Inside the Jesus Cult

Sunday Mirror/September 21, 1986


Last week, the Sunday Mirror exposed the sinister facts behind the public face of the Jesus Fellowship.

We revealed that five young people connected with former Baptist preacher Noel Stanton's cult - which has 700 members - have died in circumstances which required inquests.

Stanton's preaching methods have been investigated by Dr William Sargant, the world's leading expert in brain-washing.

'These are classic brain-washing techniques' he said. 'Stanton gets these people into such a state they become his slaves.'

MP Michael Morris has praised our inquiry. And he plans to question the Home Secretary about the cult's activities.

'I congratulate the Sunday Mirror for bringing this serious matter to the public's attention,' he said.

When reporter Deborah Sherwood posed as a destitute young woman and turned up at the cult's New Creation Hall, she was welcomed into the community. This is her story from the inside.

Girl Joins the sect

The man with the manic eyes moved closer. Lips pursed in fury, he prodded me with his finger and demanded: 'Where have you been?'

I froze and he raged on. 'You weren't at the prayer meeting were you?'

It was my second day at New Creation Hall, posing as Sister Deborah, a new recruit to the Jesus Fellowship. And I had committed a wicked 'crime.'

I had slipped away from a marathon all-day prayer session to phone my mother from a call box in the nearby Old Wharf Inn at Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire.

Now I faced the wrath of the Elders, Noel Stanton's henchmen who rule in the community houses.

It was a Brother, previously a kind, friendly father figure who was delegated to show me the error of my ways.

He acted as inquisitor, instilling fear and guilt into me for my innocent act.

'I know where you've been, don't deny it, We had you watched,' he told me.

'You sneaked out of the meeting to go to the pub. We don't allow that.'

He then revealed that two Sisters had been detailed to follow me and spy on my every movement.

'We saw you leave. You were away for over an hour. We saw you walking down the road and into the pub where you had a drink.'

'Alcohol - the devil's brew. You disgust me.'

Suddenly his angry tone calmed. 'If you stay with us, you will attend all the prayer meetings. We don't tolerate back-sliders.'

A back-slider to the Jesus People is a failure. Someone who has fallen into what the brother called 'the wicked ways of the world' after becoming involved in the cult.

'Do you not want the Lord to come into your life? Don't you want to be saved?'

His piercing stare un-nerved me and I became visibly upset.

'You don't come here and behave like you normally do on the outside,' he said. 'We don't accept that.'

'You live how we do. And follow our rules.'

On entering New Creation Hall I had asked what the rules were.

I was told: 'We don't have rules. We all live together as a community.'

Now I had discovered it was not until you break one of the cult's fearful rules that you find out they exist.

'You have missed part of a valuable meeting,' said the brother. 'Noel has been in touch with the Lord and is telling us what he said.'

'We should be grateful. What do you do? Sneak out to the pub, that's what. You must stay now until the end of the night.'

There was no choice. Immediately my minders - two watchful Sisters - sat on either side of me until the early hours when the meeting finally ended.

In the four days I stayed at New Creation Hall, I was not left alone for more than 10 minutes and constantly bombarded with stories of how I could be saved.

Nearly 100 men, women and children live together in the old village rectory they have bought for more than £100,000.

Drinking, smoking, television and sex are banned.

Married couples sleep in separate beds. I was told several times by an Elder: 'Sex is inspired by the devil.' Children within the community go to outside schools but have little else to do with their classmates from normal family backgrounds.

They never invite other youngsters back to the hall.

Women are totally subservient to the men. They all wear smocks with their hair loose - trousers and make-up are forbidden.

To see the Jesus People pray is frightening. They wail and go into a trace-like state.

Their chants reach a crescendo as 'Svengali' Stanton murmurs and whips them up into a frenzy.

A young man beside me shook and began jumping in the air yelling: 'Jesus, Jesus.'

