THE INTOLERANT FUNDAMENTALISM IN THE HISTORICAL ATTACK ON KENJA
Kenja was not established as part of a mainstream Christian perspective and seeks spiritual growth through individual freedom and development independent of any particular Church. Kenja’s focus is on individual personal development and a belief in the spiritual and acknowledging a ‘higher consciousness’. Kenja is not opposed to christianity. Our focus however is on the individual and its human and spiritual evolution. We don’t put a label on the higher consciousness which the human strives for. People of many religions, or no religion, have used the Kenja work over many decades.
Fundamentalist Christianity in USA and "the Cults"
The emergence of the Cult Awareness Network in the USA
- In the United States, evangelical Christianity was a particularly conservative religious force and was the grouping which held most of the following of the religious public. This extreme form of Christianity was always on the alert for alternative groupings seeking to stake out some support amongst the American population. Evangelical (or what one might appropriately call extreme) Christian leaders were amongst the first to recognise that the evangelical church faced a significant challenge in the future.
- A significant book was published by William C. Irvine in 1917 entitled “Timely Warnings”. This was the first significant work in the 20th Century which expressed a serious concern on the part of fundamentalist Christians about groups and philosophies that did not openly express allegiance to the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Irvine described groups which deviated from the fundamental doctrines of Christianity as heretical cults. The subsequent title of the book was “Heresies Exposed”, which had 29 printings by 1955.
- Subsequent fundamentalist writings on the development of ‘cults’ in the United States attributed the success and growth of these groups to spiritualism, which a number of fundamentalist Christian authors and leaders considered to be the result of neglect in the mainstream church of the spiritual aspirations of people confronted with the increasing materialist and commercial culture of Western Civilization.
- The flowering of new religions became a public issue in the 1970’s in the United States, particularly with the large immigration from Asia and the growth of such movements as The Unification Church led by Reverend Moon, and groups which found their intellectual and spiritual inspiration in Eastern religions. The amount of Christian counter cult literature proliferated exponentially. Ronald Enroth became the most widely read of the evangelical Christian counter cult writers. Enroth authored two popular texts; “Youth, Brainwashing, and the Extremist Cults” (1977) and “The Lure of the Cults” (1979).
- In the 1970’s and 80’s there emerged a significant number of organisations whose main purpose was to engage in counter cult propaganda. Such groups included The Spiritual Counterfeits Project, The Institute of Contemporary Christianity and The Christian Research Centre in the United States. The anti-cult movement was shaken in the middle of the 1980’s by a defamation suit brought by an alternative spiritual group named Local Church against the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. The Local Church claimed that its reputation had been damaged by SCP in publications about it and its leaders and was awarded an $11million judgement, forcing SCP into bankruptcy. By the mid 80’s however the primary focus of the counter cult movement were New Age religions which had taken a firm hold throughout the United States over the previous two decades. These groups were seen as distinctly opposed to fundamentalist Christianity.
- One widely recognised expert on anti cult groups believes that – “Underlying all Christian counter-cult literature is a strong belief that cults are Satanic, not that they worship Satan, but that Satan is the author of every cult and false religion, and his imprint is clearly seen on them all. The rise of cults constitutes a direct sign of Satan’s activity in the world, for Satan himself has, in his opposition to God, established rival faiths, and lured Christians into false doctrinal positions”.
The Kenja experience
- Extremist groups such as the American Family Foundation (AFF) began systematically attacking new spiritual groups in the 1970s. Getting people out of groups labelled ‘sects’ and ‘cults’ became a common practice – known as ‘deprogramming’ and ‘exit counselling’. In the 1970s a number of conservative groups including the AFF and the Citizens Freedom Foundation (CFF) came together as the ‘Cult Awareness Network’. There were some notorious cases involving forcefully removing individuals from groups and ‘deprogramming’ them – that is, to get them thinking like their parents again.
