Former leader compares church to Moonies cult

The Straits Times (Singapore)/July 15, 1997
By Tan Ool Boon

A founder and former leader of the Central Christian Church yesterday compared his church to "destructive cults" such as the Moonies which are banned in Singapore, the High Court heard yesterday.

Mr. Daniel Eng, 35, said that this was because the church controlled its members' thoughts, behavior and emotions, as well as the type of information they should receive -- just as cults like the Moonies did.

Mr. Eng, the key defense witness, was giving evidence to support the editors of The New Paper, Lianhe Wanbao and the Christian Magazine Impact who are being sued for labeling the church "a cult" in 1991. The editors' case is that their reports were fair and accurate.

Yesterday, Mr. Eng noted that the church controlled its members' thoughts by telling them what was right or wrong. He said members were persuaded not to entertain critical thoughts about their leaders, as such thoughts "were considered sins."

The church believed that all its teachings were the "ultimate truth," he said. For example, it believed that baptism should be done only by complete immersion in water after one has repented one's sins. He added that other methods of baptism would be deemed wrong by the Central Christian Church, because it considered itself the only church with the "correct understanding on how to become a Christian."

It is the church's case that Mr. Eng has fabricated his evidence because he bore grudges after being sacked for having "homosexual sins" and for trying to split up the church. The lawyer for the church, Mr. Cheong Yuen Hee, also accused him of going on a campaign to discredit the church by sending materials critical of the church to members and ex-members.

Mr. Eng disagreed with counsel, saying that he did that out of concern. After he left the church in 1991, he felt very depressed and had contemplated suicide, he said. This was because the church had such a hold over its members that leaving it meant losing one's friends and purpose if life overnight, he added. "Members are taught that the church is the only way to go to heaven," he said. "The moment they leave, they go to hell."

This prompted Mr. Cheong to ask him why, if he had contemplated suicide, did he keep busy by distributing materials critical to the church.

Mr. Eng said: "I was not on a campaign trail. If I were, I would have sent them out to many more members. I have the directory of church members. I only contacted those I felt close to because I felt responsible for my action."

The hearing before Justice Warren Khoo continues.

Members' personal details recorded and passed around

Personal details of church members -- such as their income, sins and their dates -- were recorded and these were passed around to church leaders, Mr. Daniel Eng said. The former Central Christian Church evangelist said that such records were sometimes used by the church against its members.

Mr. Cheong Yuen Hee, acting for the church, asked Mr. Eng whether he "was serious" in making such allegations.

Mr. Cheong: "You mean that your dating relationship with Susan Marshall and Agnes would be recorded somewhere?"

Mr. Eng: "Yes, on a higher-up level."

As for sexual sins, Mr. Eng said that if a particular member was known to be a homosexual, such information would be passed on to the leadership. In his case, the leaders knew that he was a homosexual and had threatened to expose him after he was seen as a threat.

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