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Not brotherly. Or exclusive

27 March 2015

THE TIMES came down hard on the Exclusive Brethren, who had fought a remarkably dirty fight to preserve their charitable status. I am surprised that no other paper picked the story up.

"Leaked documents obtained by The Times lay bare the extraordinary lobbying campaign waged by the Brethren to win political support and overturn a decision in June 2012 to refuse charitable status to one of its gospel halls.

"Mr Hales [the sect's leader] ordered elders to 'go for the jugular, go for the underbelly' - referring to the Charity Commission - to halt an appeal case which would have allowed former members to testify. 'That's in hand,' a senior elder replied.

"Charity Commission officials were followed to unrelated events by Brethren members, pressured by supportive ministers and MPs, and had their offices deluged with more than 3000 letters from adherents.

"One Brethren member prepared a draft presentation showing a photograph of a car being crushed by a brick wall accompanied with the words: 'This must be our aim. No mercy. Nothing else will do.'"

As well as the news story, there were sidebars detailing the really horrible treatment meted out to apostates: "Members are expected to socialise only with each other, live in detached houses and refrain from eating or drinking with outsiders.

"'We have to get a hatred, an utter hatred of the world,' Bruce Hales, the Australian accountant who leads the sect's 45,000-strong worldwide congregation, said in 2006. 'Un- less you've come to a hatred of the world you're likely to be sucked in by it, and seduced by it.'"

The Brethren hate the world to such effect that "Brethren charities in the UK recorded £138 million in income in 2013 alone. More than 1000 British Brethren-run businesses turn over £2 billion a year. The Church receives as much as £13 million a year in tax reliefs and rate exemptions from the British taxpayer."


QUENTIN LETTS
, writing in The Spectator, had a go at the recruitment ads in the back of this very paper: "Number one word in these adverts is 'team'. Applicants need to be 'team players'. Other hot words: 'passionate', 'change', 'management' and 'skills'.

"A couple of weeks ago the Diocese of Lichfield needed a 'team rector' near Tamworth - 'a visionary, imaginative and inspirational team leader, passionate for evangelism and discipleship, with experience of managing change and able to enjoy modern styles of worship'. 'Managing' change may be a euphemism for 'enforcing' it.

"Meanwhile, Chelmsford's archdeacon was seeking a priest-in-charge for the Southend area - 'a strong collaborative and compassionate leader who can grow mission and outreach'. The use of 'grow' as a transitive verb for anything other than fruit and veg always worries me. The Southend job will include 'nurturing and discipling all in the church for every member ministry'. You may wonder if the Archdeacon of Chelmsford is an 'effective communicator'. Is English even his first language?'"

THERE were two sides to the Muslim stories in the press this week. The case for the prosecution came from Andrew Gilligan in The Sunday Telegraph, who attacked two organisations urging Muslims to vote for their alleged links to unsavoury characters and beliefs: "Both Mend and YouElect are clever fronts to win political access and influence for Islamists holding extreme and anti-democratic views.

"One of YouElect's leaders, Jamil Rashid, told the Islam Channel: 'We're all part of this society, so I think it's extremely important that Muslims stand up and be counted.' [But] when not giving reassuring interviews, Mr Rashid is a director of the London-based Muslim Research and Development Foundation, the think tank of one of Britain's most notorious hate preachers, Haitham al-Haddad, an extremist cleric and sharia judge from east London.

"On 6 March, Mr Rashid spoke at a rally organised by Cage, the pro-terrorist lobby group which had the week before provoked outrage by describing Mohammed Emwazi, 'Jihadi John', as a 'kind and gentle' man who had been 'radicalised by MI5'. He described Cage as 'the leaders in our community - we are all Cage, and we stand with them in all their endeavours.'"

Bang to rights, I think. But compare Matthew Parris, in The Spectator. "Something dangerous is brewing beneath the surface in our country … a powerful generalised antipathy against [Muslims]. What's so notable is . . . the hateful way the views are expressed: hateful towards Muslims, all Muslims, and hateful towards those of us who don't share the antipathy."

I am perhaps sensitised to this by the recent experience of an old friend's (a former leader-writer on two liberal papers) getting horribly drunk and claiming that Anders Breivik had a point. Gilligan has a point, too, and he is doing good journalism.

But Parris is right. Something vile is stirring in response to the undoubted vileness of the enthusiasts for a caliphate.

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