EDMONTON (CityNews) – Three years ago life was very different for Breanna and Peter Phipps.
The couple was born into a religious cult in Sherwood Park, just outside Edmonton. They were part of the roughly 600 member church for 26 years.
“It’s nightmares. It’s stuff of horror films. And it’s abundant there,” explained Breanna Phipps. “It’s just horrible, horrible life.”
While the Phipps lived as members of the church, everything from what they wore, who they dated, how they disciplined their children, to what went on in their intimate sex life, was decided by cult leaders.
“They controlled every single aspect and if you questioned it. Well then you are just not spiritual enough,” she explained.
In a picture of the couple from a few years ago, Breanna’s hair was past her knees. She says hair cuts were forbidden. She was also never allowed to wear pants, only long skirts.
The Phipps say they were also not allowed to associate with people outside the church, even family members.
Adding their children were not even allowed to attend public or private school.
“It’s so tragic the amount of mental abuse that goes on. Convincing kids at young ages that you can’t play with the other neighbourhood kids. Why? Because they are bad people. Teaching hate at such a young age. The hate just goes on and on… Racism comes up. And they call that God’s love,” explained Peter Phipps.
What else was forbidden? Basically anything that included the outside world, think carnivals, music other than gospel, movies, Netflix, TV, and video games.
“The leader believes the second coming of Jesus has already happened, and he is god’s only vessel. So that god speaks directly to him. So at every service that he speaks, we are hearing directly from God.”
The Phipps say they had to pay the church 15 per cent of their monthly income before any bills were paid.
For them, it was their way of life, until one day it wasn’t.
The couple was kicked out three years ago after a bad business deal. At first, they thought they lost everything. But soon realized what they got was their freedom.
“We were in an absolute cult. We were confined to one way of thinking… a man’s way of thinking,” said Breanna.
CityNews reached out to the church, Word of Life Tabernacle, for their side and have yet to receive a response.
The Phipps say they are on their path to healing. They’ve blogged their experiences and even launched a podcast, hoping one day to help other cult survivors.
“The ultimate goal is to help people. To help them,” said Peter.
“Take those first steps into the real world,” said Breanna. “To know there is a safe place out here where you can jump to.”