tonight, Four Corners opens the doors on the Brethren, revealing the burden placed on those inside the sect, and the price extracted from those who leave.
You still keep those letters?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I do…I just love to see their handwriting.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Folded away from the public’s gaze in Australia, the Exclusive Brethren live their daily lives by the scriptures. They say the Bible tells them to separate themselves from evil. Separation, they say, “is as old as time itself. “The scriptures from beginning to end teach separation.”
GARY BOUMA, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PROF OF SOCIOLOGY, MONASH UNIVERSITY: They’re a group that take very seriously the need to withdraw from the world and to keep from being tainted with the world.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The Brethren claim 40,000 members worldwide – around half of whom live in Australia and New Zealand. The world leader is a Sydney accountant called Bruce Hales. He’s known as the Man of God, or the Elect Vessel.
GARY BOUMA, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PROF OF SOCIOLOGY, MONASH UNIVERSITY: The Man of God is very much a figure of substantial power, because he…is the ultimate authority on the interpretation of scripture within the group, and plays that role.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brethren families take their lead from the Man of God. They won’t send their children to university, and television, radio, personal computers and mobile phones are forbidden. In common with other fundamentalist Christian groups, the Brethren practise excommunication. Anyone who defies the universal leader risks being excommunicated.
GARY BOUMA, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PROF OF SOCIOLOGY, MONASH UNIVERSITY: By disagreeing with the Man of God you may indeed be…engaging in a kind of…deviance within the group that the group can’t tolerate. And that’s what excommunication is about.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brethren are banned from voting by their leaders. That, though, hasn’t stopped the church from campaigning in elections in several different countries, focusing on family values and a conservative agenda.
ADRIAN VAN LEEN, DIRECTOR, CONCERNED CHRISTIAN GROWTH MINISTRIES: They’ve claimed that it’s only been individual members, but the material that these individual members have produced in the political arena has been very similar in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, even in the USA.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: As the Brethren have become politically more visible, Four Corners has been approached by former members, concerned that the real story of the sect’s family values isn’t being told.
YOUTH 1: Get out of here, or I’ll boot the whole thing over.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Four Corners set out to uncover that story – but it wasn’t easy. The Brethren wouldn’t be interviewed, and their attitude to being filmed is hostile, as we discovered when we were quietly filming in a public Perth street.
YOUTH 2: We just realised that you’re a camera crew, so we’re just giving you crap.
YOUTH 1: So, who called you up here, who called you up here – opposers?
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Are you supporters?
YOUTH 1: Supporters of what?
YOUTH 2: Mate, just by the way, I’ll just warn you, in five minutes, if you don’t get off, you’ll be very, you’ll be…
YOUTH 1: Have you got a fear of the government of God?
YOUTH 2: Are you believers?
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: You’re threatening us?
YOUTH 2: No, we’re not threatening you.
YOUTH 1: Are you believers?
YOUTH 2: We are not threatening you – you are threatening us.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: No, we’re not threatening you.
YOUTH 2: Yes, you are.
YOUTH 1: What are you doing here?
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In what way?
YOUTH 2: Yes, you are.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In what way are we threatening you?
YOUTH 2: Do you believe in God?
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Do you believe in God?
YOUTH 1: Get a real job, earn a wage, mate.
YOUTH 2: Yes, I do. I do believe in God.
YOUTH 1: Waste your film, mate. Poor cunts.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The Brethren’s leaders wouldn’t appear on this program. Nor would they allow any families within the church to be filmed or interviewed. Former Brethren say you need to know the history of the movement in order to understand it now. The Exclusive Brethren sect has its roots in 19th-century Dublin, where a new fundamentalist Protestant movement was born. Its leader was an aristocratic clergyman, J. N. Darby.
ADRIAN VAN LEEN, DIRECTOR, CONCERNED CHRISTIAN GROWTH MINISTRIES: It came about in Ireland, in the 1800s, with John Darby particularly, who decided that they wanted to study the Bible, and take things more seriously, with an emphasis on the evil of the world and separating from the world to live…with a greater dedication for God.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Its members were known, early on, as the Plymouth Brethren, but soon there were two distinct breakaway groups – the Open Brethren, and the more hardline Exclusives. Joy Nason grew up in a Brethren household in postwar England.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: In the early days I didn’t think it was anything very abnormal.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Was it good? Was it a loving, close community?
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Yes.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: When she was 10, her father decided they should emigrate to Australia. But, like many girls growing up in a society that was becoming freer, she felt hemmed in.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: We were much better off and we had a much more comfortable family life, but things started to change. Things started to get more strict, and I started to feel…embarrassed about belonging to this group of Brethren.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Embarrassed for what reason?
