Gloriavale woman are suffering “immense trauma and hurt” over claims they are brainwashed and ignorant, according to the commune’s school principal.
Rachel Steadfast is giving evidence at the Employment Court, which is deciding whether six women who worked at Gloriavale were employees or volunteers.
She said it’s not true that women are under the total control of the leadership, and that the story painted in the media had been one-sided because “as Christians we don’t fight back”.
Ready said she got to choose who she married, how many children she had and how she spends the money she’s earnt.
“I’ve always chosen to give back to the community. I want to share and love those around me.
“The life I choose is not what I get but what I can give,” said Steadfast.
Earlier in the hearing, the court heard that women were groomed from birth to work hard, marry, provide unlimited sex to their husbands and become mothers of many children.
“I find this patronising and offensive. The leaders don’t control every part of my life.
“The leaders don’t control when I get pregnant. I take offense that I’m used like an animal to breed. Our children are a result of our love,” said Standtrue.
As the acting principal of Gloriavale Christian School, she said she had “continuous contact” with the outside world, including with Government officials and other teachers.
During teacher training, Standtrue went to visit a marae, which she found “very comfortable and normal” as it was “parallel to life” at Gloriavale.
Standtrue said on a marae the people do not pay each other for their work, and she quoted a Māori proverb which read “with your basket and with my basket the people will thrive”.
She later conceded that she did not know whether people were living at the marae or had commercial businesses operating there, like Gloriavale does.
The ex-leaver's lawyer Brian Henry questioned why Gloriavale’s women would choose to be subservient to men, by signing the foundational document What We Believe.
Steadfast said she was following the bible, and Christians worldwide know God’s order.
“Christ is over the man and the man should submit himself to Christ, and then the woman is to submit herself to the man. Children submit themselves to the parents.”
“I married my husband on the basis that he loved God and he wanted this life. If he didn’t want that then I am no longer obliged to keep submitting to him.”
The court heard that if men ask their wives to do something against their faith, then Gloriavale’s leadership would step in
“I could get backing from people who could help me and they are the leaders who I trust, they would say that’s your choice.
“There are men who abuse that privilege and that’s worldwide. That is a safety for me as a wife. I want to keep living and believing what I believe,” said Standtrue.
The hearing continues.