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Australian Story Report

Welcome to people who heard about us via the ABC "Australian Story" report. (Sorry this link was late going up, but the film will be broadcast again on Thursday, on ABC2 at 9pm, and on Saturday, on ABC1, at 12:30pm and on ABC2 at 8pm.)

We want to make a few comments on the program.

Separation From One's Family

Almost all of the stuff Kate says about Ash being isolated from his family is sheer nonsense. Ash never wrote the note that Kate says he wrote when he left home to live with us. He did, however, leave the key, which was later returned to him. But when, after three and a half years of relatively good relations with Kate and Nick, Ash said he was going to donate his kidney, Kate's temper flared and she told him by phone not to come over for dinner on the Friday before he was due to leave because it would be too stressful for her. (She didn't know the exact date he was leaving, but did know it was close.) She emailed him asking him not to come, and asked him to return the key, "preferably by post".

Ash has been away for almost three months. Kate says tearfully on the Australian Story that she is "looking for Ash" and that he has been taken away from her; yet he's been back in Sydney for two days, as I write this, and Kate knows his phone number and where he is staying, but she won't have anything to do with him unless he comes to her on her terms. She has made no contact with him apart from sending him an email.

Ash has written to Kate every week since he has been in the community, and often visits her and Nick when in the Sydney area. He recently was three days late with a letter, and she said that the next time he did that, she will report him to the police as a missing person. He lives and travels in a motor home with two other Jesus Christians, and so, when he comes by the house, the three of them usually arrive together. I don't think Kate ever complained about the others being there, so it is unfair of her to accuse them of being his "minders" or his "babysitters" now, as she has done on the ABC forum. But I do think that Ash would definitely not look forward to a visit with Kate or Nick on his own.

I personally have never met Kate. I only saw Nick once, and that was for less then a minute. Ash has travelled around the world with the community, spending time in Kenya, the U.K., and the U.S. When Cherry and I arranged to meet up with Kate and Nick at the airport before Ash was to fly out on one such trip, they simply refused to turn up. Kate boasts about never taking an interest in the community, and yet she states authoritatively that she knows everything about what we do, how much money we have, our daily routine, how much time I spend with Ash, etc. In fact, she knows nothing, because she stubbornly refuses to give any recognition to Ash's membership in the group, in the same way that she never bothered to discuss his planned kidney donation with him because she simply was never going to let it happen.

There has been some isolation, but Kate has been the one enforcing it.

The 'Dream Interpretation' Sequence

That meeting in the lounge room, the one with Cherry sitting humbly at my feet, and everyone looking at me and apparently hanging on every word that I speak, was actually part of a very brief (staged) time of silent worship, followed by discussion of things we had received from God during the silence. Various people spoke, but the editor only included the bits where I was talking and people were looking at me.

I shared a few introductory comments on what a "listening time" is supposed to be. Unfortunately, it jumps between me saying something about making your mind blank (while listening to God) to someone talking about a dream they had, to a comment from me, with Kate being heard in the background saying something about people being ordered to share their dreams with me so that I can interpret them. THEN the camera shows the actual silent worship... some deceptive editing.

Hiding Facts About The Operation

There has been some concern by people that Ash did not allow his parents to know where the hospital was and when the operation would happen. He said himself before he left for Canada, that he wouldn't tell them, because he believed that Nick would try to stop it. Was Ash right?

Kate was posting on the Internet that I should not be with him; that she should be there as his mother. So Ash told her where he was (when he was pretty sure that she knew where he was anyway) and said she could come over, that I was going home. She refused to come.

Ash is not the first Jesus Christian to have kept information about the time and place of the operation secret. Some I have criticised for not being more open with their parents, one in particular who I thought was just acting out of fear. But I respected Ash's wisdom on this one.

Name Calling

Pay particular attention to all of the irrational, emotional stuff that Kate says, and how little substance there is to it. I'm called a guru, a manipulative cult leader, told that I'm guilty of coercion, and "alleged" kidnapping, bizarre teachings, making someone "vanish", and having torn her heart out by taking Ash away from her. She is shocked, alarmed, enraged, and full of "aghastness". But exactly what have is it that we have done? Kate is short on actual evidence. She operates purely at the level of her emotions, and she doesn't like to be confused with facts


There is a revealing line where Kate says that what she had with Ash was "very special" because for many years it was "just the two of us". She wants that back. This is the error that many mothers make, when they see their children growing into adults. They want to keep them children forever, and they fight fiercely anyone who comes between them and their kids. Other smotherers will feel a natural affinity with Kate, while mature parents will see her need to let go of him and let him live his own life if she really loves him. I know that it is not easy, but if she letting go is a big part of love. She herself is driving him away; and yet when I try to say something like that to anyone like herself, I am usually accused of making threats.

The Reason For The Ban on The Operation

The documentary finishes with an announcement that the hospital finally made a decision not to proceed with the operation. But it does not go into detail on what the reason was. In fact, Ash and Sandi were both called to the hospital last Friday, by the head surgeon, hospital bioethicist, and the transplant co-ordinator, so they could be told what the decision was, and why it was made.

Up to that point, the hospital had made trying to make it sound like they were seriously thinking of calling off the operation because of stuff found in the second examination, by a forensic psychiatrist who is an expert on the subject of "undue influence". However, when Ash obtained written permission from the psychiatrist for the report to be released, and when Ash started demanding that he be shown the report, the bioethicist admitted that the report was a full endorsement of his right to donate and exoneration of the Jesus Christians as exerting no undue influence. But the ethicist said that the hospital had still decided to cancel the operation because of "media pressure". There were threats that there would be media coverage after the operation, brought about by Nick and Kate, obviously, which would reflect badly on the hospital. They had, in our opinion, been "unduly influenced" to go against the advice of their own social workers, psychologists, bioethicist, surgeons, and two psychiatrists... all because of their fear of a "distraught mother". We would say, instead, that they have bowed to religious bigotry. It doesn't matter that the Jesus Christians and Ash have passed every possible test they could come up with; they are still going to give in to Kate's threats. That is unthinkable, and the effect on Sandi has been devastating.

I wonder what would happen if someone did the same thing with regard to a Muslim donor, i.e. argue that some Muslims are terrorists and that the hospital is pandering to terrorists? Would they back down then too? And where would this kind of behaviour ever stop? Should Jews be allowed to give kidneys? What about gays? Mormons? Hindus? Or is it just Jesus Christians who are being singled out?

The Whipping

It is unfortunate that footage from the mock trial held in Los Angeles was included in the report without any explanation. We had been told by the producer that if it was going to be included, we would be allowed to respond to whatever Kate or Nick said about it. That did not happen... though I have to admit that it would not be possible to explain what happened there in one or two sentences anyway. There are articles on this website that will explain it. You can find those articles here: The Trial.

I was pleasantly surprised on Monday night to see that very few people were asking questions about the whipping images, which seems to indicate that there was more interest in other, more relevant, issues.

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