Gloriavale accused of targeting members who spoke out against controlling leadership

Newshub has learned the current Gloriavale members who spoke to Newshub about the controlling nature of their leaders have been targeted for speaking to us.

A human rights advocate says one of the men was made to meet in a room with 70 others and subjected to a barrage of criticism and threats for three hours.

The men's request was simple.

"Leaders should not have control over every aspect of your life," one member told Newshub.

"To control what I would say the physical life - our work, even who we marry, and that sort of thing. That's not actually up to them."

But that call for greater freedom has been met with bullying tactics by the leadership, according to those who've spoken to the men.

"He was put up [in front of them]. 'Hey, you're a snitch'. He felt under extreme duress and under an insane amount of pressure. He said his brain froze. His mouth just couldn't move, he was that petrified," Newshub was told.

Human rights investigator Steve Patterson says Newshub's whistleblowers were called in for a meeting. One, he says, was confronted by around 70 people, including all the leaders. It was demanded he repent.

"It must have been psychologically terrifying," Patterson says.

"We should all be free to give an opinion and share an opinion. This guy, he talked to TV3. He told them what was going on and he was targeted. And in my opinion, he was targeted for telling the truth."

Newshub has been told the rounding up of disobedient residents is commonplace.

"I don't think anyone can comprehend the mental strain that you go under in one of those meetings," former Gloriavale member James Harrison says.

Harrison would know. The former Gloriavale member, who disagreed with the doctrine being taught there in 2015, was called in for a meeting with 15 of the leaders back then.

"You're mocked and ridiculed and belittled. People will laugh at you and make you feel absolutely worthless," he tells Newshub.

"I remember at the meeting physically shaking. Like my knees were shaking. I couldn't stop myself from trembling."

He says the situation should concern everyone.

"I think the average Kiwi should care about this because Gloriavale, whether we like it or not, is part of New Zealand and we pride freedom of religion, freedom of speech. And these people don't have that."

Freedom - taken for granted by most of us. A foreign concept to those inside the white dormitories of Gloriavale.

Patterson says he remains concerned about the safety of those who spoke to Newshub and is assessing his options, including possibly involving the Police.

Gloriavale has not responded to numerous requests for comment.

Former Gloriavale member, John Ready, is taking a High Court case against Gloriavale. 

You can support his efforts by visiting his Givealittle.