Church is ‘cultic,’ says former leader
Tells court how leaders controlled lives of members.
The Straits Times (Singapore), 11 July 1997.
By Tan Ool Boon
A founder and former evangelist of the Central Christian Church broke down in court yesterday, saying that he was sorry for having helped to create a group with “cultic” practices.
Mr. Daniel Eng, 35, told the High Court that he realized in 1991 that he was wrong in controlling the lives of his church members after reading books by experts on cult studies and mind control. He said, “I could relate to a lot of examples in the books.”
After that, he went looking for members who had left the church in order to apologize to them.
Mr. Eng, a key defense witness testifying for the first time, also revealed that a top leader of the church in London, Mr. Douglas Arthur, had threatened him in June 1991. The threat was to expose him publicly as a homosexual and for having molested male members here if he “did not leave the church quietly.” Mr. Eng said this was because he had questioned the abuse of authority by church leaders, in particular Mr. John Philip Louis, 34, the head founder of the Central Christian Church here.
When asked by defense counsel Tan Chee Meng what he did when threatened by Mr. Arthur, he said, “I told him, ‘Douglas, you don’t have to do this. I will go and confess to it myself. Yes, I had molested them, but don’t use my sin to cover up your sin.'”
Mr. Eng said he was sacked in that same year — because he had questioned the church’s leadership and not because of his “sexual sins.” He said that the church knew about his “tendency” and that he had molested a teenage male member as early as 1988. Despite this, they made him an evangelist the following year, he said.
Mr. Eng’s evidence contradicted that of Mr. Louis’, who is suing the editors of The New Paper and the Christian magazine Impact for labeling his church as a “cult.” While Mr. Louis had said that the role of his church leaders was only advisory and that members were not forced to do anything, Mr. Eng told a different story.
Mr. Eng, who now lives in the United States, said that church leaders, known as “disciplers,” controlled the members’ lives. He said he knew such abuses took place as he was involved in some of these cases as a key leader. For example, members were told that it was compulsory to attend all meetings and that they had to recruit new members. As the leaders kept records, this put pressure on members to spend a lot of time in church work, with little left for their families. He noted that the leaders also determined whom a member should date or marry.
The sex lives of married members were also not spared as a “quota” on the number of intercourses per week had to be followed, he said. He said the wives were supposed to have sex regularly with their husbands each week. “If they failed to do so, they would be berated by their disciplers,” he added.
Yesterday, Mr. Eng confirmed that the Central Christian Church was a “clone” of the London Church of Christ which had been banned in some universities in Britain. He said that he and Mr. Louis, both Malaysians, were trained by the London church and that they had based their teachings on its materials.
When the Singapore church was registered here in 1987, they knew about the controversial background of the London Church of Christ, and thus avoided using a name that would connect them to the London church. To ensure that their application would not be rejected by the Registry of Societies here, Mr. Eng said he had “engineered” the application by using the constitution of another mainstream church as a guide. His name and Mr. Louis’ were also left out, he said.
“The members of the Central Christian Church are sincere in what they believe — but they are sincerely wrong.”
Hearing before Justice Warren Khoo continues today.