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Jon and Liesel

Read the background to Liesel Appel's slanderous comments on Jon Ronson's "Kidneys For Jesus" documentary.

Note:  Our policy has been not to discuss family problems with the media. We have never found the media helpful in resolving domestic disputes. Our first advice to nervous parents is to assure them that we will encourage regular communication, and to tell them that maintaining a friendly relationship (even if they disagree with the teachings of the community) is the most sensible approach, because most people who join us eventually leave, and they'll be more likely to go home to parents who have been friendly throughout their stay with us. (Annette assures us that if she left the community now, she would move as far away from her mother as possible. THAT is the fruit of Jon Ronson's involvement.) We tried to explain our unwillingness to publicise domestic problems to Jon Ronson and to beg him to leave such red herrings out of his documentary "Kidneys for Jesus". But Jon persisted, and the mother he enlisted in his cause has also persisted in her attack on us since the video came out. Consequently, it is no longer considered a private matter between Annette and her mother, but one between her mother and those of us who have been libelled by the "Kidneys for Jesus" documentary. Thus we have printed the background to the dispute below:


Throughout 2002, we urged Jon Ronson to document any criticisms of ourselves which he felt were valid criticisms, and to give us a chance to respond to them. He assured us that he would. We were confident that he would not come up with anyone in the religious or secular world who would consent to a rational public debate based on proof. No one ever has. And we were right. However, on September 23/24, 2002, Jon wrote to say that he had finally found an issue on which not one, but several people were willing to speak out publicly against us.

He wrote: "There have been criticisms made of the way you deal with mothers whose grown-up children have joined the group. I think you need to counter those criticisms. The accusations are nothing you haven't heard before, and I will tell you which mothers have contacted me, but I want to get their permissions to do so first."

Dave replied: "C'mon, Jon, what on earth are you going on about? You have interviewed 'some mothers' for a documentary to be aired all over the UK, and you want to get their permission to tell me who they are???? Boy, you do come up with some whoppers!"

Obviously Jon was resorting to what all of the cult-busters resort to in the end, and that is to whip up emotional pleas from relatives who object to free choices made by their loved ones to join whatever group is under attack. Such people can always be found, and the shock media is always willing to exploit them.

Jon replied that same day (24 September): "This is NOT turning into a film about you and mothers. This is still a film about the kidneys. However, I was approached by Liesel Appel who was critical of the way you dealt with her personally and this is why I want you to explain to the viewers your perspective on this." (NOTE: Suddenly there is only ONE mother, and wait until you hear her case!)

DAVE: " I would like to know what the actual criticisms are that people like Liesel have made (including who the other people are that you have managed to interview). The evidence seems to indicate that *I* am the one being set up and they are the ones getting all the information. After all, you didn't have to ask MY permission to talk to Liesel about me, whereas you thought that you needed Liesel's permission to talk to me about her. Who are you working for?"

JON: "It is only Liesel. No other mothers. The criticisms are about the way you dealt with her personally through your email correspondence with her. She feels it was cruel. That's all we're really talking about."

DAVE: "Did Liesel tell you that she wrote to me under a false name and pretended to be interested in joining the community? Did she tell you that she sneaked out to Dallas and secretly stalked Annette and the kids in order to learn information about them? Did she tell you that she reported us to our landlord as being a religious cult, resulting in us being asked to move out of the flat we were in?"

JON: "Yes, she was very honest about all these things."

DAVE: "Are we to assume that the only person criticising me in the film is Liesel, and that she has come right out and said that she got us kicked out of our flat?"

JON: "She does not say that, but Š. I think you need to respond - on camera - to why you said she was "stalking".

DAVE: "Now you say that she did NOT tell you about getting us kicked out of the flat, and that she was NOT honest about having stalked Annette. So why did you say that she was? Can anyone believe ANYTHING that you say?

"If Liesel's anger about me using the word "stalk" is the sum and substance of her cameo in the documentary, then it looks like you are getting even more desperate this time to dig up some dirt on me than what you were the last time. What in the name of common sense, does my use of a word that you and Liesel find offensive ("stalk") have to do with a community full of people who are donating kidneys to people who are dying for lack of them? Why is it that you just cannot resist the temptation to use the slightest hint of scandal against us?

