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Frome Chamber express concern about BBC’s ‘cult’ investigation

Frome & District Chamber of Commerce has expressed concern about the ‘adverse effect’ a BBC investigation could have on local businesses, after it linked Frome to a “socially harmful cult”.

In the BBC Inside Out West report that was broadcast on BBC1 earlier this month, The Lighthouse bed & breakfast in Tytherington was reported to be the UK headquarters of Universal Medicine.

Last year, an Australian court, during a libel claim between founder of Universal Medicine, Serge Benhayon, and a woman who had used his ‘healing services’, found it was true to say that Universal Medicine was a “socially harmful cult” that makes false claims about healing.

Since the ruling, media outlets have linked Serge and Universal Medicine to the Lighthouse, which is owned by Simon Williams, and until last week, the president of Frome & District Chamber of Commerce. 

Simon stepped down from his role as president following the BBC investigation where he was filmed saying the Australian court ruling was “totally untrue” and that people “don’t understand” what Universal Medicine is about. Committee member Hannah Morden, also stepped down from her role after being linked to Universal Medicine.

In response, Frome & District Chamber of Commerce released a statement accepting Simon and Hannah’s decision to step down so that the chamber ‘is not dragged into the current adverse press reporting’. 

They also expressed their concern about the impact of the investigation. They said, “The Chamber is concerned that recent publicity may have an adverse effect on local businesses, including the many alternative practitioners in and around Frome. 

“We continue to believe Frome is one of the best places to live and work in the UK and we will continue to try to make it better, and communicate that message.”

The statement also addressed rumours that the Frome & District Chamber of Commerce has been ‘infiltrated’ by Universal Medicine. “The Chamber was not contacted by the BBC before their programme was broadcast. The directors of Frome Chamber are aware of the publicity regarding Universal Medicine and that events relating to Universal Medicine are held at Tytherington’s The Lighthouse, which is owned and run by Simon.

“We have seen the judgement in the Benhayon case in Australia. The Chamber has no knowledge of the allegations made, and has never had any dealings with Mr Benhayon. For the avoidance of doubt, the Chamber strongly disapproves of the activities and beliefs attributed to Mr Benhayon in that case. During their association with the Chamber both Simon and Hannah had never expressed any such beliefs, or raised Universal Medicine, nor is the Chamber aware that they have ever attempted to promote it or recruit people through any events organised by the Chamber.”

They went on to say, “As there are rumours that the Chamber has been infiltrated by Universal Medicine so the remaining directors wish to state that they have never attended any Universal Medicine courses, and do not share the doctrines attributed to it. They do not go to bed at 9pm and get up at 3am, they eat carrots and they drink coffee.”

Daughter of Serge, Simone Benhayon, who owns swimming school Aquatic Creative which is located in the grounds of The Lighthouse, is listed as the UK contact for Universal Medicine on their website. She was approached for comment by Frome Times, but had not responded by the time the paper went to press.

19 Responses to Frome Chamber express concern about BBC’s ‘cult’ investigation

  1. Gres Anderson

    March 27, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    First of all, the issue with Frome chamber members being part of an exploitative cult isn’t that they “get up at 3am and don’t eat carrots”. The issue is that the doctrine of Universal Medicine is tailored to recruit vulnerable people (breast cancer survivors, the elderly, people with mental health issues etc) to join a questionable organisation which promises wellness and a better life but is really just designed to take every last penny from its members. What’s worse, the UM doctrine is harmful to the physical and mental wellbeing of the people who try to adhere to it, who alienate their friends and families, and who spend thousands of £££ on pointless “healing courses” with meaningless “accreditations” provided by Serge Benhayon’s very own Esoteric Practitioners Association (EPA).

    Universal Medicine students try to recruit unwitting members of the public through offering alternative treatments and courses such as ESOTERIC CONNECTIVE TISSUE MASSAGE, CHAKRA PUNCTURE, ESOTERIC YOGA, ESOTERIC BREAST MASSAGE. Their training is provided by Universal Medicine, the modalities were designed by Serge Benhayon, and they are accredited by Universal Medicine’s own (and not government approved) accreditation association.

    How on Earth does exposing a socially harmful and exploitative cult “have an adverse effect on alternative practitioners around Frome”? Sure, you might be asked by a client if you belong to UM. But if you are an acupuncturist, homeopath or chiropractor with the proper accreditations and training, you can just happily say no and carry on. The client has a RIGHT to know who is treating them and what their training entailed and if there is an agenda. UM practitioners are OBLIGED to disclose this information. Anything else would be shady.

    Frankly, the Frome commerce chamber statement is wishy-washy and sounds like it was written by Simon Williams himself.

