The Stewart Family’s Response to ACA program 11th August 14 titled ‘Exclusive Brethren Exposed’
We are the family of Craig Stewart.
We too have lived through these incredibly difficult and painful times with our mother Ruth.
Our father left entirely of his own volition and we agreed as a family not to meet with him socially because of the hurt and breach of trust resulting from his course of action. Further, our father became increasingly acrimonious and harassed family members. He became increasingly obsessed with his false perception that Mr Hales and members of our church were directing events.
Mr McCormack said in his program that our father Craig was ‘kicked out’. As he himself said later in the program – he left. He left the family and the church voluntarily, leaving our mother, who was also his business partner, in a desperate financial situation. He breached trust in his marriage and family leading to separation and divorce.
In the years prior to leaving our father neglected the business operations which consequently incurred substantial losses.
Mr McCormack says our father (Craig) has kept silent until now – he has not. His course of behaviour has included publishing false and distorted statements in the Blue Mountains Echo, letterbox drops in various areas, frequent & continuing intimidatory behaviour around the homes and workplace of his sons & ex-wife, including videotaping staff, threatening emails and phone messages, criticism on social media, unsuccessfully suing his sons in the Supreme Court and harrassing other members of our church community including Mr Bruce Hales and his family.
Our father asserts that there was / is ‘determination from the top to destroy me’. We completely refute any assertion that there has been any effort to destroy or punish our father. In the years before and after he left us we have gone to extraordinary lengths to help our father with his personal issues. His wife and family have shown him extraordinary compassion and patience.
Senator Xenophon’s assertion that religion or our church prevented our father attending our grandmother’s funeral is baseless. Our Grandfather invited him to the burial service, without reference to anyone outside the family, on the understanding that he show respect. We have correspondence to prove that our father chose not to attend.
Our grandmother was bedridden and had been suffering from dementia for more than 12 months prior to her death. Our father was well aware of this because of his visits to see her during that time. At the end she passed away somewhat unexpectedly with only our grandfather present. Our Grandfather rang to inform Craig within an hour of her death. He invited Craig to come and view her body at an agreed time and on the understanding that he show respect, however Craig was very angry and came the next morning unannounced. He was not kept waiting – our Grandfather let him into the house immediately to pay his last respects to his mother, and allowed one of his friends to accompany him. Our Grandfather was completely unaware that Craig was accompanied by Channel 9 TV crew, who were waiting at the front gate.
Our father states that Mr Bruce Hales has intervened and disrupted our family and business – this is false. Mr Bruce Hales has never intervened in or disrupted the affairs of our family or business.
Our father claims that Mr Bruce Hales ordered him to sell his business – this is completely false. Our father sold half of the business operation in 2003. In 2008 our father was uninterested and neglecting the business and after discussion as a family he made the decision to sell the business, but ultimately, as he says in the program, this did not occur.
Our father states that Mr Bruce Hales came between him and his sons. This is untrue. Over several years our father increasingly distanced himself from our family life and eventually walked out to pursue an alternate lifestyle.
Our father states that he has not received photos of his grandchildren since he left. With the continuing threats of public vilification of the family, we are not prepared to provide photos of our children to him. He says he has no other photos – our mother has provided him with extensive photos as part of the separation proceedings.
He says he doesn’t know how many grandchildren he has. Jay met him in October 2013 and updated him as to his grandchildren including the most recent grandchild born only weeks prior to that meeting.
The program says that he hadn’t seen his mother in a long time. He visited her on 2 occasions in January and February this year, and neither requested or attempted to visit her from that time until her death. At no time did he make a genuine attempt to assist with her care.
He says that Mr Bruce Hales gave directions regarding arrangements for our Grandmother’s funeral. This is a scurrilous assertion – our Grandfather and the family made their own decisions in regard to all funeral arrangements.
The funeral was not cancelled – our Grandfather was unable to finalise a time for the burial service of our Grandmother on the appointed day due to the interruptions of our father, Mr McCormack and the TV crew from A Current Affair, as he understandably did not wish TV media to be present. Our father subsequently sent correspondence that he was declining to attend and he wished the burial to go ahead as our Grandfather had planned, and asked to be notified when it had been completed. He was notified as he requested.
The program has edited out footage where Gavin advised Mr McCormack that Craig was in our Grandfather’s house paying his last respects to his mother, and asked for the TV crew to show respect for the family in grief. All five sons and our mother, whose signatures appear below, remain together as a family and resolute members of the church. Our parents brought us up to live by the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. It is a continuing grief to us that our father has chosen to abandon the principles that he taught us to value and pursue another way of life.