"Liesel camped outside our flat in Dallas for several days, talking to neighbours and to the landlord in an effort to find as much information as she could about us. She never made the slightest effort to contact Annette or the kids during that period, but rather she just gathered information and then went back to Florida and skited about how she knows what library we use, what bank we use, etc. She has since moved herself and not given Annette her new address. She rarely writes to Annette and the kids. The woman is sick."

Below is the actual letter that Liesel had sent to Annette after her secret visit to Dallas. Bear in mind that Liesel has never been refused a request to visit Annette and share with her face to face. Liesel has, in fact, never even ASKED to visit. But here is what Liesel wrote to her own daughter, and it is why Dave used the word "stalk" to describe Liesel's secret visit to Dallas (She had written to Annette and said that she would be away in Chicago for a few days when the Dallas visit occurred.):

Liesel: "I am familiar with where you and the kids live, and I spent quite some time there, walked the path, you are walking from 6347 Melody Lane to 8317 Park Lane, where Dave used to live. I went to the libraries and all the areas, where you "witness." I went to the free health clinic, where you probably bring Tyler. I would have hoped to bump into you somewhere, but I still had a great time.   "You know that your mother is resourceful, and finding your where-abouts was not all that difficult."

In the documentary, Jon and Liesel conspire together to say that Liesel went to the door of the apartment and were refused entry. That is a total lie. She parked in a car out in front of the apartment, and was spotted by her grandchildren. Considering the circumstances under which she had arrived, they did not rush out to greet her. Instead, they came and told Annette. When Annette went out, the car was gone.

Dave added: "I just checked and my "Jon Ronson" box now has 345 emails in it. It's a lot to hang onto, but it is necessary because you say so many things that are not true, and I may have to produce them in court after the documentary comes out."

JON (28 September): "Please stop accusing me of lying all the time. The only mother I have interviewed is Liesel. I am not in touch with a large group of mothers."

[So why did he start out by saying that he was??? Behold, what a tangled web he weaves!]

Jon hinted at flying Dave to London a second time, to do what was supposed to have been done the first time, and that was to let Dave respond to his critics.

Dave replied (29 September): " I don't really think it is worth the effort just to give a more or less "no comment" answer to Liesel's concerns about me using the word "stalk" or Ian Howarth's concerns about body snatchers. As you've said yourself with regard to Ian, he looks pretty stupid without any help from me. And I have no doubt that both you and Liesel will look pretty stupid too, if what you have said so far constitutes the case against me."

That same day, Annette wrote to Dave:
"If Jon tries to attack you for the "stalking" thing, maybe he should know that in the four months or so that I was writing to the group (and still working with Liesel at the restaurant in Florida) she showed no interest in what I was doing. She made a few comments about the dangers of India but that was it. She didn't ask me any questions. Even when she picked me up from the airport after my trial week, I tried to tell her about the community and how the week went. She said she was too tired and didn't want to hear about it. Then the silent treatment started for the last month. I feel like she HAD ample opportunity to talk to me and check the group out before I left. Okay so maybe she was overtaken with grief. More likely though it was frustration at not being able to stop me and at losing an employee. She refused to hug me when I left too. She just said she couldn't believe that I would abandon them with the restaurant.

When we lived there (directly above the restaurant) she NEVER went up to see how the kids were. Even though due to my long work hours they often spent 10-12 hours alone. When I complained about the hours and said I felt like I was being a bad mother she got very angry and said I was just ungrateful. The reason I mention this is that her interest at this time is definetly not concern for the kids. 

She has always done her best to break up all of our romantic relationships, and even though it's not a romantic relationship now, I think that it's basically the same thing, where she wants total control. When I did speak to her on the phone she just tried to get damning information on the community, and to plant seeds of doubt about you. And of course she has tried that in letters too. I think that she is frustrated by my lack of response to her hatefulness or submission to her domination. I feel quite angry about it all, mainly because I know its NOT about our relationship (hers and mine), its about control, or her lack of it. I feel a sense of dread about her being in contact with Jon. I know that she loves being the center of attention and this is going to give her plenty.

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