Taxpayer cash linked to religious cult

The Courier-Mail/June 12, 2008

Taxpayers have given thousands of dollars to organisations linked to the controversial religious cult Magnificat Meal Movement in Queensland.

Local officials now fear the organisations are being used as a front for festivals to generate large amounts of cash for the cult, based at the small town of Helidon, near Toowoomba.

About $6000 in grants from the Department of Families has been given to the Helidon Sports and Recreation Association and the Tabletop Junior Art and Craft Club Inc.

Both the organisations and a website promoting them are registered to cult member Clare Birchley.

The organisations have been running monthly fancy dress balls and music and dance festivals, featuring performers such as Normie Rowe and the Delltones.

The website does not mention the Magnificat Meal Movement and suggests it is a community portal.

Questions have been raised about the legitimacy of the organisations.

Organisers have not provided Lockyer Valley Regional Council officials with their memberships or what organisers intend to do with festival proceeds.

One councillor said: "We realise they are Triple M. They are just raising money for their own community."

Ms Birchley was quoted in a Sunday Mail story in June 1997 as saying she gave up a video production job on the Gold Coast to join the cult and take on the title Slave of the Eucharist.

A family member said Ms Birchley was still involved with Triple M, and Ms Birchley did not reject the suggestion.

She also acknowledged being aware of the current activities of cult leader Debra Geileskey, who sold her million-dollar Lockyer Valley retreat and has moved to the US.

"I have her details but I'm not going to give it to you. She travels all the time. She wouldn't want to speak to you," Ms Birchley said.

Ms Geileskey encouraged her followers to live in Helidon, claiming Jesus would return once they finished a $45 million basilica, which has never been built.

A Helidon businesswoman said many locals donated heavily to the cult and remain emotionally and financially damaged.

Ms Birchley denied the organisations were fronts for the Triple M or had anything to do with Ms Geileskey.

"They are community organisations. They have nothing to do with her," she said, declining further comment.

A Department of Families spokesman said the grants were only for small equipment purchases, not for running festivals.

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