HUNDREDS of former members of the Jesus Army are expected to seek compensation for the abuses they say they suffered while as part of the now-defunct sect.
A compensation plan was launched in September for anyone who has been “sexually, physically or emotionally abused” or had an “adverse community experience” while part of the Northamptonshire-based organization, such as being denied social interaction. or educational opportunities (News, September 30) .
A lawyer, Malcolm Johnson, who represents more than 70 people who have registered for compensation, said he had been told by a trustee before the launch that some 250 people had registered their interest in the scheme.
the church times he understood that the total number of claimants could be as high as four figures.
The scheme was launched by the Jesus Fellowship Community Trust, which, since December 2020, has brought in professional trustees hired to dissolve the organization and its assets, which included a number of large estates where members lived communally.
Under the scheme, which has been voted on by members, claimants can receive a lump sum based on the severity of the abuse they suffered, as well as help with counseling fees, an invitation to share their story with a trustee from the closing team of the church. , and a written apology blaming the abuse on the Jesus Army, which is also known as the Jesus Fellowship Army, and Jesus Fellowship Church.
A document on the compensation scheme on the Jesus Army website explains that typical payments include up to £50,000 per rape and smaller sums for other sexual acts and emotional and physical abuse.
Johnson, an abuse claims specialist with Lime Solicitors, told the church times:: “It seems that most of the abusers were people who were leaders.” He said he was representing “people who were born and raised in the church, people who joined their parents at a young age. Then we have people joining the church as adults or possibly at 17 or 18 years old. . . a large number of women subjected to sexual abuse, [apparently] by high-ranking members of the church, who simply considered young, single women to be fair game.”
After Stanton’s death in 2009, the organization turned over allegations of sexual offenses committed by him and others to Northamptonshire Police. A “closing statement” dated November 2021 reads: “As of August 2021, Jesus Fellowship has received 22 reports of abuse against Noel Stanton. This includes serious incidents of sexual, physical, financial, and emotional abuse. The trustees believe that it is likely that Noel Stanton was at times the instigator, or at other times was involved in the abuse of children and adults.”
A 2019 witness statement from a Northamptonshire Police Detective Inspector in the Independent Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry lists six former members of the Army of Jesus, all male, who have been convicted of sexual crimes. Two of them were imprisoned and one third manwho had been based in Preston, was also imprisoned.
“From the people I’ve talked to. . . it was widely known that the abuse was occurring; people just didn’t talk about it.” A page on the website of the Jesus Fellowship Survivors Association, which Johnson represents, quotes a “survivor” who said Stanton “had absolute authority and could not be questioned.” Says another: “Having women offer themselves as ‘available’ at elder meetings ensured that men viewed women as property.”
Johnson, who has also brought abuse cases against the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, said religious organizations sometimes confuse religious doctrine with safeguarding. “For example, the idea of forgiveness has no place in the safeguard; safeguarding is about. . . protect people and recognize the risk of abuse.”
The domain name of the Army of Jesus, jesus.org.ukis being used as the primary vehicle for the repair plan, but, once complete, could be sold as part of the closing process, the church times understands