The church of a small Melbourne-based family has been accused of being a cult, after the founder was caught in a “bizarre” meeting with a group of friends who are accused of running a cult.
The family of Christiane and Mark Smiths is now facing criminal charges after allegedly engaging in “abusive, manipulative and criminal behaviour”, according to police.
The charges against the Smiths stem from an alleged meeting on July 20 in the Sydney suburb of Mount Gambier where the family and several other friends, including the former pastor, attended.
The Smiths were not arrested, but were interviewed by police, who also found “multiple meetings with people who did not meet the standards of a cult”, the AFP reported.
The case is set to go before a judge in a week.
The investigation into the Smith family began after a number of people reported suspicions that a group, believed to be led by Christiane Smith, was “cultivating” members.
The group was then “exploited” to send emails to the Smith children, according to the police.
It was alleged that the emails were “propagandistic” and included a series of “jokes” that were “inherently manipulative and abusive”.
In some of the emails, the alleged cult members would “ask the children to take over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.
In one email, the Smith sisters told the children they were “the most powerful beings in the universe”.
The Smith family is also facing criminal allegations of child abuse in Queensland.
Mr Smith said he and his family are “very shocked” by the allegations.
“We’re a very ordinary family who are just a couple of people who want to do good for others,” he told ABC News.
I just want to make sure everyone is OK.” “
I’m not in the habit of talking about what happened.
I just want to make sure everyone is OK.”
Mr Smith also said he was not aware of any criminal charges against his wife and children.
“There’s no reason to be worried,” he said.
The alleged group, the Christ Church Family of Christ, had been active since 2010, but did not officially launch until March last year, according an email released by the Smith group. “
It’s just the fact that it’s a criminal investigation and we don’t know what they’ve done.”
The alleged group, the Christ Church Family of Christ, had been active since 2010, but did not officially launch until March last year, according an email released by the Smith group.
“This email was sent at a time when our family was living in a very difficult and difficult situation,” the email read.
“For the past several months we have been working with the police to establish the truth and make our own peace with God, the Church and the Church Family.”
The church is believed to have more than 5,000 members.
“A very large number of members of the Church have been brought to our attention by the police and we have taken steps to stop these people from recruiting new members,” the church said in a statement to the ABC.
“To date, we have not seen any of these new members being recruited.”
The Smith children told the ABC that their parents had never abused them.
“They’ve always been so kind to us and we just love them,” said Hannah Smith.
“Everything that happens to us is OK.
We just love you so much.”