Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

Nelson Labour MP Rachel Boyack’s brush with ‘cult-like’ religious sect

Publish Date
Sun, 24 Mar 2024, 8:03PM

Nelson Labour MP Rachel Boyack’s brush with ‘cult-like’ religious sect

Publish Date
Sun, 24 Mar 2024, 8:03PM

Nelson MP Rachel Boyack says she “nearly ended up in a cult” as a teenager, but escaped after just a few weeks after growing suspicious with the group’s “dodgy” behaviour.

The Labour politician was briefly a member of the International Church of Christ, a religious sect known for its aggressive proselytising, while attending Auckland University in 1998.

In an interview with Newstalk ZB’s Real Life with John Cowan on Sunday night, Boyack said the experience was “very strange”, but ultimately taught her about the importance of religious freedom.
“I was approached by a woman on the street who invited me to go to her church, and I thought ‘This must be God speaking to me to go to this church’,” she recalls.

Boyack was showered with friendship from fellow members over the ensuing weeks – a technique known as ‘love bombing’ – but soon realised “they were quite dodgy”.

“They were absolutely acting like a cult. They had come from America and had an objective of trying to find young people at university and take their money,” she said.

“They wanted me to leave my university hostel and move into one of their flats,” she says. “They wanted me to pay 10 percent of my income to them. They wanted me to stop talking to my parents and not go home for the holidays. And so I left.”

Boyack ended up going to media about her experiences with the International Church of Christ shortly after leaving, as she felt compelled to warn others of the dangers.

“I spoke out in the newspaper and to magazines and things because I really wanted to warn people… I thought, ‘this group has the power to remove people from their homes, from their families, take their money. People could be at risk.”

Boyack, an Anglican, says it taught her the importance of respecting people to come to their own positions on their religious views.

“I have a deep Christian faith, but not everyone does. People have other forms of faith, and I think it's important that we don't impose or try to force people to hold our views,” she told Cowan.

“As a Christian, I want to share my faith with other people and for people to know why I hold the faith. But it really taught me the importance of not forcing people to hold opinions that they don't want to hold; not to try to exert control over people in terms of where they should be living, who they should be talking to.

“That experience taught me a lot about how churches can really put people off.”

Boyack says her instinct to speak out about injustice is something that’s always been part of her, and is ultimately what led her “down this political path”.

“I've always felt brave enough to speak out about things that I seem to understand are wrong. And I've always felt comfortable doing it.

“So it almost feels like an obligation to use that approach that I have on behalf of other people to speak out when things aren't right.”

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you