Tooth-and-nail battle of a PE father with ‘cult’ over kids

A FATHER’S PAIN: For the past two years, the Exclusive Brethren have refused the man in the picture his parental rights Picture: Ruvan Boshoff
A FATHER’S PAIN: For the past two years, the Exclusive Brethren have refused the man in the picture his parental rights
Picture: Ruvan Boshoff

Dad spends thousands trying to ‘save’ children from rigid religious sect

A Port Elizabeth father believes the rigid religious sect he grew up in is trying to move his children – who have been cut off from him – to the US to join other fundamentalists.

For the past two years, court orders and phone calls have been ignored and door bells go unanswered as the Exclusive Plymouth Brethren steadfastly refuse the man, who grew up in Walmer, parental rights.

Called a cult by one of the many judges who has presided over the custody battles between the 35-year-old father and his estranged wife, the Exclusive Brethren have dozens of rules members must follow – with extreme segregation seen as a “divine principle”.

The father of two – an 11-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter – who is not being named to protect his minor children, said he had spent upwards of R300 000 on legal bills after he was “withdrawn from”.

In the Exclusive Brethren religion, people are “withdrawn from” when they do not toe the religious line.

The man raised serious misgivings about the many rules imposed on members – children must be home-schooled, voting and attending university are prohibited, and no one is allowed to socialise with “worldly people”.

“That is not the best life for me or my kids. I could not carry on going to meetings to listen to continual rants about the brethren who left in 1970. I felt like I was dying inside,” the father said.

The meetings he refers to are a daily occurrence, either at 6am or 7pm, and four times on Sundays. Worldly people are any who are not Exclusive Brethren.

The leader of the South African chapter of the Exclusive Brethren, Deryck Noakes, refused to comment, saying only: “I will give no details. I do not give details.”

But court documents and e-mails show the Exclusive Brethren will fight tooth and nail to stop the father seeing his children.

In a bizarre instance, Noakes sent an e-mail to court officials asking them to ensure Judge Glenn Goosen received it. In the e-mail he quoted a Bible verse and then wrote: “We believe in the infallible Word of God and are beseeching the Holy Spirit for [the man’s name] to be taken out”.

His estranged wife hung up the phone when called for comment.

The father’s greatest fear for his children, aside from social isolation, is the dwindling gene pool within the sect – just 300 Exclusive Brethren live in South Africa with about 120 in Port Elizabeth.

“I thought I was just talking to two friends I grew up playing cricket in the garden with,” he said of the men who were reporting his conversations to the elders.

“I Googled what makes a cult and told them we ticked almost every box. Everyone needs freedom of choice. You are born into it and are trapped. I want more for my children.

“If they decide when they are older that they are happy, that’s their choice – but I want them to know I love them and if they are unhappy or the Brethren lifestyle is not for them, I will always be there for them.”

He added that he had asked his wife six times to leave with him, but she had refused.

“They [the Brethren] were putting pressure on her.”

His doubts and questions, as well as visiting his uncle and cousin who had previously been “withdrawn from”, caused the group to “withdraw” from him.

They “withdrew” in September 2014 and “I was given two weeks to leave my home which was owned by my mother. I was 33 and had to start from scratch,” he said.

Adding to the father’s concerns is his past experience trying to see his children. Members of the Exclusive Brethren would attend the visits.

“On one occasion at the beach, I wanted to run with my son and Jared [a member of the Brethren] ran along with us. I asked him just to give us some space, but he said: ‘No, I want to hear every word you say’.

“After that, they didn’t want to come with me. In the last year I have spoken to [his son] once on the phone,” he said.

The father believes the Exclusive Brethren are telling his children that he is wicked and “worldly” and that is why they are afraid to go with him.

Fears that the Exclusive Brethren are trying to take his kids overseas may be well founded as it seems the sect is planning on leaving the country en masse.

Port Elizabeth estate agents have confirmed several homes, owned by Brethren, have been sold or are on the market and the group is, according to an agent, considering selling its hall in Villiers Road, Walmer.

Gavin Eales, mentioned in court papers as one of the two men who would accompany the children to visitations, no longer appears to live in Port Elizabeth, with his cousin Matthew Eales saying, “He is not around. I don’t know where he is.”

Another member, Michael Stewart, would not confirm or deny the move. He said: “We all have concerns about the way the country is going. I wouldn’t like to say we are or aren’t leaving. You should ask someone more senior.”

When asked who that would be, Stewart said: “I would not like to say.”

Last year the father’s wife, who is in the process of divorcing him, tried, via the courts, to compel him to sign visas for the children – for the US and Barbados. He objected on the basis that he did not believe they would return.

Judge Dayalin Chetty, who agreed, wrote in a judgment: “The pending contempt litigation bears testimony not only to the applicant’s [wife’s] fervid stance denying him any parental role, but her wanton disregard for previous court orders.”

But, says the father, he does not believe this is the end of the Brethren’s attempts to move his children.

“They believe all children born to Brethren parents belong to them.”

4 thoughts on “Tooth-and-nail battle of a PE father with ‘cult’ over kids

  • May 13, 2017 at 5:56 am

    This is not a cult either as you all have said & the Amish shun too. The first person is anonymous, & said they no friends & they lonely, they not happy where ever they are. You can’t get away from your self, maybe you need to get some help & depression pills to help you & get back properly

  • September 26, 2016 at 3:43 am

    My heart goes out to this man. And it’s hard for me to write this, it brings back unpleasant memories.