When most of them reached fever pitch Stanton brings them down saying: 'Beloved can ya hear me. Beloved can ya hear me.'

He then goes into more Biblical quotes in a slow drawl holding a microphone close to his mouth.

An Elder told me earnestly: 'The Jesus People can perform miracles. We can cure cancer victims, arthritis and we even got the paralysed to walk.'

One evening, as we sat down to a meal of whole-meal mushroom quiche. I finally discovered just how cut off from the outside world Stanton's followers are.

It was Friday - a big night for Dynasty fans.

'I love those outfits Alexis and Krystle wear' I said. The Jesus People at the table looked at me like I'd just had a fit.

'Yeah, and Blakes in trouble.'

Not only had they never heard of television's top soaps, even the Chernobyl disaster had totally passed them by.

'But you must have heard of Eastenders, Dirty Den&What about Wham?'.

'What's that. No don't know anything about that.' They said, all wearing the same blank expression.

Route to Freedom

A secret 'resistance' movement has been set up to help disillusioned cult followers escape from the clutches of the Jesus Fellowship. Several members have already got away through the underground network.

The 'freedom fighters', with the exception of the network's leader - an ex-cult member - don't want to be named for fear of jeopardising the escape route. But the Sunday Mirror can reveal that the network has an insider in the Fellowship.

One of the most dramatic recent escapes involved a girl in her late teens. Explained one of the network team members: 'She arrived on my doorstep in a terrible state. She was frightened to death that the Elders would find her.

'I drove her to a safe place to stay the night. This poor girl was trembling with fear and sobbing.'

At his home, the network's leader, said he aimed to set up a 'safe house' for escapees when they want to leave the sect. They're filled with doubts,' he said.

'It isn't a physical fear of being forcibly kept within the community, but a psychological one. They've been told that everyone on the outside is dammed.'

The Fortune They Control

Behind the Jesus Fellowship is a booming business and property empire worth millions.

Interests range from farming to health food shops, haulage and selling leisurewear.

Backbone of the operation is a firm called House of Goodness Ltd. Owned by the Jesus Fellowship Community Trust and staffed by cult members.

This would fetch as estimated £5 million if put up for sale.

A business expert said last week: 'It's a very healthy going concern and with its assets, I'm sure there would be no difficulty in getting that for it.'

Founded 12 years ago. House of Goodness operates a chain of health food shops.

It has two subsidiaries - Skaino Services, which runs a haulage operation, and Towcester Building Supplies, which undertakes building, house improvements and renovation work.

Noel Stanton is a director of them all. Records at Companies House in London show him listed as a farmer.

The cult also owns a leisurewear store, Jeans Plus in Gold Street, Northampton.

In 1984, House of Goodness made a profit of £308,838. As happened in previous years, all the profit was ploughed back into the business.

A financial expert who examined the accounts said: 'It's a company which has grown rapidly and has an impressive record of increasing profits.'

Much of the company's success is due to the low wages paid to its employees.

'The accounts show that 149 were employed and that their average wage was just £4,376 a year,' said the expert.

'Evil World Hates Us'

Noel Stanton refused to speak to the Sunday Mirror when reporters called at his New Creation Farm headquarters at Nether Heyford, Northamptonshire.

But he sent out his secretary Liz Donovan to answer for him.

She told us: 'We are persecuted because we don't follow the norm.'

'We are people prepared to live simply, in holiness and purity together.'

'That doesn't fit in with the greed of our society, the sin that is rampant and the evil of the 'get it and grab it' policy of the world.'

Asked about the fellowship's own major business interests, she said: 'The scriptures say that it is a spiritual principle that you don't become a burden to other people.'

'All the money was spent on helping the growth of the community, and providing homes for the followers.'

'We need a means of support. We have to be able to feed and clothe the members of our community.'

She added that nobody was forced to stay with the community. 'I can walk down that drive and away the same way you will when you are finished speaking to me,' she said.

'Can you see any barbed wire or guards?'

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