According to the Sydney Morning Herald, former clients of Mercy Ministries — an antigay residential program serving Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom — say they were denied professional psychotherapeutic or counseling services and granted only occasional, program-monitored visits to a general practitioner.

Instead of professional care, residents were dictated Bible verses, prayed at, and “exorcised” — and then denied support for appropriate follow-up care. Some residents say they required years of professional care to recover from abuse suffered in the program.

Mercy is a residential program for 16- to 28-year-old women that claims to offer “Christian counseling” to women who struggle with abuse, depression, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancy, and sexuality. Residents are monitored during their trips outdoors and denied access to family and friends for four to six weeks at a time. Some participants reside on-site for months.

Ex-transgender and former Exodus North America executive director Sy Rogers was reportedly featured often in the program’s in-house videos. Former clients who experienced no same-sex attraction say they were disturbed by the program’s preoccupation with stamping out “lesbianism.” Program rules forbid hugging and any other physical contact among clients.

Despite harsh rules and inordinate repetition of ex-gay rhetoric, “Mercy Ministries denies it runs an ‘ex-gay’ program,” according to the Herald.

New Zealand government agencies have allegedly subsidized the abuse:

Government agencies such as Centrelink have also been drawn into the controversy, as residents are required to transfer their benefits to Mercy Ministries. There are also allegations that the group receives a carers payment to look after the young women.

Corporate sponsors have since yanked funding — except for Gloria Jean’s Coffee, which continues to subsidize what appears to be an abusive cult-like environment:

Deeply felt ties bind Mercy Ministries, Gloria Jean’s and the Hillsong Church, connected through a complicated chain of directors and former directors – as well as donations.

More from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Bene Diction Blogs On explains Mercy Ministries’ close ties to Hillsong, Australia’s largest pentecostal church, and finds the ministry planning to expand in Canada and the United States.

Ongoing coverage: Religion News Blog

Thoughtful religious analysis: One Salient Oversight

Hat tip: GayNZ