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Family Caught Napping


SO far as size goes the former Newcastle-based sect Jesus Christians might not have enough members to open a weatherboard bush church but it generates enough international incidents to keep its file more-or-less permanently open in Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs.

Right now the Jesus Christians are revelling in a third bout of kidnapping allegations, this time in California; previously, you may recall, it was in Kenya and England.

The Jesus Christians' leader and founder, Dave McKay, is likely to object to my use of the word revelling, arguing that neither he nor his couple of dozen or so followers revel in the assault, the jailing and the persecution that have followed allegations new, young members have been kidnapped. He and they, however, most certainly revel in the publicity.

I have been off Mr McKay's emailing list since I responded with a flippant remark to an email trying to generate publicity and support during the jailing of sect members on kidnapping charges in Kenya a year ago, but suddenly, with a new international incident in the offing, I've been reinstated to his address book.

When the US-born Mr McKay lived in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Glendale I wrote two columns, two years ago, of his exploits, another word he probably won't like. You may recall Dave McKay as one of our Letters page's regular correspondents, often, as do so many, taking Bush or Howard to task over the so-called war on terror.

Mr McKay, who lives now in Sydney, teaches that his sect's members should donate one of their kidneys, in line with John the Baptist urging those who have two to give to those who have none, and at the time of my most recent column 12 Jesus Christians had done so. Mr McKay was among them. About this time the Bracks Government barred the acceptance of Jesus Christian kidneys in Victoria, Mr Bracks saying he was concerned that Mr McKay's followers were vulnerable people.

While I admire Mr McKay's commitment to his principle I, too, suspect that his guru-like status means that he exercises unacceptable influence over his sect's members. A measure of that influence is that all members are required to transfer irredeemably all they own to the Jesus Christians or a charity.

Jesus Christians relate, to use their word, to a sect that has been internationally condemned for its hold over members. The Jesus Christians tell on their website (http: //cust.idl.com.au/fold/) how they have adopted many teachings of The Family, which you may know as The Children of God, although they do not accept The Family's acceptance of pre-marital sex.

Before I tell you of the latest bout I should jog your memory about the two previous kidnapping furores. The first, six years ago in Britain, had the Jesus Christians refusing to hand over a 16-year-old youth in defiance of a court order because, they said, he had joined the sect willingly and "deprogrammers would brainwash him". The second, in Kenya a year ago, involved the jailing of a sect member on family-driven charges he'd kidnapped a Kenyan convert and her seven-year-old son.

The latest bout occurred at Long Beach, California, in May, with family members of a new convert, an 18-year-old high-achieving student who'd quit school to join, allegedly bashing a Jesus Christian into unconsciousness. Yet again, say the Jesus Christians, the police (and in this case the FBI as well) see them as the enemy.

The assault didn't generate much publicity but the Jesus Christians are hoping their response to it will. In the first week of October they intend, they say, to try family members on charges of attempted murder and accessory to attempted murder and, if the Jesus Christians' court convicts them, to inflict a certain number of lashes with a whip as punishment. If the family members decline the punishment the Jesus Christians say they, in line with their Christian beliefs, will accept the punishment on the family members' behalf.

I'm with the family. I'm with the English and Kenyan families too, because I care more for family than for Dave McKay's urge to recruit others to his beliefs.

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