Exclusive Brethren leader Bruce Hales says man 'in torment' should kill himself
The Sydney Morning Herald
September 19, 2015
The Australian man who leads the Exclusive Brethren has said a mentally tormented young member of his flock would be better to "get a shot of poison" and "finish yourself off" than talk to members of his own family.
Bruce D. Hales is the wealthy Sydney-based global leader of the controversial, 45,000-strong Christian sect, whose word is regarded by his followers as infallible gospel.
"shoot yourself in the foot before you get shot in the head"
Members do not vote, but were at one point meeting regularly with former prime minister John Howard.
At a recent meeting in the United Kingdom, Mr Hales was asked about how a 25-year-old man with "mind trouble" should be dealt with, because he was in contact with "opposers" – people who have left the Brethren. The "opposers" in question are understood to be members of the man's own family who have already left the Brethren.
Mr Hales said "having links" with them was "rotten poison", and that the poison had got into the young man, who is from New Zealand.
Despite having been told that the man was "in what would appear to be torment at times," Mr Hales told the meeting it would be better for him to kill himself.
"He might as well get a shot of – what's the best thing to kill you quickly? ... What's the stuff? Cyanide? No, not cyanide," Mr Hales says.
"Arsenic. How do you get arsenic into you? ... He'd be better to take arsenic, or go and get some rat poison or something, take a bottle of it."
Mr Hales then appears to contradict himself: "Now I'm not advocating him doing that but ... that would be better, to finish yourself off that way [rather] than having to do with the opponents of the truth."
"send the bastard back"
He also makes a play on words with the name of the young man's initials, BS, suggesting he was referring to "bullshit", then adding, "send the bastard back [to New Zealand]".
"My wife is going to be worried what I'm going to say next, but listen, I haven't even had half a drink, not even a quarter ... probably an ounce maximum, so this is not brought on by drink," Mr Hales said.
Exclusive Brethren are notoriously heavy drinkers. One of the sect's seminal moments was when a former world leader, James Taylor Junior, got riotously drunk and started abusing his flock and talking nonsense in the church service. The following day he was also found in bed with the naked wife of one of his flock – an incident that split the Brethren.
Former members have compared Mr Hales' recent outbursts to those alcohol-fuelled antics.
In another meeting recently, Mr Hales, a wealthy Sydney-based office furniture magnate, was asked about traitors and said they would "get shot in the army ... [or] shoot yourself in the foot before you get shot in the head".
taken out of context
An Exclusive Brethren spokesman told Fairfax Media the comments should not be given a "literal interpretation", and had been taken out of context.
"Mr Hales makes it very clear he is not advocating any person taking poison or committing suicide. He is using a common, everyday metaphor ... It is hardly unusual for a preacher or minister in any religion to warn a congregation to avoid people who extol certain beliefs and that those beliefs are 'poison'."
The spokesman denied Mr Hales was drunk at the time, or an alcoholic.
The sect's website says that young people are "made to feel wanted".
The spokesman said Mr Hales' advice was about "how to assist a young man who is unhappy ... That could only be interpreted as being made to feel welcome".
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