An extreme Christian sect is being probed for spreading gay hate and anti-vaxx propaganda among its followers.
Scottish charity watchdogs are investigating after complaints about “disturbing” messages posted online by Scottish fundamentalist group Christadelphian Ecclesia, based in East Kilbride.
The group has been slammed by the Scottish Government for undermining the vaccine programme.
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And a complaint has been made by the National Secular Society to the charity regulator OSCR after anti-gay and COVID conspiracy messages appeared on social media.
Our sister paper, the Daily Record, tracked the trustee of the East Kilbride Christadelphian Ecclesia, Andrew Brand, to an upmarket home in Strathaven, South Lanarkshire.
Brand would not come to the door to speak to our reporter and he did not respond to our request to call us.
A woman who answered the door said the charity had faced a previous complaint.
She said: “It was all investigated and we were told we could carry on.”
A meme posted in January on the Facebook page of the East Kilbride Christadelphians, who believe in creationism and who seek to use the bible to attack the life-saving social distancing message.
It shows a man praying before a TV screen saying “stay home”, accompanied by the Bible quote: “Those who regard vain idols Forsake their faithfulness”.
Another meme implies COVID-19 is a hoax. It displays pictures of the coronavirus next to the Bible quote: “God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie”.
Another refers to “poison medicine” – referring to a syringe and a bottle of vaccine.
The NSS also raised concerns about posts with homophobic content.
One meme posted on the group’s Facebook page shows a depiction of the destruction of the biblical cities Sodom and Gomorrah with the words “teach kids LGBT history”.
According to some interpretations, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed as punishment for homosexual activity among their inhabitants.
Another posted in March shows a picture of a wolf in rainbow sheepskin, with the words “it’s OK, we only want equality”.
NSS head of policy and research Megan Manson said the group should not be allowed to operate as a charity.
She said: “It is extremely disturbing to see a registered charity apparently discouraging the public from getting a COVID-19 vaccine or following social distancing guidelines, as well as promoting homophobia.
“These harmful messages are clearly being posted under the charitable purpose of ‘the advancement of religion’.
“If this charitable purpose can allow charities to easily promote messages that undermine public health and well-being, it must be called into question.
“We hope OSCR will make it clear that ‘advancing religion’ isn’t a license to spread harmful conspiracy theories and homophobia.”
East Kilbride-based Christadelphian Ecclesia, which is registered as a charity under the purpose of “the advancement of religion,” posted dozens of memes and video content on its Facebook page implying the COVID-19 vaccine is a ‘sacred cow’.
A video posted in December says the punishment for worshiping a cow idol, according to the Bible, was a plague.
It says: “In the world today many of us would laugh at the idea that a man-made cow would provide any kind of salvation or protection.
“But are we really any different? Did you know that the word vaccine originates from the Latin word vacca, which means ‘cow’.”
It adds: “The consequences of not repenting of the medications are more plagues, which are listed in Revelations 16.
“We are currently living in the time of these plagues. It’s time to repent of our sorceries before it’s too late.”
A cartoon also posted in December shows people worshiping a cow statue labeled “COVID Vaccine”.
Other imagery includes a warrior with a shield held up against syringes and needles – encouraging people to defend themselves against vaccination.
A meme posted in January shows a picture of the COVID-19 vaccine alongside a Bible quote saying: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands…And they did not repent of their murders or their poison medicine”.
Some content appears to encourage defying government guidance on social distancing. A cartoon posted in November 2020 shows a picture of a coronavirus and a church, with the words: “We all get tested to see if God is first in our lives”.
In a 2019 report the NSS argued that ‘the advancement of religion’ should be removed as a charitable purpose.
A Scottish Government spokesperson blasted the group’s dangerous messages.
A spokesman said: “Getting vaccinated saves lives and helps protect the NHS by making it much less likely that people will need hospital treatment if they do get COVID – and faith leaders have actively encouraged and supported the vaccination drive.
“Deliberately spreading misinformation about the vaccine is irresponsible and reckless, and people should seek out accurate information from recognized sources.”
Last month a coalition of Scottish faith leaders sounded their support of the vaccination programme.
The Christadelphians are a Christian sect founded in the 19th century. They state their beliefs are based wholly on the Bible.
They state: “Our aim is to live by faith in Jesus Christ, according to the teaching of his followers from the first century AD. We believe that the Bible is God’s word and the only message from him. It teaches us about God and his son Jesus Christ, and his purpose for the world.
An OSCR spokeswoman said: “We have received concerns about the recent social media activity of East Kilbride Christadelphian Ecclesia, SC010420.
“These concerns are being assessed in line with our inquiry policy to determine whether OSCR needs to take any regulatory action. We cannot comment any further at this time.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.