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Because I wasn’t allowed to go to the pictures, for instance. We didn’t have radio and I felt… I started to feel different.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Then, as now, women and girls in the church were expected to be subservient to their husbands and fathers.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I’ll never forget the time, later on, when I was a young married woman, the Brethren coming to me and suggesting that I should only speak one-tenth of what my husband did. (Laughs)
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In New Zealand, Ngaire Thomas also grew up in a Brethren family.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: It wasn’t really until we start…I started school that I realised I was different. And even then, way back over 60 years ago, it wasn’t probably so much different to a basic fundamentalist Christian family.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The end of the 1950s proved a turning point in Brethren history. American ‘Big’ Jim Taylor, who had taken over the leadership from his father James Taylor Senior, told his fellow Brethren that they had to separate completely from the outside world. From then on, Brethren families weren’t allowed to socialise, or even eat with anyone outside the movement. That included close relatives.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Prior to the ’60s, we were able to see grandparents and uncles and aunties who were on the outside and we used to really cherish those times when we could see those members of the family, but after the early ’60s when what they call the “eating issue” came along, when we weren’t allowed to eat or drink or socialise with other people, that became very, very hard on our relatives.
RUSSELL DENT, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: It meant that we as a family had to sever our links with relations who weren’t amongst the Brethren, because my father wasn’t born amongst the Brethren. He was a Baptist. So that was traumatic.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Huge heartbreak. I mean, wives directed in meetings not to go back to their spouse, who was not with the Brethren. It was just a time of complete devastation for families. Just ripped apart.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The 1960s brought other changes. The Man of God was fond of a drop of whisky and expected his fellow Brethren to drink it too.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Even though the Brethren would not admit this, he was an alcoholic. I can remember being instructed to provide whisky at meal times when we had visitors, and we had visitors very often. I can remember being forced to drink whisky because if I didn’t I was hiding something.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Other eccentric rules were introduced.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: There’s a line in the Bible that says, “Without are the dogs”. So someone decided no pets.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: That sounds just crazy.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Well, no-one questioned it, that’s the point. If they said you had to get rid of your pets, you got rid of your pets.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: It was also a decade of multiple accusations and mass confessions. Children were shamed in public, as Ngaire Thomas discovered when she was challenged about her behaviour in front of hundreds of Brethren.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: They came to me because they’d heard that there was something between me and my cousin and when they asked me if I had committed fornication, I says, “Oh, yeah, I suppose so”, because I knew I had kissed and cuddled my cousin down in the bushes down behind his house. I was put in my room on my own for several days and just sort of fed through the door and told it was my turn to go up in front of the church of about probably 500 or 600 people and nobody bothered to come and ask me if I knew what they were talking about. Well, I can laugh about it now but it wasn’t very funny at the time.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: How old were you then?
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I was 15 going on 16.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: So what was it like for a 15-year-old girl being hauled in front of a meeting of several hundred older men and women and…
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Yeah.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Grilled, essentially.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Very, very, very frightening. Very frightening and it’s something that I will never forget.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In the frenzy of confessions, adults too confessed to sins of many kinds.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I have heard people confess to molesting children.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: And were those acts reported to the Police?
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Definitely not. No, they were forgiven. If the person was sorry, if the person showed enough contrition, the Brethren forgave them.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In 1968, Joy Nason left the church of her own accord. She worked as a secretary in the city and wanted to live her life in the world outside the Brethren. The decision had a devastating effect on her mother, as she discovered when she returned home to collect the rest of her belongings.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: She opened the door and I could barely recognise her. I just said, “What’s wrong?” And she said, “I’ve been fasting to get you back.” That was typical of my mother. She was a very strong believer in God, very strong believer in the religion. She thought if she fasted I’d come back. She thought God would bring me back and so no food or water had passed her mouth for three weeks. She was… It was a terrible sight.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Did that make you feel guilty?
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Oh, yes.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: And how long did this guilt last?
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: You carry the guilt with you forever.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Once it was clear that she never would return, the Brethren excommunicated Joy Nason. She was, to use their term, ‘withdrawn from’.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: They brought in what they called ‘dead separation’, so therefore if anyone left, you had to view them as dead. Now, I do know other religions do that also. I’m not saying they’re the only ones, but if you’re unfortunate enough to be brought up in them and if you escape, then you know that you are treated as dead.
JIM TAYLOR ON AUDIO TAPE: You bastard! You bastard! Bum! Scott! Bum! Scott! Bum! Scott! Bum! You never had it like this, you nut, you.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: In 1970, Jim Taylor, who had been the subject of increasing press and public criticism, cemented his reputation as a Man of God who had supped too much on whisky. A meeting in Aberdeen, Scotland, descended into chaos as he ranted drunkenly at his fellow Brethren.
RUSSELL DENT, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: He took meetings in Aberdeen about the middle of the year and it just became a farce basically. It wasn’t ministry.
