Mum told to leave "harmful and sinister cult" or face losing custody of daughter
By Alison Kershaw
April 29, 2020
A woman has been told to leave a cult which has some "potentially harmful and sinister elements", a Court of Appeal judge has said during a custody battle over her child
A mother has been told she must make a "definitive break" from a "cult with some potentially harmful and sinister elements" or face losing custody of her daughter.
The woman's involvement with the cult is a "source of ongoing harm" to the young girl - referred to as Lara to protect her identity, the Court of Appeal has said.
cult with some potentially harmful and sinister elements
The youngster, who was born in 2011, is at the centre of a battle between her parents over her living arrangements and her alleged exposure to the teachings of Universal Medicine - which is understood to have been founded in Australia in 1999.
Her father argues Lara should not be exposed to the group's ideas and should live with him, while her mother does not accept concerns about the organisation and wants a reduction in the time the girl spends with her father.
Judge James Meston QC, at the Central Family Court, ruled in January that Universal Medicine "is a cult with some potentially harmful and sinister elements".
"esoteric ovary massage."
He also found evidence put forward by the father "relating to the harmful and potentially harmful influence and effect of Universal Medicine to be compelling".
Judge Meston noted that material collated by the father shows different food categories according to the group, such as "fiery foods" and "evil foods", and concepts it teaches, including "the hierarchy", "soul impulse purpose" and "esoteric ovary massage."
Universal Medicine is led by Serge Benhayon, a former bankrupt tennis coach from New South Wales Australia who has no medical qualifications.
It sells "Esoteric healing" products, music, publications, workshops and courses.
Judge Meston ruled that a shared-care order made in 2017, which also barred the mother from taking her daughter to Universal Medicine meetings and from imposing its teaching on her, should stand.
For it to do so however, the mother should "give formal, clear and specific undertakings" to the court that she would disassociate herself and her child from Universal Medicine and its specific practices.
The father appealed
The father appealed the judge's decision and took his case to the Court of Appeal.
In a ruling published on Wednesday, three senior judges allowed the appeal, saying the girl "must be distanced entirely from Universal Medicine".
Lord Justice Peter Jackson, sitting with Lord Justice McCombe and Lady Justice King, said: "Shared care can therefore only continue if the mother makes an immediate and definitive break from the organisation.
"Otherwise Lara should move to live with her father."
He also said that the youngster's wishes and feelings are known - she loves both her parents and wants them to get on with each other.
When asked, she "opposes having more time with her father and she deals with her situation by gravitating towards having less", the judge said.
He added: "However, she has no way of understanding that a very significant contributor to this process, if it is not indeed its cause, is the mother's adherence to Universal Medicine.
a pervasive source of ongoing harm to Lara
"It is a pervasive source of ongoing harm to Lara, emotionally and psychologically, and may make her vulnerable to eating disorders.
"We consider that unless decisive counter-measures are taken the influence of the belief system and the distancing of Lara from her father are likely to become entrenched as she grows older.
"We do not overlook the fact that she has two loving parents who are capable of meeting all her needs but for (and it is a big but) the dynamic that has increasingly characterised the mother's approach.
"She now approaches the arrangements for Lara on the basis that she knows best and that the father is someone from whom Lara is to be protected.
That is how cults work.
"She views Universal Medicine as a vital and benign entity. She has not begun to understand the substance of the judge's findings and the concerns expressed by others. That is how cults work."
one last chance
The judges postponed making a final decision on the father's application and sent the case back to the Family Division, saying by determining the matter in this way, they were giving the mother "a very short respite during which she will have one last chance to take her own steps to leave Universal Medicine, start intensive therapy, and reverse the process of alienation of Lara from her father".
Disclaimer:This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively. Readers are encouraged to read widely on a topic before forming an opinion. Never accept information from a single source at face value. This website only holds a small amount of information and should not be relied on as a complete source. For example, if you find older information, this should be weighed up against newer information as circumstances can change.