    As for the infiltration accusations: you just have to look to Australia (where UM originates) and the Lismore chamber of commerce where UM members including Serge’s Ex wife Deborah Benhayon manipulated proceedings in a way to benefit UM businesses for years. And no, it wasn’t as obvious as “recruiting people through events”. The infiltration of positions of power isn’t for recruitment, it’s purpose is to slowly and subtly rearrange the status quo to benefit UM run businesses. Maybe someone needs to dig just a little deeper…

  2. Judith Grayson

    March 27, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Completely agree with your comments and you’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to how cult members can have a serious impact on local business groups – all to the benefit of the cult.

    In Australia the cult has been banned by several locals councils from using council premises. This is something urgently required in the UK too.

    Let it not be forgotten that this cults modus operandi is very much to increase the wealth of those in its upper echelons. It’s no wonder Audi’s are their car of choice – nothing to do with being ‘energetically balanced’, far more that they are a premium car brand and the cult leaders like to lavish themselves in luxury.

    It’s a nasty little group and we would all do well to protest its presence in our midst. While they claim religious persecution against all and any who dare speak out against them, no person in their right mind would agree this cult is a religion, or that anyone is being persecuted apart from the poor families destroyed by the involvement of a family member.

    It’s time to be exposed has come and I hope all in Frome and surrounding areas will stand up and make their voices known – especially this May when the circus comes to town in the form of Benhayon and his upper acolytes arriving for the annual brainwash ceremony.

    They are not welcome or wanted in the UK.

  3. Samantha Wilkes

    March 30, 2019 at 11:09 am

    If it weren’t for the BBC Inside Out West programme, I’m sure most people would not be aware of a cult operating at this location. It’s not the Chamber’s fault per se that this has been allowed to carry on under their noses, but you would think there would have been some knowledge of the goings-on there.
    A chill ran down my spine watching the BBC programme as I recognised The Lighthouse centre as the place that my 16 yo son completed his National Lifeguard Training certificate. He spent a week there (thank goodness, non- residential) two years ago, and I took him there every day from nr. Wells.
    It struck me at the time as a bit weird that such an out of the way place had such great facilities – lovely indoor pool, grounds with lakes, posh cafe. I googled the interesting sounding ‘Sound Foundation’, also at the site, but couldn’t really understand what they did…still can’t really.
    Perhaps because Universal Medicine’s laughable doctrine which includes massage for womens’ intimate parts (red flag!), my son was not thankfully recruited. He did say however that the young ladies serving in the cafe were very friendly – I worry for them.
    I am very thankful he did not spend more time here and despite the lovely pool will be proactively advising anyone against visiting.
    Having looked at the Sound Foundation’s website 2 years ago, their ‘charity work’ seems wildly exaggerated. They have had the same 3 articles under their ‘Community Care Latest News’ section for at least 2 years, but the headings only contain the day/month of article which misleads the reader to think that these are recent events. They are not. The Sound Foundation’s claim to be a charity (if they are still operating), should definitely be investigated as they will certainly be benefiting from claiming charity status.
    Whilst I have no problem with alternative practitioners and their treatments generally, I feel as always, very sad for the vunerable people that are exploited by this kind of false indoctrination. Universal Medicine’s website is so appallingly amateur, it is beyond belief that people are taken in by this kind of bunkum; but there we are.
    I hope the good people of Tytherington manage to kick the devil in their midst out for good.
    P.S. I am not religious in anyway.

  4. Sara Bellows

    April 3, 2019 at 8:58 am

    I agree with all of the comments above. I would like to point out that the chamber have known about this for some time, as had the Frome Times from what I heard. We need to remember this is not a recognised religion anywhere in the world and there is no persecution, just a wave of disgust at their beliefs such as children with disabilities. I’m not that bothered which way they stir their green tea or what root vegetables they can’t eat.

    More importantly we must also remember there is still a member of the Governing Body at Frome College who is a UM follower and they are don’t appear to be doing anything about it.

  5. Deirdre Simpson

    April 3, 2019 at 10:17 am

    I use the lighthouse and have always been happy with the facilities and at no time has anyone tried to recruit me to become a member of Universal Medicine.
    I would like to see a more balanced analysis of its activities from both members and opposers. Instead we see sensationalist journalists already intent on making assumptions about what they see as a ‘cult’. Many religious organisations could be labelled in the same way such as the Catholic Church given the recent and on going very serious abuse of children that has been committed by priests. Can’t have one rule for one organisation without looking at all.

  6. Charles Nevin

    April 3, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Shooting the messenger is always popular, but I’m not sure how well the Frome Times served the town when it chose to lead its report on Universal Medicine with criticism of the BBC’s timely and objective documentary. As an admirer of your normally comprehensive coverage of Frome news, I would also be interested in an explanation for the modesty of the UM report, especially when compared to the front page lead and more inside the Frome Standard.