JIM TAYLOR ON AUDIO TAPE: You stinking bum! You stink! Why didn’t ya bring some toilet paper with ya? To a very fine meeting.
MAN ON AUDIO TAPE: Yeah, it’s a classic!
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Even ungodlier was the Man of God’s behaviour at night-time.
ADRIAN VAN LEEN, DIRECTOR, CONCERNED CHRISTIAN GROWTH MINISTRIES: For a number of nights he had a lady come into his room, who was someone else’s wife and she would stay there for a long, long time. They actually walked in and the lady was naked.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I find it so hard to believe that the Brethren in there are so gullible that they can actually believe the story that they were told.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What were they told?
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Well, they were told that nothing happened, that she was in there ministering to him by washing his feet and drying his feet with her hair and this sort of… And I think that’s just garbage.
ADRIAN VAN LEEN, DIRECTOR, CONCERNED CHRISTIAN GROWTH MINISTRIES: Obviously what the man was doing was committing adultery. The evidence was very, very clear and obvious.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The moral hypocrisy exposed by the Aberdeen incident shook the church to its foundations and as a result some 8,000 Brethren left the fellowship. Jim Taylor died the same year and the mantle of Man of God passed to a North Dakota pig farmer called James Symington. Ron Fawkes, himself a former leader of the Exclusive Brethren in Australia, remembers Symington well.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: In his earlier life he’d been a quiet, unassuming person and once he got control and had this total power over 50,000 people, I mean, he just became a monster. It’s almost as if the power he had just corrupted him.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: As overall leader of the Brethren, James Symington received huge donations of cash from his faithful followers around the world.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: The vast amounts of money handed over are referred to as gifts to… Particularly to the leading men. Now that money amounts in the course of the year to millions, all going untaxed.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Ron Fawkes alleges that when James Symington was leader, he sidestepped customs regulations by transporting large sums of cash across international borders.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: The amount of money that was transferred through interstate and international borders was just absolutely horrific and I myself was given wads of money to carry for this person across British, Canadian, American things. I hate to think of what would have happened if I’d been, you know, arrested or caught.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Was that lawful?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: It was totally illegal, totally illegal.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: How much money are you talking about?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Tens and tens and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: And this was at his request?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Absolutely.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Brethren believe in the duty to provide for their families, and networks of small family businesses thrive, ensuring that there is virtually no unemployment in the fellowship.
GARY BOUMA, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PROF OF SOCIOLOGY, MONASH UNIVERSITY: They are economically engaged so that they tend to be comfortably middle class in their economic situation. They would also be ready to a assist each other should need arise so that they would have an internal form of welfare that one could rely on, and depend on for cradle to grave kind of support.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: But many ex-Brethren believe the church has lost sight of its basic founding Christian principles.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: The church would be very wealthy because of the property that it owns. How much, I don’t know, but it runs into hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.
RUSSELL DENT, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: It’s grown rich, need of nothing, don’t even need Christ anymore… They’ve got their leader. All they have to do really is do what they’re told, conform and try to be as successful as possible, materially.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Jesus told someone to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. You don’t see that sort of thing happening in there. I mean, we don’t need to be materialistic. As a Quaker now I’m probably the least materialist than I’ve ever been in my life.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Ngaire Thomas married her husband Denis when they were both in the Exclusive Brethren. It turned into a lifelong love affair, which survived the trauma of them both being excommunicated in 1974. Then, as now, the use of contraception was forbidden. Ngaire at the time had four children and had recently suffered a slight stroke. On her doctor’s advice she took the pill to avoid falling pregnant again. And because of this, she says, they were disciplined.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: We were what they call ‘shut up’ or put into solitary confinement, closed up in our house. They brought in this rule of no sex while you were shut up and they tested us out for a week and there’s no way my husband wanted to obey that rule. I mean, when you’re told you can’t do something, those are the very things you want to do. And so when they came around the following week and asked you, “Have you? Have you?” He says, “No.” But, of course, as soon as they were gone I said to him, “You weren’t very truthful there, “you should have just come out with it and said, yes, we did,” because we had every right to. So he rang them up and said, “Look, I’m sorry. I actually told you a lie.” And that was on the Monday night, by the Tuesday night we were withdrawn from.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What do you feel now in retrospect about this enormous interrogation you endured and the fact that a lot of it was about your sex life, your…
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Oh, I think, I think…
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Very private life.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I think it’s abuse. I think it’s psychological abuse.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Hi, Ngaire. How are you?
