BBC online - Jill Mytton - Richard Dawkins -
The Exclusive Brethren are an Evangelical Protestant Christian church distinct from the Christian or Open Brethren.
Members follow a rigid code of conduct based very strictly on Bible teaching, which provides a firm moral framework and is focused on a strong family unit.
They keep themselves separate from other people (including other Christians) as far as possible, because they believe the world is a place of wickedness. They regard ‘exclusiveness’ as the only way to keep away from evil.
The main group of Exclusive Brethren is called ‘Taylorites’ after James Taylor Senior and Junior who led the church for much of the twentieth century.
Most of the information available about the group comes from people who have left it. As a result the Exclusive Brethren often gets a bad press and is referred to using phrases like ‘an exclusive and secret religious sect’ or ‘a secretive church’.
There are thought to be approximately 43,000 (2008 figure) in the Taylorite branch of the Exclusive Brethren worldwide.
There are up to 16,000 Exclusive Brethren in Britain, with congregations throughout the country.
The Exclusive Brethren is not a democratic movement, nor do individual congregations have any autonomy. For most of the last 100 years, it has been ruled by a series of single individuals. This is different to the Open or Christian Brethren, whose churches are largely independent.
Like many closed groups, the Exclusive Brethren provide a warm, loving, family-centred way of life to its members that most find fulfilling and rewarding. The intention is to provide a safe way of life that protects members from the corrupt world outside.
Members who leave or are expelled from the group have, in the past, often been avoided by current members. Critics have described this practise as cruel.
Leavers are avoided by members of the group because they are seen as having chosen the world and the devil against God and because they could bring members into contact with the sinful world.
Until recently (early 2002) Brethren who left the church were completely ostracised. Members would not speak, eat or live with those who had left and this caused families to break up.
Since many Exclusive Brethren work in Brethren-owned companies they have to give up their jobs as well as their family and their home if they leave the faith.
Addressing the frequently asked question, ‘Do the Brethren break up families?’ on their website, the Brethren reply: ‘The Brethren as a group hate the break up of families. However adherence to the doctrine of separation prevents normal relations between family members when one of them leaves the fellowship. Where family breakdown occurs this is always tragic, however this usually occurs when sin brings in irreconcilable difference’. BBC online article updated 11 August 2009
The feeling of deprivation: I didn’t get the exposure to the normal world that other people had ... My whole family was in the Exclusive Brethren ... A cult very much about families. Jill Mytton, interview Professor Richard Dawkins
Indoctrination is the word really because I believe children brought up in schools such as the Exclusive Brethren now have for their own children don’t teach children to critically reflect on information they receive. In fact the information is usually restricted anyway: so the curriculum in the school will be restricted to areas that that particular group approve of: so children of Exclusive parents are not allowed to read fiction; they’re not allowed to use the computer; they’re not allowed to speak to anybody outside the group. ibid.
There’s never any grey in the middle: it’s always right and wrong. ibid.
It’s something to do with control and a sense of power. ibid. Jill Mytton, interview Professor Richard Dawkins
A combination of smugness and cruelty. Professor Richard Dawkins, interviewing Jill Mytton