Supporting Organisations in Due Diligence
The Metropolitan Police have sought Inform’s information and advice at times of heightened millennial expectations (the year 2000, the year 2012). Inform provided detailed reports about the groups and movements for which the dates were significant. Inform has also provided the police with information concerning potential public protests over numerous religious leaders visits to the UK.
Inform has provided the Department for Education with detailed reports about the beliefs and practices of numerous religious movements which have an interest in schooling in the UK.
Inform has provided Ministries for Religion (or their equivalent) in various Eastern European countries with reports about the beliefs and practices of different religious movements which have applied for registration.
Lawyers contact Inform for information when they have clients seeking asylum based on their religious identification.
Inform has provided information and found relevant contacts for social workers on numerous occasions. For instance, a social worker contacted Inform for help when an immigrant mother was insisting that her five children were all possessed by the devil and needed to be exorcised. Inform put the social worker in touch with a psychiatrist who is also an anthropologist and specialises in such cases.
Inform has given information to the Charity Commission on a number of occasions when they have received complaints about religious movements registered as charities.
A number of women contacted Inform making allegations about a guru who had either raped them or behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner. Inform contacted the police and helped to organise meetings between the police and some of the women. Inform provided evidence for the subsequent criminal trial, whilst retaining enquirers’ confidentiality. The guru received a ten‐year prison sentence.
The Director of Inform was asked to provide an in‐depth witness statement about the beliefs and practices of a particular Christian movement which was seeking to register as a religious charity. The movement had to demonstrate their public benefit before they were permitted to register.
The Director of Inform was asked to provide information about the beliefs and practices of a meditation-based religious movement for a child custody case. One parent was a member of the movement and the other was not.
Inform has provided bespoke training for the Department for Education on the beliefs and practices of five major faiths in the UK: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism.
Inform has provided numerous closed workshops for clergy members, including one in which several Pagan leaders were invited to address Christian clergy for the two faiths to learn more about each another.
Inform staff led a seminar for mental health professionals and social workers in London on the subject of witchcraft, ritual abuse and spirit possession. This followed a number of both closed and open seminars we had held on the topic and an edited book ‐ La Fontaine, Jean (ed) (2009) The Devil’s Children. From Spirit Possession to Witchcraft: New Allegations that Affect Children. Ashgate.
Supporting Former Members
A woman left a New Age religious movement and reported her negative experiences with the guru to Inform. Subsequently, people began to leave the movement en masse and many came to Inform to report their experiences. Whilst the ex‐members did not want to pursue a court case at that time, they found it useful to talk about what had happened with Inform staff members.
A woman left a Hindu movement after working there for many years. She heard of numerous examples of emotional and sexual abuse of female members by the guru and realised that this pattern of negative behaviour by the guru was not likely to change. She spoke out against the guru, including to Inform, leading to some changes within the movement including the resignation of the guru from his leadership position.
Helping Relatives of Members
Mrs A had a 19‐year‐old daughter working on the staff of what we shall call the ‘Church of Love’. She had been in touch with another organisation that had recommended a well‐known ‘deprogrammer’ who had attempted, unsuccessfully, to persuade the daughter to leave. The consequence was that Mrs A was now having difficulty in communicating with her daughter at all. At her request, Inform contacted the Church of Love and arranged a meeting with Mrs A, her daughter, and a representative from the Church of Love. As a result, the daughter agreed to stop working for the Church for two years on the understanding that if she wanted to return to the Church after the two years ‘in society’, then Mrs A would not try to stop her.
Mrs B learned that her husband had mortgaged their jointly held house – not, as he had told her, to pay for roof repairs, but to pay for ‘Health for God’ courses. After many months negotiation with Health for God, Inform succeeded in getting a cheque for over £13,000 for Mrs B as her half of the money that her husband had paid for the courses.
Mrs C had been told that she would not see her son again as he had joined a ‘destructive cult’ in the USA, and that her only hope was to get him kidnapped from the group. She rang to ask if Inform could suggest someone suitable. Inform warned her that, apart from being illegal, such action frequently resulted in the convert returning to the movement as a more fanatic believer than before and with a deep distrust of his parents. Instead, it was suggested that she should go to the USA, meet her son and listen to what he had to say. She should then reassure him that she loved and trusted him, and was glad he was happy and felt he was doing something useful. She should, however, also say that she was concerned because she had heard some things said about the movement that were worrying and wanted to ask him whether he had found these to be true. He would be likely to say they were not. She might then ask, ‘What would you do if you were to find out that they were true after all?’ This she did and, as expected, the son replied that he would not wish to remain a member of such a group. Mrs C, again at Inform’s suggestion, told her son that, ‘just in case’, she had arranged with British Airways that an airline ticket would be available at the airport for him should he want to return to London. Several weeks later the son rang his mother and asked whether she could pick him up at Heathrow as he was flying home that evening, having been asked to lie while fundraising for the movement. He thus returned of his own volition, having been alerted to a potential danger by his mother, with whom he still had a close and trusting relationship.
Mrs D told Inform that she had not seen her daughter since she herself had left the ‘Path of Heaven’ and was unable to make contact with her. Inform’s Director had met the daughter and her father while studying the movement in Japan. She asked the movement to arrange for the daughter to return to England, and she and her mother met for the first time for 14 years at Inform’s Director’s house. Mother and daughter spent the day talking to each other, and although their relationship is still somewhat stilted, they continue to keep in touch with each other on a relatively friendly basis. About two years later the daughter left the movement.
Mr E was worried because his son, who had joined a new religion, was about to inherit a large sum of money. Inform put him in touch with a solicitor who helped him to ensure that the money was put in a Trust and could not be handed over to the movement. Although the son was not very pleased at the time, he was very grateful to his father (and to Inform) when he left the movement some time later.
Mrs F contacted Inform because her daughter and son‐in‐law were members of a fundamentalist church. They were expecting their first child but were not seeking healthcare for themselves or the child. Mrs F was also concerned about the health and safety conditions of the farm buildings where the religious movement led a communal lifestyle. Inform put Mrs F in contact with a social worker local to where the commune was based who arranged a visit to the daughter.
Helping Current Members
A member of a Pagan religious movement contacted Inform because he felt that he was facing discrimination at work due to his religious beliefs. Inform put him in touch with a number of contacts including the main Pagan organisations in the UK and a Pagan chaplain on our network.
A representative of a New Age religious movement contacted Inform because the movement was receiving negative publicity, in their view unfairly. The representative asked if Inform could help. Inform staff made clear that we are a non‐partisan and non‐lobbying organisation and could not directly counter the negative stories. However, we ensured that our information on the movement was up‐to date and available to those who wanted it and that it covered both the controversies associated with the movement and the movement’s own perspective.