- Cult Awareness Network (CAN) emerged as a “network of confederated offices and outposts in cities across the USA”. It adopted practices of information dissemination to keep it financially viable. CAN claimed to be a “national non-profit organisation founded to educate the public about the harmful effects of mind control as used by destructive cults”. The rise of CAN and its activities and the American Anti-Cult movement is the subject of a serious study in “The Modern American Anti-Cult Movement. A Twenty Year Retrospective” by A. Shupe and D. Bromley, published in 1991.
- CAN, according to its literature and public pronouncements, claimed to be an organisation with altruistic purposes. However, the altruistic claims of CAN and its affiliates were highly questionable when considered alongside the track record and the size of the ‘deprogramming’ industry. Some experts noted that according to a report at its national conference in Los Angeles in 1992, CAN connected ‘deprogrammers’ had been involved in more than 1,800 ‘deprogrammings’ in 1992 alone. At $US20,000 for a typical ‘deprogramming’ this represented an industry of up to $US36million in the United States alone. Further, the CAN network was made up first and foremost of Christian right wing fundamentalists. Kenja has been subjected to deprogramming interventions up until as late as 2007, and people in the group continue to be targeted to the present.
- A development which occurred simultaneously with the actions of CAN against various groups was the bringing of child sexual offence allegations against groups targeted by CAN. The use of Child Abuse Allegations against new religions became a common phenomenon in the anti-cult movement’s attack on such groups. In societies based on democratic rights, the rule of law and freedom of religion it was very difficult to force people to leave groups and renounce their non-mainstream, non-conventional viewpoints and beliefs. The approach of parents who had children in such groups was frequently to accuse the group of being ‘exploitive’, ‘manipulative’, ‘destructive’ and engaging in ‘brain washing’ of members. Allegations of sex abuse within such groups became part of the repertoire of attacking and discrediting them. Professor Richardson gave a paper to the Australian Sociological Association in 1993, stating in the introduction “Social control efforts concerning new religion movements – popularly known as ‘cults’ – have taken many forms in the U.S. and elsewhere over the past two to three decades that such groups have become defined as a social problem in some societies. This paper will outline some of the earlier efforts at social control attempted by detractors of such groups, and discuss the use of a major new tactic, child abuse accusations, which might be termed the ‘ultimate weapon’ or ‘nuclear bomb’ of social control efforts against newer and more exotic religious groups.”
- A wave of psychologists emerged who developed ways to assist this process – particularly through the development of repressed memory syndrome etc. Many of the psychologists were associated directly with the anti-cult movement.
The Later Attack in 2005 Leading to Ken’s Death in 2007
- In the early 1980s Kenja started to become the target of attack by extreme Christian fundamentalists and right wing media commentators. A number of Church groups called us a new product of Satan. A Uniting Church group in ACT was particularly hysterical. Sometimes we were accused of being an offshoot of Scientology, sometimes a ‘New-Age’ cult. Regional church groups declared we were a product of the evils of city life, etc. One church group declared;
“To teach a salvation (a better life here on earth and possibly after death) achievable through our own minds, positive thinking and personal achievement is a lie and morally wrong. Kenja makes life appear wonderful until people are caught and find they cannot escape. This is the deception of Kenja mind control. The results are devastating for individuals, married couples, parents, and children.
Jesus Christ is the only way to freedom and life. If the Son of God sets you free from the bondage of sin and death and such groups as “Kenja”, you will be free indeed (John 8:34-36). God calls us to receive that abundant life (John 10:10) that can only be found in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).”
- The original attack on Kenja which lead to criminal charges in 1992 / 1993, was fairly typical of the way attacks developed on new religious groups previously in the United States. Parents of a young woman in Kenja (a thirty-two year old solicitor), worked in conjunction with a disgruntled former participant who had been asked to leave Kenja because of a dispute involving the opening of a new centre to:
a. get their daughter out of Kenja through deprogramming efforts, and
b. destroy Kenja by destroying Ken’s reputation.
- In a fairly typical attack in terms of the types of allegations made, Mr Stephen Mutch MP attacked Kenja and Ken Dyers in the NSW Parliament describing Kenja as “a sinister and destructive cult” and Ken Dyers a “seedy con man”. This was precisely the kind of language used by extreme Christian anti cult elements when they attacked groups in the United States in the 1970’s and 80’s. The press springboarded off Mutch’s speech, protected from defamation by parliamentary privilege.
