Cults to be watched closely

Cults to be watched closely

The Weekly Journal, 20 May 1997.

A cult with a top UK footballer amongst its recruits may soon be under police investigation after a specialist unit was set up to monitor them last week.

Scotland Yard have decided to target cults and religious sects after receiving large numbers of complaints from concerned parents in recent years. Cult membership throughout the UK has doubled since 1992, with up to 500 groups recruiting a quarter of a million followers.

Senior policemen say US sects are spending large amounts of money to establish headquarters here. A spokesperson admitted last week: “There are serious concerns about cults gaining a stronghold in Britain.”

One of the most successful is the American-based London Church of Christ (LCC), with an estimated 2,500 members, almost half of them black. Ayman Akshar, a former LCC treasurer who was expelled for speaking out against the church in 1993 said: “They sometimes break up families and leave people unable to make decisions.”

Among its more famous recruits is Wimbledon striker Marcus Gayle, 26. Last week family and friends expressed concerns about his wellbeing. A family spokesperson told reporters: “They are interested in him for his celebrity status. He can act as a powerful magnet for young, especially black, people.”

The cult, which has been described as “dangerous and mindbending” wins its recruits by offering them love and support by “love-bombing” . As they settle in, their decisions and life-style are rigidly controlled by leaders called “disciplers”. Forced to limit contact with family and friends, they are strictly forbidden to discuss church activities with non-members.

Consultant psychiatrist Elizabeth Tylden who has counselled a number of members, described them as being “seriously mentally ill” after leaving the sect.

Ian Haworth, director of the Cult Information Centre in London has welcomed the news of the centre. “The squad would be of huge benefit in stopping cults,” he said. But he fears that a mass suicide, similar to that which took place in Colorado earlier in the year amongst the Heaven’s Gate cult, could soon happen here.

Mark Sturge, of the African Caribbean Evangelical Alliance says the rise of cults is symptomatic of today’s shop and search spiritual climate. He said: “Many black people feel disillusioned with society. They are attracted to cults that have an anti-establishment message. They are susceptible to those who say, “We will deliver you”. It happened with the Branch Davidian sect, a splinter group of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. In April 1993, 86 members perished when the cult’s headquarters in Waco, Texas was burned to the ground after a violent siege.

Derek Lovelock, from Birmingham, one of three British survivors, was indicted along with ten others by the US government on charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and plotting mass suicide. Despite counselling after his ordeal, he still believes that David Koresh was the Messiah, who would be reincarnated in 1998.

However Samuel Henry, a 60-year-old self-employed builder and Adventist whose entire family was wiped out in the Waco siege, calls Koresh the son of Satan. Viewers watched in horror as news crews recorded him witnessing his wife, three daughters and two sons perishing right before his eyes on television.

“He brainwashed them in such a way that anything he told them they believed as gospel truth,” he said. “He took his time, like a snake wrapping himself around their legs and bodies until it was around their heads. If he had told them to take a gun and shoot themselves they would have.”

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