Glorious labor lawsuit: father feared for the safety of his daughters in the community

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Former member John Ready says he felt like he had no control over his children’s lives once they were born into the community.
Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

A former member of Gloriavale’s Christian community has told a court that his daughter suffered third-degree burns after an attack while working in the kitchen.

Six women, including the man’s sister, argue in the Christchurch labor court that they were employees, not volunteers, during their stay in Gloriavale.

Former member John Ready said that while his epileptic daughter was working in the kitchen with boiling water, she had a seizure and suffered severe burns – one of which went unnoticed for six hours.

“Her hand was taken care of, but she had a third-degree burn on her shoulder… Nobody was aware of it, not even my daughter was aware that night,” Ready said.

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The community would likely last longer without the leadership than it would without the single women, Ready said.

He questioned the safety of the community for his eight daughters and two sons.

“Unfortunately, the main focus of the young women in the community is to work and produce babies. Their plight is a serious concern. I was very concerned for our children, especially the girls, if they had stayed in Gloriavale.”

Women were criticized for having children slowly, Ready said.

“[The women] became limp, for lack of a better word. And a sort of ‘do you use contraception?’ accusation, that was it. You had to have babies at the accepted rate.”

Some of the more vulnerable girls have also entered into agreements with men in the leadership group to avoid being criticized, Ready said.

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His worries only grew for his daughter.

“I feared for her future in the community because it wasn’t set up to cater for people with high needs. The culture in Gloriavale didn’t allow her condition,” Ready said.

He felt he had no control over his children’s lives once they were born into the community, he said.

Both he and his eldest daughter began to question Gloriavale’s leadership.

His daughter was asked to leave at age 17, after nearly two years of discipline, Ready said.

“It was bad. Her hair started falling out. She lost her hair from all the stress,” he said.

“And I actually got the impression [the leadership] were sick and tired of dealing with her, she was just a hassle.”

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Ready was supposed to drop his daughter off at Greymouth train station so she could travel to Christchurch alone, but instead he dropped her off at his aunt’s house in Timaru.

Soon after, he found himself placed in isolation for days on end and was repeatedly asked by the leaders if he was willing to submit to them, he said.

“I was forced by the shepherds [leaders] just before Christmas 2017 from the community. At that point, I tried to make it clear that I hadn’t left. I was still wearing my Gloriavale uniform to show that I hadn’t left, but I was forced to leave,” he said.

Gloriavale’s leaders strongly denied the claims, saying the women were volunteers, not employees.

Their defense starts tomorrow.

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