Affiliated churches also labeled 'cults,' court told

The Straits Times (Singapore)/July 4, 1997
By Tan Ool Boon

The head founder of the Central Christian Church said yesterday that he was "totally shocked" to read The New Paper report which labeled his church a cult.

But counsel for The New Paper editor P. N. Balji asked the church leader, Mr. John Philip Louis, why he had such a strong reaction when he knew that the overseas affiliates of the church had also been branded as "cults." Mr. Tan Chee Meng pointed out that the British newspapers had labeled the London Church of Christ as the "brainwash cult."

Mr. Louis, 34, replied: "I was shocked by The New Paper report because I was not notified, interviewed nor contacted before it was published."

He was being cross-examined by Mr. Tan for the first time yesterday in his joint defamation action with his church against the editors of The New Paper (TNP) and Lianhe Wanbao for calling the church a "cult" in reports published on Nov. 23, 1991.

The church is also suing the editor of Impact magazine, which was one of two Christian publications used by TNP as the source for its story.

Mr. Louis, a Malaysian now staying in Australia, said he did not know why the affiliated churches did not take the British newspapers to court. He also denied using publications from the London Church of Christ as teaching material. "I taught from the top of my head," he said, adding that these teachings, later published, were his reading of the Bible and his own convictions.

Throughout the hearing, Mr. Louis said that his church, which has about 950 members, could call "hundreds of members" as witnesses to support its claim. He called the The New Paper report, which stated that his church encouraged its members to leave their families, a "total contradiction." He said 95 percent of his members here lived with their families. And as for the 5 per cent who do not, most of them are foreigners whose families are abroad.

Mr. Tan continues his cross-examination today.

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