Ex Gloriavale member questions tax-free status

Gloriavale Christian Community. Photo: ODT files
Gloriavale Christian Community. Photo: ODT files
A former Gloriavale member wants to know how the Christian Community keeps its tax-free status, when she claims it is not meeting terms agreed to several years ago with the Charities Commission.

In 2015, the national spotlight went on Gloriavale with claims it was registered as a charity but not paying tax. At the same time, as concerns emerged about the alleged risk of sex abuse, the Department of Internal Affairs began investigating.

Concerns included how those who left the Haupiri community were treated, but three years later one ex-member says they are still ostracised.

Gloriavale continued to break up families, the woman said.

Whenever she tried to talk to her mother or sisters, who still lived at Gloriavale, she was told they did not want to talk to her, but she doubted that was true.

After the woman's husband left first, and she remained at Gloriavale, "I was told I would be breaking God's commandments if I talked to my husband".

She also said the Government's Working for Families payments were collected by Gloriavale but "not consistently given to the mothers and children".

"Somehow we need to be able to establish some legal leverage, so that the money given by the Government to mothers and children, cannot legally be handed over to anyone else."

Now living in South Canterbury, the woman said her family was living on less money, but their quality of life was "so much higher".

"And those poor families back there, are 12 people squashed, and I mean squashed, into two little rooms. It's a very difficult situation to live under.

"There will be a day of reckoning, of that I'm sure."

The Greymouth Star asked the Charities Commission if the recommendations to Gloriavale were a guideline or binding agreement.

The commission responded that registered charities were independent and if they met the obligations of the Charities Act 2005, the Department of Internal Affairs (Charities Services) had no involvement in their day-to-day charitable activities.

Gloriavale had come up with 18 initiatives to improve its charity compliance.

Asked if it checked for compliance, Charities said there was an "ongoing working relationship with the trust".

"Although many of the 18 initiatives relate to matters beyond Charities Services' regulatory mandate, Charities Services understands that the trust remains conscious of these commitments and seeks to meet them whenever possible."

The Greymouth Star understands some of those inside Gloriavale were not advised that the Charities Services had recommended changes, and that in their opinion, nothing had changed.

THE 2016 REPORT

The report notes concerns regarding the funding of Gloriavale's branch Christian community in India. It found members' own funds could be donated to India.

The report also noted concern that trust decisions were not shared with the community, and members were "coerced" into signing a declaration of commitment document, some of them under the age of 18.

Another concern was how bank accounts were opened, but after Charities investigated the BNZ agreed that in future when a member opened a bank account, they would be seen without a 'shepherd' or 'servant' present, and would be fully informed about what a bank account is and who can have access.

Gloriavale trustees were told to provide the Charities Services with a copy of the policy for when it would be appropriate to "put out" a member. Trustees agreed to come up with a written policy as to how leaving members would be handled, and that they would have the opportunity to keep in contact with family and friends who remained.

A policy on how members wishing to leave Gloriavale would be treated, and the help offered to them, was to he developed.

The subsequent document says people can return to Gloriavale to visit, if they do not speak or dress in defiance of their beliefs, criticise the leaders, or try to influence others.

If there was a "genuine change of heart" they would consider more contact, including by phone.

It also says if there is a claim of sex abuse, they would seek to bring the offender to "genuine repentance" and would seek to move the victim to genuine forgiveness.

If there was another sexual assault they would tell the complainant to go to the police. If not, the trustees would report it themselves.

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