Mercy Ministries, the Gloria Jeans and Hillsong-supported religious program under investigation for its controversial use of exorcism to treat mental illness, has announced its Queensland home will close.
A Herald investigation in March revealed that young women who entered the program were forced to sign over their Centrelink benefits and were virtually cut off from the outside world without medical or psychological treatment.
Since then more than a dozen young women have come forward to make complaints to various government bodies, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission and the Queensland Office of Fair Trading.
Various businesses listed by Mercy Ministries as sponsors have abandoned the organisation and it appears the resulting drop in support has forced the closure of one of its two houses. The Sydney house at Glenhaven remains open for business.
In a statement posted on its website this week, Mercy Ministries said: “After careful consideration, the board of directors of Mercy Ministries Australia has made the decision to close its Sunshine Coast home due to strategic and resourcing issues. The effective closure will take place at the end of July 2008.”
The executive director of Mercy Ministries, Mark Caldwell, did not return the Herald’s calls, so it is unclear what the future holds for the organisation, or whether it will go ahead with plans to open houses in other cities.