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

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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 the University of Auckland 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 per cent 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.

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