Husband wins battle with sect over $93,000

Canberra Times/June 2, 2001
By Scott Hannaford

A NSW man won a 13-year battle last week with the leaders of a religious sect to get his money back after his wife "made a gift" of $93,000 to the sect in 1988 because it was "a requirement of the Master", the NSW Supreme Court was told.

The court was told Kevin McCulloch's wife, Maureen McCulloch, had become deeply involved with an off-shoot of the Church Universal and Triumphant, which believed "that each human being has an individual presence stationed some metres above one's head . . . from which power can be drawn at will."

After treatment for breast cancer, Mrs McCulloch and her children had gone at different times to live with the group's leaders, Donald and Androula Fern, on a property near Bega which the pair intended to set up as a religious community. Mrs Fern had established her own sect after being excommunicated by the Church Universal and Triumphant because she had believed she was a messenger and revelations from God were passed through her. However, the church had refused to acknowledge her as a messenger.

Mrs Fern had told Mr McCulloch he was not allowed to contact his wife at the property. Mr. McCulloch had agreed to let his wife write the cheque on their joint bank account because he felt his wife had already decided to give the Ferns the $93,000.

Justice George Alfred Palmer found that Mrs. Fern had taken advantage of her spiritual domination over Mrs McCulloch to procure the $93,000 payment from Mr. McCulloch as a gift to help pay for the property.

"Despite her religious principles, Mrs. Fern struck me as well aware of the value of money and the financial advantages to herself and her family to be derived from Mrs McCulloch's payment," Justice Palmer said.

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