Granddaughter of Gloriavale leader Howard Temple defends him and the cult in court

Pearl Valor spoke in court about her ongoing pain from not seeking medical treatment for fear of being publicly humiliated by Gloriavale executives. Video / NZ Herald

By Jean Edwards for RNZ

Gloriavale’s supervising shepherd, Howard Temple, respects the girls and doesn’t have a reputation for inappropriate behavior, his granddaughter says.

Joanna Courage, 23, told the employment tribunal she felt safe in the Christian West Coast township and did not get preferential treatment because of her grandfather.

Former Gloriavale women have testified to unwanted attention and abuse within the religious sect in a case brought by six leavers seeking a ruling that they were employees and not volunteers.

Courage told the court that it was wrong to claim that all single girls in Gloriavale had been targeted.

“The older women didn’t tell us to keep our distance from Howard Temple and he wouldn’t grope our legs,” she said.

“He may have put his arm around their shoulder or around their waist and said thank you when they served him or gave him something.

“He often asked them if they wanted him to do it. A few times some girls told him they didn’t like it, so he quit.

“He’s always respectful of the girls. Howard is highly respected. He doesn’t have a reputation in the community for acting inappropriately.”

Everyone had worked hard to make sure Gloriavale was a safe place, Courage said.

“The men in our community are a blessing and go out of their way to make sure we have what we need, to make sure the work is not overwhelming, the machinery is fixed and we we’re not too tired,” she said. .

“The leaders in particular, and the men, have been working day and night to make sure we are safe.”

Courage worked full-time on national Gloriavale teams from the age of 16, but now works in community daycares and studies toward a bachelor’s degree.

She told the court that she didn’t get special treatment or more opportunities because of her grandfather.

“My grandfather was harder on me than any other girl, because he expected more from me. I know my grandfather well and he doesn’t value any of his relationships above anyone else,” she said.

“He never wanted to be accused of favoritism.”

Courage said she was happy to obey Gloriavale’s men but was not without a choice.

“The Bible tells me that I should be subject to men and women should have no authority over them. I’m happy to obey that,” she said.

“I know the choices I have and I choose to stay here, it’s my choice. It wasn’t forced on me and I’m happy with the way I live, the work I do, the clothes I wear and the food I eat.”

The plaintiffs claim they worked long hours in slavery-like conditions to cook, clean, communal and commercial laundry, and prepare food without breaks.

Courage said there was always time to eat, even if the food had to be consumed quickly.

“There were times on the shifts where we worked hard, but it wasn’t relentless as the complainants suggest,” she said.

“There were times when the girls were maybe tired, but that wasn’t a constant and depended on things like the season.”

The court has already heard evidence that women and girls felt trapped at Gloriavale, but Courage said Howard Temple made it clear that members could leave and would receive money and community support.

“People slipped away at night and didn’t tell the leaders or anyone and then complained later that they hadn’t received any money,” she said.

“How could the leaders give them money when they didn’t know the person was going in the middle of the night?”

The court has already heard evidence that women and girls felt trapped at Gloriavale, including Pearl Valor, testifying in August.  Photo/George Heard
The court has already heard evidence that women and girls felt trapped at Gloriavale, including Pearl Valor, testifying in August. Photo/George Heard

Courage said she loves giving her all for the people in her community.

“I understand that community life and having things in common can be difficult for someone outside of Gloriavale to understand, but it is fundamental to our way of life and something that I cherish,” said she declared.

Earlier, Gloriavale member Compassion Standtrue, 20, told the court that there were men in the community who were not behaving “in a proper Christian way” even though she didn’t think he was. there were many.

Leavers testified that they were taught that they would go to hell if they left Gloriavale, a belief according to Standtrue that applied to her.

“I believe God placed me in the church and unless I feel it is His will that I go, I believe that if I am out of God’s will then I will go to hell,” she said.

When asked how much contact with the outside world she would like to have, Standtrue replied “none, not much”.

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