Cult that forces members to wear creepy uniforms and cuts them off from the 'evil' world outside says 'no one is here against their will'... as leader's own daughter describes her struggle to leave
- Gloriavale Christian Community has defended its practices amid criticism
- Cult doesn't allow birth control and isolates followers from outside world
- The religious commune claims that no one is living there against their will
- Family of 14 recently fled New Zealand cult saying it was a 'false system'
- Daughter of cult founder Neville Cooper speaks for first time since leaving
- Miracle left the cult five years ago with her husband and 10 children
- She spoke of struggles her family faced as they adjusted to 'outside world'
- The isolated commune, which was founded in 1969, now has 500 members
- Its founder was convicted of sex abuse in 1994 and spent 11 months in jail
A religious cult that isolates followers from the 'evil' outside world has defended its practices after a family of 14 fled declaring they had been living in a 'false system'.
James Ben Canaan walked out on the Gloriavale Christian Community, located in Haupiri on New Zealand's west coast, suddenly at the weekend with his wife Hope and 12 children.
The commune, who refused to go into detail about the Ben Canaan family's sudden departure, hit back at the family's accusations arguing that it was 'entirely their choice to leave', the New Zealand Herald reports.
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Children dressed in Cooperite clothing walk at Gloriavale Christian Community located at Haupiri on New Zealand's west coast
Children at the school in Gloriavale Christian Community. The community, founded in 1969 and which now has 500 members
'No one is here against their will. We only want people who want to be here,' Fervent Stedfast, a Gloriavale member since 1970, said.
'We're here simply and entirely because we want to be here.'
It comes as the daughter of Gloriavale's leader, Neville Cooper, spoke out for the first time since leaving the remote community about her struggles to reintegrate in the 'outside world'.
Miracle left the cult, which forces people to wear the same uniform and bans birth control, five years ago with her husband and 10 children, 3News reports.
Miracle said there was no doubt the Ben Canaan family would struggle like she did to integrate into society.
'Making a decision to come on the outside you leave with basically the clothes on your back,' she said.
'I think the biggest struggle is at our age - I was 45 - and to start life from scratch, normally you would have built up a life from a young age.
'The struggle is just so hard.
'You don’t know any obligations to renting a home, opening bank accounts. You don’t even have a birth certificate or driver’s licence – or any identity to even be able to do those things.'
The Ben Canaan family, who are among a number of large families to walk out on Gloriavale in recent years, are now staying 300km away in Timaru.
Miracle, daughter of Gloriavale's leader, Neville Cooper, has spoken for the first time since leaving the remote community five years ago about her struggles to reintegrate in the 'outside world'
The population of the cult is said to be still flourishing - despite several large disillusioned families leaving in recent years - because there is no birth control
James and Hope Ben Canaan have since forsaken their nun-like headdresses and white bibs to put on everyday clothes, while their children have removed their hooded hats and blue uniforms.
'It's a huge deal for them to stop wearing their community clothes and so they are going to transition slowly,' Liz Gregory, who has offered the family of 14 her home, told the New Zealand Herald on Wednesday.
The father, who managed the commune's self-sufficient dairy farm for 20 years, is now looking for a job.
Ms Gregory said the family had 'come to believe they were in a false system and left 500 of their family and friends (the only ones they've every known).'
'They are hugely courageous…they are very excited about starting life out here,' she said.
'They are feeling blessed, but are aware of the road ahead of them.'
Ms Gregory told the Herald that the family, who do not want to make any public comment, was in great spirits 'which is incredible, because what they have done (walking out) is massive.'
Gloriavale, which was established about 45 years ago, does not condone the use of birth control and it is common for a married couple to have 12 or more children.
The community, founded in 1969 and which now has 500 members, is headed by Neville Cooper, known to the families as 'Hopeful Christian'.
But it has been revealed that he was convicted of sexual abuse in 1994 and spent 11 months in jail.
Gloriavale's leader Neville Cooper was convicted of sexual abuse in 1994 and spent 11 months in jail
A wedding at Gloriavale - a community which promised peace, love and seclusion from the wickedness of the 'outside world'
The happy couple finally kiss and they are carried from their Cooperite wedding at Gloriavale
The population of the cult is said to be still flourishing - despite several large disillusioned families leaving in recent years - because there is no birth control. One young couple were married after just six weeks of courtship.
Their website states the couple 'make vows to God and each other before the Church, for no preacher can 'marry' them'.
The marriage procedure is as follows: 'Then they go to a private place pleasantly prepared for love-making. As they consummate their marriage before God, He joins them together in a bond that only death can break.'
'They return as a married couple to a wedding feast with the rest of the Church.'
The cult has several sources of income which includes dairy farming and deer farming.
Gloriavale consider home births to be significant events with about 35 babies born each year, according to their website.
Children, who are fully dressed, are pictured playing in the pool at Gloriavale
Members of the Gloriavale Christian Community, based at Haupiri, making iced buns
Children of the Gloriavale Christian Community play on the swings and rope ladders while in full dress
Reaching high, members of the cult put their arms in the air during a lively gathering in the remote community at Gloriavale
Smartly dressed boys and girls dressed sit at old-fashioned school desks ready for the day's teachings
The community tuck into their dinner together in a large dinner hall at the Gloriavale Christian Community
Men, women and children talk amonst themselves as they gather in a hall at Gloriavale for a meeting