Where it began

Kenja's story, whilst shocking, is unfortunately not unique. Around the world and throughout human history, many groups and individuals who have sought to encourage greater spiritual understanding have been actively discriminated against and even attacked by those who stand to lose when individuality, spirituality and freedom are pursued. We hope that by telling our story, we can inspire hope in those who have unfairly come under fire, and enlightenment inthose who have ever feared or mistrusted on the basis of hearsay and smear.

Over the past 23 years both Ken Dyers and Kenja have been attacked by spurious “anti-cult” groups.

These attacks originated from an organisation in America called “Cult Awareness Network” which was a referral group for "deprogramming", the forcing of an individual to adopt another individual’s belief system. Deprogrammers initially employed techniques such as kidnapping, assault and sexual assault, often coming into conflict with American authorities.

The activities of the Cult Awareness Network and its “deprogramming” activities were exposed in the famous Dupont case in Virginia in the early 1990s.

Cult Awareness Network collapsed in America in 1995 after a legal case brought by Jason Scott against Cult Awareness Network in Seattle, whom they had kidnapped andattempted to deprogram. Australia however provided potentially prosperous new ground.

Their tactic was to target disgruntled and hostile ex-Kenja participants and promote them almost like advertising in the press. This “networking” extended to a Member of Parliament, Mr Stephen Mutch MP. But their campaign against Kenja failed. Mr Stephen Mutch now operates an anti-cult advisory business and is the patron of Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS).

Click here for the Intolerant Fundamentalism in the Historical Attack on Kenja

Throughout 1992, two disgruntled former Kenja participants – one who was asked to leave after striking a child and another for the inexplicable disappearance of Kenja funds in her possession on 3 separate occasions – tried through ties with the Anti-Cult Movement – to bring charges against Kenja for “brainwashing” them. This failed.

After that four young women, daughters of the women associated with this failed legal effort were canvassed to be part of new tactics in the campaign to destroy Kenja. Police went to their homes, emerging with allegations against Ken. The girls had said in an interview with Mr Mutch, who conducted an initial interview with them in the Parliament in Victoria, that they were“motivated by hate for the group basically”.

These same young women were part of a failed attempt to deprogram a young man who had been hospitalised for drug abuse (marijuana) and paranoid schizophrenia. Cult Aware personnel had influenced his mother to take the suicidal young man out of hospital and have him “deprogrammed”. He refused to denounce Kenja as a cult – but after a number of “deprogrammings” he apparently signed a letter denouncing Kenja after or during seeing the politician involved. He then committed suicide.

The young man had started a new life free of drugs with Kenja's help - some years earlier. He had been pulled back into criminality by his brother and left Kenja years previously.

It was after his suicide and the mothers’ failed legal attempt (mentioned before) that the girls spoke to the police.

The case

Following the girls’ allegations, Ken Dyers was prosecuted in 1993 on 16 counts of sexual assault. The mothers of the girls were best friends and had both previously been asked to discontinue the Kenja training. The defence case was that the allegations were part of a conspiracy to frame-up Ken with sex allegations. Ken was acquitted by a jury on all counts except one, in a separate trial on one allegation – which was quashed in the High Court after a 10 year legal battle.

Kenja’s battle during this first attack

During this first attack we undertook and won 3 actions by professional bodies against biased reporting in the media.

Use of the word “cult”

During this period academics, particularly in America, argued the use of the word “cult” incited prejudice, hate and antagonism towards the groups, in the same way as racially stigmatized words.

Click here to refer to the article by Professor James Richardson "Journalistic bias against new religious movements in Australia"

Click here to refer to the article by Professor James Richardson "New religions and child abuse accusations: social problem or social control?"

European Court of Human Rights says government references to ‘cult’ in describing minority religions is damaging and a denial of human rights

The European Court of Human Rights recently decided that government authorities should not refer to minority religious groups as ‘cults’, as the term is misleading, derogatory and a denial of the rights of members of religious communities to freedom of religion and freedom of speech. The case, Tonchev and others v Bulgaria 2022, arose from the complaints by three evangelical and pentacostal churches in the Bulgarian city of Burgas. The city’s education authorities had sent a letter to all schools, requesting that schools tell students that the groups were ‘cults’ and were dangerous, and that essentially the Bulgarian orthodox church was the only legitimate religion.

The European Court relied on an earlier decision it had made in 2021 against the Russian Federation, where the Russian government had declared Hare Krishna a ‘dangerous and totalitarian cult’. In the Russian case, the Court, referring to the Guarantee of Religious Freedom under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, stated; "the Court has considered that the use of hostile or derogatory terms in referring to a religious community in documents issued by public authorities, insofar as it is likely to have negative consequences on the exercise by its members of their freedom of religion, is sufficient to constitute an infringement of the rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the Convention".

The decisions of the Court in relation to the Russian and Bulgarian cases overruled earlier precedents of the Court in 2001, which had permitted the French government to refer to a religious minority as a ‘cult’. The Court decision clearly marks significant progress in the recognition of the rights and freedoms of people who participate in non-major ‘new religious movements or community groupings’, which might otherwise be described neutrally as ‘sects’. The Court clearly disapproved of the negative repercussions on the exercise of religious and cultural freedom on members of organisations labelled in that way. The Court accordingly has sought to enshrine the right of minority groupings and religions not to be the subject of slanderous and prejudicial language by public authorities.

The second attack

A second attack against Kenja was launched with new allegations in 2005.

The later allegations that were levelled against Mr Dyers arose in the context of disputes with two families. The claims were motivated by hostility and personal conflicts. One of the conflicts involved a former participant being asked to leave the organisation because of inappropriate relations with his daughter. And the other family dispute arose in the context of a marital split and a dispute over substantial property. Again, false allegations of sexual abuse were made in the context of these conflicts. Unfortunately and tragically, Ken Dyers took his own life in 2007 at the age of 85, suffering numerous severe physical and mental ailments, and disturbed at the prospect of facing imprisonment before trial, which would have almost certainly led to his death. As a result, he was unable to establish his innocence in court, as he had declared he intended to do in October 2005 at his successful bail hearing. The Mental Health Review Tribunal had declared Mr Dyers unfit to stand trial in June 2007.

This was a terrible tragedy and a great loss of an inspiring and dedicated man. Ken had committed no crime. His insistence on a principled and ethical basis of conduct for those who wanted to be part of Kenja led some people to be hostile and disgruntled when asked to leave because of their unethical and dishonest conduct. Those people wanted to discredit and destroy Kenja. They have not succeeded, despite their hostility which continues to this day. Kenja continues to thrive and bring creativity and joy to the lives of many despite these attacks and smears.

The Wikipedia entry on Kenja was substantially authored by the man expelled from Kenja in July 2002 because of his criminal activities and who was instrumental in organising the second round of attacks against Ken.
We are confident that this individual will soon be brought before the courts to answer for his misconduct, dishonesty and criminal activities.

"Morals and sound policy require that the state should not violate the conscience of the individual. All our history gives confirmation to the view that liberty of conscience has a moral and social value which makes it worthy of preservation at the hands of the state. So deep in its significance and vital, indeed, is it to the integrity of man's moral and spiritual nature that nothing short of the self-preservation of the state should warrant its violation; and it may well be questioned whether the state which preserves its life by a settled policy of violation of the conscience of the individual will not in fact ultimately lose it by the process."

Fiske Stone
Former Chief Justice
US Supreme Court

Click here for Kenja Communication media statement regarding the “Stateless” mini-series

'Beyond Our Ken', a pseudo-documentary based on a hostile narrative

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