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Good, thank you.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I recognised you straight away.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Ngaire Thomas wrote a book about her experience called ‘Behind Closed Doors’. Joy Nason is sharing her story for the first time. The two women met during the filming of this program. They belong to a growing band of ex-Brethren who support each other in a fellowship outside the fellowship. This support helps many ex-Brethren deal with the terror they feel at stepping away from the church. It’s known to those who leave as the three ‘F’s.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Everyone knows the three ‘F’s that’s been in the Brethren. And that’s fear, families and finances. And it’s my belief that more people would leave, more people would have left if they weren’t ruled by fear – fear of the consequences of leaving, fear of divine retribution. Finances because they’re very good to their members. They’re very, you know, they’re very generous and help people with money. And, of course, the families. Of course you’re more likely to stay in if you’ve, if you’re faced with not ever seeing your family again.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Ngaire Thomas’s family did it tough on the outside. Her two older children went to prison, and one of her boys became a father at the age of 15. Her daughter had terrifying nightmares.
NGAIRE THOMAS, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: She thought she was going to hell. She’d wake up crying at night-time because she was going into the lake of fire and get burned up. She was eight at the time.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Joy Nason’s father was excommunicated late in life after years of disagreements with the Brethren leadership. His wife stayed in the church. When he tried repeatedly to contact her, he was sent a solicitor’s letter telling him to stay away. He was 82 years old.
JOY NASON, EX-MEMBER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Till the day of his death, he never gave up asking about my mother. Every time I would visit, he said, “Have you heard from her?” He had a stroke. And I rang them and told them. One of them said that he wasn’t a Christian, so they didn’t have anything to say, and hung up. But as a matter of fact, when he lay there after he’d had the stroke, he was very agitated. He couldn’t speak. But the nurses realised he was pointing to his Bible. And they put his Bible in his hand, and he became very peaceful. Whatever his faults, I don’t think that he should have been treated like that. And as I walked in the door, after he’d had his stroke, he immediately looked beyond me, to the door. I knew he thought that my mother would come and see him. But she didn’t. And he died a week later, with no reconciliation.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The Exclusive Brethren told Four Corners, “No one is compelled to be in the Brethren fellowship. Children are nurtured, protected and instructed, but finally every individual has to arrive at their own conviction. The believer can not be other than living in fidelity to his Lord and Master. That some for their own reasons have left and become embittered and faithless to the relationship they have entered into shows their supposed conviction was never true.” The Brethren strategy of separation is extreme, isn’t it?
GARY BOUMA, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PROFESSIONAL OF SOCIOLOGY, MONASH UNIVERSITY: In a spectrum of separation amongst Christian groups, it is…it is extreme, yes.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: As the most senior leader in the church in Australia from 1976 to 1984, Ron Fawkes enacted this doctrine. You were involved in excommunicating people, weren’t you?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Sadly.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tell me about that.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: There weren’t a lot of cases… thankfully. But there were cases where I was involved, and I… make no…excuse. Indeed, I’m ashamed, totally ashamed of activity that I was engaged in, particularly in the area of…custody and access cases, of which I was involved in several.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What was your aim in those cases? What were you trying to achieve?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: The aim… the aim was to forbid the person who was excommunicated, or not with the Brethren, to have nothing to do with his own family.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Tragically for Ron Fawkes, the worm turned, and in 1984 he himself was excommunicated, he says, for speaking out against the Man of God, James Symington.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I had a knock on the door saying that, “We’ve excommunicated you. You’re not to sleep with your wife tonight.” I asked the reason for the excommunication, they said, “You better find that out, work that out for yourself.” I mean, I had a hunch. But that was what I was told.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: What kind of organisation tells a husband that he can’t sleep with his wife?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: An evil one.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Did you agree to it? Did you obey it?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Yeah, I did. I did.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Why?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Because I was just so devastated, so brainwashed, so…just so immersed in Brethren teaching and theology that I knew if ever I was going to get back I had to do exactly what I was told.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: But he didn’t get back, and Ron Fawkes had to leave his home, his wife and his six children behind. In a court settlement, he was promised adequate access to his children.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: One of the elders, who now is passed on, he said that that was there to satisfy the court and that I knew the score. And, of course, I did know the score.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: But you knew that it was a sham.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Knew it was a sham. Total sham.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Because you yourself had participated…
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Absolutely.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: ..in similar shams.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: Exactly.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: The access never happened. It’s this aspect of Brethren behaviour that former church members find hardest to reconcile with the fellowship’s professed support for family values.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I’ve never seen any of my children for 22 years, except when I knocked on one of the doors of my children and was ordered off the property.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: How many grandchildren have you got?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I don’t really know. I think at least 14.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Have you ever seen them?
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: No.
QUENTIN MCDERMOTT: Like many other Brethren fathers who’ve been excommunicated, Ron Fawkes received letters from his children – but not the letters he was hoping for.
RON FAWKES, FORMER LEADER, EXCLUSIVE BRETHREN: I don’t blame them for the letters they wrote. They were doing the bidding of others. But… (Reads)
“To Dad, I do not want to have anything to do at all with you. This is because you’re under discipline and I stand by