  7. Sue Bucklow

    April 3, 2019 at 11:07 am

    I thought the original statement from Frome Chamber of Commerce was flippant and really very disrespectful…only focusing on the ‘jokey’ aspects that the BBC pointed out. But it is right to have serious concerns about Serge and his cult as there is no denying that they prey on vulnerable people you only have to read the court ruling in Australia. No way is this going to affect Frome business’s in general but Frome Chamber of Commerce need to take a long hard look at themselves and their response to this. They’re obviously upset at having to let Simon Williams go, they need to get over it and get behind an investigation. It’s only their reputation which is tarnished!

  8. Lance

    April 4, 2019 at 1:24 am

    Diedrie. With all’l due respect we’ve all heard that’s argument and it’s ill informed. The supreme court of NSW has ruled UM is a cult. In the years leading up to that many families, such as my own, have been rent apart by Benhayons teachings. It’s happened here in Australia and where you live. We’ve seen inexplicable changes in our loved ones and some us, such as myself and Esther Rockett, have been trashed mercilessly online by
    UM members. Including some mentioned in this article. People we have never met or spoke to. UM is a toxic cult and any exposure is good for your community.

  9. Charles Nevin

    April 4, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Deirdre, completely agree with you that all organisations require a degree of public scrutiny. As do the claims of public commentators. Could you provide examples of the sensationalist journalism that you’ve seen in relation to UM?

  10. Ben Smith

    April 4, 2019 at 4:07 pm

    Interesting/worrying that the Frome Business Park development at Marston Estate is headed up by Hannah Morden and David Nicholson. Both are linked to UM – Hanna, as mentioned in this article, David by his family ties – parents Trish and Michael Nicholson are Vobster-based UM followers and investors

  11. Toni Lyons

    April 4, 2019 at 10:39 pm

    Hi Deirdre Simpson,

    I don’t know about you but I don’t agree that a group that promotes Eugenics theory and other prejudiced teachings should be given any platform to propagate any of their nonsense. As you may or may not know, Universal Medicine offensively teaches that intelligence is linked to lighter skin colour.

    In the books that UM followers must all study, on race Serge Benhayon writes that skin colour evolution was a conscious choice and that Asians chose yellow skin, “yellow signifies the intellect” and the “pursuit of a lighter complexion arose when Black became erroneously identified with the Darkness” (sic).

    Their words, not mine.

  12. Jason Marsham

    April 5, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Who ever said this was a ‘nasty group’ was correct. This cult is filed with two-faced hypocrites, who cry persecution with one face and with the other start nasty websites attempting to destroy an individual who ‘dared’ to question them. They are 100% false – its all fake smiles and hugs. I’m sure the exposure is going to keep growing, and hopefully the Benhayon family members that live here will be repatriated.

    Do they have work permits when they come here? Has anyone checked? Our local MP should be looking in to this – we should not have to rely on the BBC to keep us safe.

  13. Jason Marsham

    April 5, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    And what’s the Catholic Church to do with any of this Deirdre? There’s simply no parallel. Your argument is completely illogical – The Catholic Church is a world religion with hundreds of millions of members. A minute percentage of them have committed horrible acts, roughly the same percentage of the world population all over responsible for the same. It has been widely reported, and those involved persecuted where discovered. What has the reporting of a cult got to do with that?

  14. Jenny Lyons

    April 6, 2019 at 5:43 pm

    Oh come on Deirdre! Absolutely nonsensical argument. And another commenter seems to know you’re not local – so one would have to assume the only time you’ve been to the lighthouse is for events put on by the cult, hence your sympathy for them.

    If they are a charity (which would be utter madness if it’s true) those posh facilities should be open to all for a minimal charge and people not have to sign up to cult run swimming classes. Hopefully the council can take the place over and the cult pushed out.

  15. Toni

    April 6, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Jenny,

    Sorry to mention it, but the UM cult’s charitable arm is SOUND FOUNDATION COMMUNITY CARE, Company number 09400037, registered in Tytherington, Frome, Somerset. They took over that charity from benefactor Chris James after UM UK’s own application for charitable status was rejected in the UK.

    So they do operate in a tax free environment, exploiting the public purse.

  16. Kate Moore

    April 8, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Does anyone know whether (as I have heard) the huge new office and leisure facility that is being developed between Keyford and the recycling centre is funded by the same outfit?

  17. Bronwen

    April 9, 2019 at 7:30 am

    Not funded as such but the owners are prominent cult members and the website says that tenants will be offered massage and counselling !

  18. Jonny Y

    April 10, 2019 at 2:39 am

    Esoteric massage and counselling? So it will need to be an ‘adults-only’ leisure facility then?

  19. Not likely

    February 13, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    Wow, this is all new to me.

    Sounds like a condo of the masons, that sex cult with the Smallville actress and cut-price scientologists

    😳

    If the Eugenics/race thing is true, then the founding story of a fringe-based genetic testing firm takes a worrying turn

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