Those wacky Brethren!
October 18, 2007
It’s been a busy week for the Exclusive Brethren.
From the Age on Monday:
The Exclusive Brethren religious sect has denied allegations a senior member channelled $320,000 to a company which used the money to fund pro-Liberal and anti-Greens political advertising.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is investigating the spending before the 2004 election of $370,000 on advertising by Willmac Enterprises, set up by church member Mark William Mackenzie.
The leader of the Brethren Bruce Hales had this to say about the allegations:
“The church feels it is being persecuted because of its beliefs.”
Apparently beliefs are special and can’t be criticized, even if the are pernicious, separatist or break the law. Duh. If you are in the wrong it’s not persecution, it’s law enforcement.
Also from the Age on Monday:
Two senior elders of the Exclusive Brethren sect have gained permanent access to Federal Parliament, as lobbyists, under the sponsorship of two Howard Government MPs.
The Age has discovered that Sydney-based elders Stephen Hales and Warwick John were issued lobbyists’ passes after being vouched for by former minister Danna Vale and the member for the Tasmanian seat of Bass, Michael Ferguson.
Sounds, reasonable, except that:
The political activism comes despite the sect’s strict rules of separation from the world, which mean members do not vote in elections.
(Note: voting is mandatory in Australia)
A Brethren spokesman told The Age that “many churches have members who hold lobbyists’ passes for parliaments, to allow them to advocate for issues and on matters of conscience and morality”.
Yes, but the ‘beliefs’ of other churches do not prevent their members from participating in the electoral process. If you chose not to participate, I really don’t think that you are in a strong position to lobby because you disagree with governmental policy.
And then on Tuesday:
THE Exclusive Brethren has consistently lied about the source of funds for its massive pro-John Howard advertising campaign at the last election, it was alleged last night.
The ABC’s Four Corners program revealed that, in three months surrounding the 2004 federal election, Brethren elder and parliamentary lobbyist Warwick John deposited $340,000, mostly in cash, into the bank account of Willmac Enterprises, the company that funded the campaign.
It was part of a total $375,000 injected into the business over the period.
The donations were not declared to the Australian Electoral Commission by Willmac’s director, Mark Mackenzie, and are now being investigated by federal police.
And finally on Wednesday:
FORMER Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson has accused the Exclusive Brethren church of brainwashing and abusing children by denying them access to their non-Brethren parents.
Mr Nicholson also accused it of failing to comply with court orders, of stacking Family Court rooms with supporters to intimidate opponents, of using their almost unlimited legal funds to “conduct appeals no matter how hopeless”, and of “unacceptable” comments about being above the law.
A Brethren spokesman rejected all the comments, saying church members sought to “uphold the law at all times”.
Except when they disagree of course.
Ah, poor Brethren. Busy busy busy.