Jesus Christians speak out

BBC News / August 6, 2000

Members of a religious group, the Jesus Christians, have been talking publicly about the furore caused when 16-year-old Bobby Kelly left home to join their community.

The teenager spent more than a month with the group despite his family obtaining an order making him a ward of court. He was found by police in Hampshire last month. Two members of the group were given suspended sentences for refusing to reveal details of his whereabouts. He is now in the care of the official solicitor.

Not many people...are interested in our message Susan Gianstephani from the Jesus Christians said the media's portrayal of the story had been misleading. "There seems to be a lot of words going around that are slanderous, like cult, brainwash, kidnap," she told Radio 4's Sunday programme.

"I'd like to challenge people to think what those words actually mean and provide evidence that those words are associated with our community. "Our job is not to recruit people, but rather just to get the message out and then it is up to people whether they decide to follow it or not. "To tell the truth, it is not many people at all that are interested in our message."

Roland Gianstephani said no one was forced to stay with the group against their will. "It's not like we keep locks on doors," he said. "People can leave any time, it is up to them to decide."

In a previous interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Bobby had said he hoped to remain with the group for the rest of his life.

The interview was broadcast after the BBC successfully challenged a gagging order in the High Court on Tuesday which had prevented it from reporting any interviews with the teenager.

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