    Jill Mytton is a psychologist who has done work on “the realistic right of exits” of those who wish to leave these groups. If you do a web search for deryck noakes, and that exclusive group, you could find the results deeply troubling, especially if you are knowledgeable about christianity.

    I did not grow up in this branch of the brethren, or even an “exclusive” group, but some in my group were extremists. As a child I got to know about “exclusives” in the 70’s , when the Aberdeen incident came to light. Some exclusives left the Taylor group and joined ours in Cape Town. In the last decade or so, most of the exclusives left South Africa.

    But let it be said, these tiny branches of the “plymouth brethren” are not the only extremist fundamentalists there are. There are groups in ~every~ religious faith and creed, who seek to manipulate their followers through isolationist tactics. I have seen it around me in the community I live in.

    I don’t come from a healthy family environment, and the dysfunctional nature of my brethren group just exacerbated this. As a young child, being forced not to participate (made an example of) and ordered to avoid certain school activities and dress (sports, music, “worldly” stuff, even people) meant living in a dual world where I pretended to be a normal person while feeling very isolated, anxious and confused about the “sinfulness” I was exposed to. When I was in my late teens, having a difficult time as all teens do, wavering in my meeting attendance, someone spread a rumour that I “had left the lord” and was “in the world”. What minimal social interaction I had ended (or caring people in our group just didn’t know what I was going through) and I found myself isolated and avoided and told I was in the world, much to my surprise and shunned.

    It took years before I got to professional help, and even then it was difficult trusting a therapist
    Please believe me, after years of therapy I have made progress, but I still have flashbacks to my formative years, isolated from “the world”. I still feel unease at the thought of being “in the world” and I still have difficulty in social situations which are “worldly” – “worldly” meaning anything outside of the brethren. I well remember the first time I walked into a restaurant – full of “worldly people”. I didn’t get struck down dead! If you can understand anxiety/behavioural/depressive/PTSD disorders you would have some idea of what is like. It cost me my health my career and ruined my life. I still live very isolated and alone. I hope one day to have closer friends, maybe even get married. Thankfully I still believe in a God that loves me and I have my setbacks, but I get a little stronger every day.

    So this is part of the difficult challenge this man and his family are facing. The challenge is to get his children away from religious abuse and give them real choices in life. They would need support from strong people and detox from mind control. These groups will make you feel that without complete obedience to their rules and authority you are “evil” and heading for hell. Don’t let them do that to you. God’s love surpasses the wickedness of man , may he guide you and keep you from harm. This is my prayer.

  • September 17, 2016 at 9:09 am

    Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowship those deemed unrepentant wrongdoers, for practices such as disagreeing with Watchtower doctrine, smoking or fornication. A disfellowshipped person is to be shunned by all family and friends, usually for the remainder of their life, so go through tremendous emotional suffering. Although there is Scriptural precedence to limit association with wrongdoers, Watchtower application of disfellowshipping seriously deviates from Bible guidelines in multiple ways.
    For every 100 Jehovah’s Witnesses more than 1 is disfellowshipped each year; over 80,000,(1) with two out of every three never reinstated.(2) Being disfellowshipped results in serious emotional side affects because:

    those that continue to believe Watchtower doctrine are told that whilst disfellowshipped they are condemned to everlasting destruction.(3)
    those who become unbelievers, with no intention of returning to the Watchtower Society, realise they are unlikely to freely associate with Witness family and friends for the remainder of their lives.
    The Watchtower explains:

    watchtower 2011 july 15 p23
    Watchtower 2011 Jul 15 p.23
    simplified edition
    “Thus “disfellowshiping” is what Jehovah’s Witnesses appropriately call the expelling and subsequent shunning of such an unrepentant wrongdoer.” Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.22
    “… a simple “Hello” to someone can be the first step that develops into a conversation and maybe even a friendship. Would we want to take that first step with a disfellowshiped person?” Watchtower 1981 Sep 15 p.25
    It was not until 1952 that the Watchtower introduced disfellowshipping as now practiced and the following review of the Scriptural principles involved shows that there is no Biblical justification for the extent to which the Watchtower practices this unchristian form of manipulation. Though there is Scriptural precedence to limit association with brothers practicing wrongdoing, the Watchtower application of disfellowshipping seriously deviates from Bible guidelines in a number of ways;

    The word “disfellowship” does not appear in the Bible
    2 John 10 says not to greet the Antichrist. The Watchtower uses this single scripture to support not saying hello to a disfellowshipped person.

    At Scriptures such as 1 Corinthians 5, Paul outlined limiting association with Christians that practice wrongdoing, not strict shunning.

    The Watchtower disfellowships for practices never discussed in the Bible such as smoking, gambling and having a blood transfusion.

    Disfellowshipping is extended to prevent immediate family members associating with their disfellowshipped relatives.

    The punishment applies forever, or until the Watchtower Society formally reinstates the person. It is considered irrelevant whether the person no longer practices the wrongdoing they were disfellowshipped for.
    Watchtower teaches that Jehovah’s Witnesses alone will survive Armageddon, as only they have Jehovah’s backing, being the only people that worship the true God.
    Listen to God and Live Forever page 21
    “Only Jehovah’s Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the “great crowd,” as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil.” Watchtower 1989 Sep 1 p.19
    Kooky just go kookier!


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