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Jon Ronson Tells The Truth About Bobby Kelly


We have been angered ever since the first headline came out in England, accusing us of kidnapping Bobby Kelly. We are angry because we have not been able to get a single media report to state the truth, even though we have done much to make the media aware of the facts. Jon promised to tell the truth in the article which he wrote for the Guardian, and he even sent us the supposed transcript of what he had written, but when it failed to appear in the actual article, he claimed that it had been pulled from the Guardian because the paper is afraid of Graham Baldwin.

We will start by letting Jon Ronson tell the facts in his own words. Remember, this article has never been printed anywhere in the world. Jon wrote it exclusively for the Jesus Christians, as part of his whole subterfuge to pretend that he was "going to" use it (first, in the Guardian article, and then in the Channel Four documentary[on kidney donations]).

Article below by Jon Ronson (but never published)

Like most people, I first heard of the Jesus Christians on July 15th 2001, when they were splashed all over the front page of the Daily Express - 'CULT KIDNAP BOY AGED 16'.

Susan and her husband Roland had apparently spirited away a 16-year-old boy called Bobby Kelly from Romford High Street, Essex. Bobby Kelly had picked up a Jesus Christians cartoon book outside Marks & Spencer. Within hours he had forsaken his possessions too, and had moved in with the group. The police were called. The airports and docks were put on the highest alert. The Jesus Christians were suddenly - in the eyes of the authorities and the media - a sinister, brainwashing, child kidnapping religious cult, under the spell of their charismatic leader.

In fact it was Graham Baldwin, of the anti-cult group Catalyst, who broke the story. Bobby Kelly had, in fact, been living happily with Susan and the others for two weeks, regularly visiting family members, before Bobby's youth minister telephoned Graham Baldwin for his advice. Graham Baldwin immediately gave the exclusive to the Daily Express.

Graham Baldwin and the Express have a close relationship. In March 2000, for instance, the Express commissioned him to write an article about the rise of paranoid doomsday cults in the UK. The article duly predicted a spurt of mass suicides in the wake of the world failing to end on December 31st 1999. 'Doomsday prophets', wrote Baldwin, 'have had to face up to the embarrassment of being wrong about the millennium. The result is that some may decide to take matters into their own hands ...The problem is when there is an excessive megalomaniac at the top. There can be no greater validation of power than to make people take their own lives ...There are already groups in Britain who are so paranoid they believe they are under attack. The Peniel Pentecostal church in Brentwood, Essex, even has an anti-aircraft gun outside the building.'

The Peniel Pentecostal church sounds terrifying, until you realise - as Graham Baldwin surely did - that the 'anti aircraft gun' is a bit of the Ark Royal, donated to the church by the Royal Navy. It has a plaque. It is like accusing the Imperial War Museum of being paranoid and heavily armed. The Jesus Christians, too, are among Graham Baldwin's favourite targets. 'Bobby was under their spell within a few hours,' he told the Daily Express. 'It is scary stuff. These people can turn people's minds in just 24 hours.'

Graham Baldwin did more than simply reveal the Bobby Kelly story to the Express. He helped to organise legal aid for the emergency High Court action to try and rescue the boy. The High Court action led to Britain's airports and docks being put on the highest alert, and Bobby Kelly's photograph circulated widely. That's when the Jesus Christians panicked and went on the run, with Bobby Kelly in tow. They became fugitives from justice for two weeks. (Unbeknownst to the outside world - which imagined Bobby had been spirited away abroad - it was a rather provincial run: The Jesus Christians went to Hounslow because it has free parking, Heston service station for their nightly showers, and a campsite on the Surrey-Hampshire border).

When the group tried to put their side of the story to Radio 4's Today programme, Graham Baldwin helped to organise a high court injunction forbidding the BBC from broadcasting the interview.

'Isn't that classic!' wrote Dave McKay at the time on his website. 'Now that our critics have succeeded in slandering our name all over Britain, they want to gag us. And yet some people still tell us that we should have blind faith in the British system of justice! No, something is very wrong here.'

Graham Baldwin's language informed all the subsequent reporting of the story. The Jesus Christians were labelled a 'cult' across the media - tabloids, broadsheets, and television news alike. He told the Daily Express, 'When Bobby is found he will be resentful at first. It will take time to sort him out. He has only been a short time with the group so he may respond quickly.'

The implication was that Graham Baldwin didn't just want to break and control the story as it unfolded. He wanted to end it too, by counselling Bobby once he'd been found.

'This is not a family feud over custody,' wrote Dave McKay on his website. 'It is a theological battle between two separate religious groups: Graham Baldwin's cult-busters and the Jesus Christians.'

The scandal ended peacefully. Bobby Kelly was found safe and well in a campsite, and was made a ward of court. I interviewed Bobby Kelly shortly after he was found. He spoke highly about the Jesus Christians, and it became clear to me that some of the reporting was biased and verged on the hysterical. This is why Dave McKay decided - a year later - to give me the scoop on the kidney endeavour.

end of report.

Jon wrote, in an email dated 13 April, 2002, which included the above report:

"What do you think? I fully intend to put this stuff in the documentary."

Of course he did not, any more than he fully intended to put it in the Guardian article.  Jon, we later learned, specialises in buttering up groups which he fully intends to stab in the back later on.  We are definitely not the first group he has done this to.

And even in the above report, Jon Ronson left out some significant facts.

Fact number one: Bobby had written permission from his grandmother to be with us for those two weeks. (We still have the paper, signed by his grandmother.) He did not just "disappear".

Fact two: Bobby never, at any time, "joined" (or even plannd to join) the Jesus Christians. He had only come to be with us for a few weeks during school holidays, including a two week trip to Germany on an outreach.

Fact three: Bobby phoned his grandmother every night of the two weeks that he was with us.

Fact four: In the middle of that week, Bobby even returned home to spend the night with his grandmother for one night.

Fact five: At no time did his grandmother ever say that she wanted him to come home. In fact, she had been advised by the cult busters not to say anything about what they were planning to do.  They convinced her that any slip on her part would force us to grab Bobby and run!  But really, the secrecy was so that we would be caught by surprise when the totally false announcement was made that we had "kidnapped" Bobby.

Fact six: His grandmother was pressured into signing papers relieving herself of all rights to custody of Bobby, thus making him a ward of the courts, so that Graham Baldwin and company could proceed with their plan to take Bobby into custody and thus become the real kidnappers. To do that, Bobby's grandmother had to pretend that he was incorrigible, which was so far from the truth as to be laughable.  He was a very polite, mature, mid-mannered young man.  So when we went on the run with Bobby, it was not that we were trying to keep him away from his grandmother (whom he even phoned while on the run), but that we were keeping him away from Graham Baldwin and company.

On April 7, 2002, Jon Ronson wrote to us, trying to convince us (yet again) that the material we have quoted above, which never appeared in The Guardian, would definitely make it into his video report on ourselves:
"Yes, it is unfortunate about Graham Baldwin being taken out of the [Guardian] article for legal reasons (including the stuff about Bobby living happily with the JC's for two weeks before Graham Baldwin called the Express, etc). But that doesn't mean that that stuff won't be in the documentary - which will get a million viewers, as opposed to the 100,000 or so that read the article.

I should stress that those legal changes - unfortunate as they are - were not censorship. They were not even anything to do with the Jesus Christians. They were the result/by product of longstanding difficulties between Graham Baldwin and the Guardian."

Sounds more like a long-standing conspiracy between Graham Baldwin and the Guardian, to us!  So who does Jon blame for his distortion of the facts in the Channel Four documentary?
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