Chamber boss Simon Williams quits over Universal Medicine cult claims

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Simon Williams
Image caption,
Frome chamber of commerce said it had accepted Simon Williams' decision to quit

The president of a Chamber of Commerce has stood down from his role following a BBC investigation into a cult which he is a follower of.

Simon Williams owns the Lighthouse home of the UK HQ of Universal Medicine, which teaches people are sexually abused due to past life actions.

BBC Inside Out West investigated the group, with one daughter saying she had "lost" her mother to them.

Frome Chamber of Commerce said it had accepted Mr Williams' decision to quit.

Universal Medicine was founded by Serge Benhayon in 1999, and its European headquarters are at the Lighthouse in Tytherington, near Frome in Somerset.

The former tennis coach, who lives in Australia, is a friend of Mr Williams.

The cult also teaches that people with autism were former dictators, and followers are expected to go to bed at 21:00 and get up at 03:00 and they have to follow a strict diet, which forbids even vegetables.

Another belief is that bad spirits can be "burped out".

Image caption,
The cult's HQ is based at the Lighthouse in Tytherington, near Frome

In December an Australian court, during a libel claim, found it was true to say that Universal Medicine was a "socially harmful cult" that makes false claims about healing.

In the BBC Inside Out West report, Mr Williams claimed people "don't understand" what the organisation is about.

He said the Australian court ruling was "totally untrue" but when he was questioned over Universal Medicine's beliefs over sexual assault and disabled people he refused to answer.

Mr Benhayon has previously denied any wrongdoing. He says he does not run a cult and that he is a victim of a media witch hunt.

Frome Chamber of Commerce said Mr Williams had stepped down to avoid bad publicity for the chamber.

Directors 'eat carrots'

In a statement, the chamber said it had "never had any dealings with Mr Benhayon" and "for the avoidance of doubt the chamber strongly disapproves of the activities and beliefs attributed to Mr Benhayon" in the Australian court case.

"As there are rumours that the chamber has been infiltrated by Universal Medicine so the remaining directors wish to state that they have never attended any Universal Medicine courses, and do not share the doctrines attributed to it.

"They do not go to bed at 9pm and get up at 3am, they eat carrots and they drink coffee."