- Documents later obtained in court proceedings showed that the anti-Kenja group expressly adopted “new tactics”. The girls making the allegations had not independently made complaints to the police. The matter proceeded by ministerial reference. The defence in the subsequent criminal trials was that there was a conspiracy to attack Ken Dyers and destroy Kenja involving these people and Cult Aware. Ken was acquitted of all matters except in respect of one which was ultimately quashed in the High Court.
- Evidence at the trials revealed that Cult Aware personnel had been involved with the complainants on numerous occasions before they made their allegations of sexual abuse.
- In cross-examination during the court proceedings, Mr Mutch admitted his desire to “expose” our organisation:
Q: Would it be fair to say that while you were in the New South Wales Parliament, that you were pursuing Kenja as one of the organisations that you sought to expose as a cult?
A: I think that’s a fair comment.
Q: And you thought it was important to expose cults?
A: Yes, I believe – I do believe that.
Q: And you thought you were in a position that you could generate publicity and create awareness through that generated publicity?
A: I think that’s the best thing you can do, is to expose activities of organisations and make the public aware, yes.
Q: And you are interested in making people aware that there was dangers in joining an organisation like Kenja?
Q: And that you wanted to warn people away from doing that?
Q: And obviously, that involved an attack on the leadership of that organisation, didn’t it?
A: Well, you know – obviously.
A: Well, the leader is obviously the manipulative force behind the organisation and I think that should be exposed.
- In May 1992 police raids took place on “The Family” (previously known as “Children of God”). The pretext was sexual abuse. However, there was absolutely no evidence to support such claims. The matter was a massive embarrassment to the government and the police.
- The later attack on Kenja developed through further hostile media directed against the “Kenja cult” and Ken following stories about Cornelia Rau having been involved in Kenja. These stories were promoted by anti-Kenja elements who worked with the press. The Daily Telegraph editorial and Piers Akerman, without any foundation, declared that the first stage of any enquiry into how Cornelia Rau became illegally detained should start with an enquiry into the Kenja Organisation. Precisely the same pattern of attack as had occurred previously repeated itself. The Daily Telegraph Editorial on 11 February 2005 headed "Curious Cult" opined “But perhaps the issue of most immediate concern is her association with the mysterious Kenja Cult, the Surry Hills-based group with which Ms Rau was linked prior to her disappearance... It is vital now that the inquiry’s terms of reference allow it to conduct a thorough investigation into the Kenja cult.”
- In additional articles at the time the Daily Telegraph and Australian went on the rampage against Kenja again, describing it as a “sordid sect”. The Telegraph stated on 18 February 2005; “Last night the Cult Information and Family Support group (CIFS) urged State Parliament to look into the practices of cults in NSW, including Kenja”. The patron of CIFS at the time, which was the successor organisation of Cult Aware, was none other than Stephen Mutch. Mutch had previously mobilized the police against Kenja.
- Like the previous experience in 1992-1993, a disgruntled former participant who had been asked to leave the organisation became active with the Cult Aware Network (now known as CIFS), and the usual suspects and fellow travellers of that organisation.
We move inexorably forward in our willingness to pursue the right of ourselves and all peoples to understand the spirit and human and evolve without fear of suppression or harassment.
- The second attack on Kenja in 2005 was very much a repetition of the 1992-1993 events, initiated by the same anti-cult forces linked to a central hostile former participant. The use of sex allegations was easier the second time around given the prior history and the inevitable stigma of such allegations irrespective of the outcome of proceedings. Kenja was still a relatively large group with hundreds of participants in several East Coast cities. We had survived a ten year battle and I have no doubt the extreme Christian Right and Cult Aware operatives were still determined to destroy Kenja.
- When the next attack came, with the declaration of war announced in the Daily Telegraph it was ferocious and the police moved swiftly and ruthlessly. It came as a shock to the organisation following more than a decade of legal battles where Ken had established his innocence.