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'I can't talk to my wife and son': Ex-Brethren man reveals shock 'separation rule'

Leaving life inside a religious sect cost a man his family, business and faith, a former member of the Exclusive Brethren has revealed.

Robin McLean, of Wellington, spoke for the first time about how he was excommunicated from a local chapter of the religious group several years ago.

He said he went public because of about 40 others "in the same situation" and on behalf of two who committed suicide in the 1980s after being excommunicated.

"I can't talk to my wife. She won't answer my phone calls. She won't open the door for me," the 58-year-old said.

"[The last time I visited] my youngest son answered the door and I told him, 'I hardly recognise you'. My boy had changed into a man. It just shows you, all the wasted years."

McLean told the Dominion Post he was born into the Exclusive Brethren and initially did not question the group's leaders.

"You could not eat with someone who was not in the same church as you. So if someone in your family was not in the church, you could have nothing to do with that person. Overnight it wrecked families."

When Mr McLean began challenging the Brethren's rules, the church "excommunicated me, just like that".

"My family had gone to live somewhere else the night before, because they were concerned about me. They never came back.

"If I went home now, my wife would be shut up - she wouldn't be allowed to see anyone - and my kids would have to leave home. That's the separation rule."