Dominionism: Not a problem restricted to the US.
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Thu Dec 01, 2005 at 10:59:57 AM EST
The readership of this group is, obviously, all too familiar with the problem of dominionism here in the US.

What the readership may not be so familiar with--other countries with close links to the US are starting to also have problems with dominionist movements in their home countries, and in many cases there's evidence that dominionists in the US may actually be exporting dominionism worldwide.

In this essay, I will focus on one particular non-US dominionist political party called Family First in Australia.  Family First is not only dominionist, but is essentially run by the Assemblies of God in that country and used to push that denomination's agenda, and there is evidence that US-based dominionists tied to the AoG are helping out Family First as well.

At least one reader has also reported on how the Conservative Party in Canada is being hijacked by the dominionist movement there, which again is largely imported from the US.  I have suggested he write some on it and may do a followup essay on this myself.

Australia also has a growing problem with dominionists, and in fact, from dominionist groups that may sound very familiar to US readers.

Family First is a political party in Australia that, like dominionist groups (such as Focus on the Family) here in the States, practices "stealth dominionism" in claiming publically that it is merely a party focusing on "family concerns".

The truth is that Family First was founded by multiple heads of the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God and is increasingly regarded as a de facto political wing of the AoG in Australia.

(A bit of backgrounder--generally the AoG is the biggest non-Catholic/non-Anglican church in Australia, certainly the largest pentecostal one by far; essentially among Christian groups in Oz, you have the Anglicans, the Catholics, and the AoG and "independent charismatic" churches.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Family_First_Party has info (pro and con) on this particular dominionist group.  The following section from the Wikipedia entry is particularly telling:

Andrew Evans was the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia for twenty years. In a speech to the South Australian Legislative Council, he indicated belief in a religious basis for laws: "Out of his love for mankind [God] has set boundaries and these boundaries have been accepted by the world as a foundation for the laws of every country."

A large number of Family First's candidates are pastors or members of Assemblies of God churches. In New South Wales, 11 of their 23 candidates for the 2004 legislative election were from a single Assemblies of God church, the Hawkesbury Church in Windsor. During the election period, the Assemblies of God website was down for maintenance for a considerable period, making it difficult to verify the affiliations of many candidates.


In other words, not only is Family First essentially run by the AoG (and by AoG megachurches in Oz at that) but is a classically dominionist political party.

Evans himself has been the subject of quite a bit of controversy; a investigative page reveals that, among other things, he may have deliberately lied about his credentials and may be at the center of multiple complaints re the AoG in that country (including complaints of spiritually abusive tactics denomination-wide).

This link has a commentary from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, including statements by a member related to "deliverance ministry" as practiced within the group/denomination:

Family First has also attracted controversy from statements by a Victorian Senate candidate, Danny Nalliah who urged followers to "pull down Satan's strongholds" including mosques and bottle shops.

This link has information ergarding the links between Family First and AoG (and further firming up the fact that it is in fact de facto a political wing of the denomination):

Many key Family First personnel are linked with the church, but as their details are not available from the Assemblies of God website at the moment here are a few pertinent details.
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Take federal chairman Peter Harris, a self-described property developer and management consultant. He has been a member of Paradise AOG for ten or fifteen years from his accounts, and has been on the board of the church for many of those, at least the last five.

In the late nineties, he was involved in setting a strategic vision for Paradise AOG to bring the church into a "position of influence" over the political, business and media communities in Adelaide.

Harris is involved heavily in the business ministry - a ministry that makes much of the God given role of business people is to make money to support the work of the church. This network of Christian businesspeople has been a significant source of funds for the church and, presumably, Family First.

Then there is the Evans family. Andrew Evans is a Member of the South Australian Legislative Council. He has two sons, Ashley and Russell, who are also both pastors. Ashley is the Senior Pastor of Paradise AOG in Adelaide, while Russell is the director of Planetshakers Ministries, their youth conference, and is the Senior Pastor of the new City Church Melbourne church which was started earlier this year and meets at Storey Hall, RMIT. More details on the City Church Melbourne team are available here.

And the question everyone is asking - where's the money coming from? One church insider e-mails:

"Pentecostal churches are brilliant at fundraising. Even though we can trust Family First when they say they aren't being funded by the AOG or by particular churches, with people like Peter Harris and the Evans's involved, you can bet your bottom dollar the same people involved with supporting Christian ministries like Paradise and Planetshakers are involved with supporting Family First. So while the organisations are separate, the same identities are most probably present, both on the fundraising and the giving sides of things.

"When Peter Harris was in Melbourne late last year, he was saying that they were preparing for this Federal election. My guess is that while the process of putting up candidates and building local support bases has been very last minute, Peter & Co were probably obtaining commitments of money well in advance of the election, if not from the moment Evans senior got into the upper house in SA."


(Crikey.com.au, from which I got the following info, is an excellent source of information re Family First and has done some wonderful investigative reports on the group.)
This page also has another report on the group, including a telling statement where the public face slips and the "private face" shows:
Fielding is not the only one to be gagged: all hopefuls were disendorsed as party candidates after the election to prevent them speaking on behalf of Family First. Harris admits the decision was partly due to the conduct of some representatives during the poll campaign.

A volunteer was disciplined for answering "yes" when asked whether Family First backed lesbians being burned to death.


When the Australian Green Party reported on this, they were actually attacked by youths associated with Family First:
"The Family First Representative, who was handing out leaflets at the same location, had announced earlier in the day that 'lesbians are witches and should be burned to death'" said Greens Candidate Howard Nielsen. A number of youths who listened at length to the rantings of the Family First representative took to their car and embarked on an abusive, egg throwing drive past the Greens campaigners.

"The extremist, bigoted policies of Family First destroys their claim to be acting within a Christian framework" said Mr Nielsen. ... "Family First's campaign, based on half truths, outright lies and extraordinary bigotry as seen in their advertising campaign, poses the question are these values you would teach your children?" said Mr Hutton.


(In my experience, at least in the group I walked away from...yes, they would have supported lesbians being burned to death, and a lot more people besides :P.  In fact, they would involuntarily out gay youth and perform exorcisms on them :()

The AoG has a history of dominionist activity in the US that is quite well documented (known AoG associated dominionists in the US government include ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft, the main advisor on religious issues to George W Bush, former advisor Doug Wead, and Admiral Boykin; as far as dominionist orgs themselves, many local branches of dominionist groups like AFA are in effect run by persons in AoG churches such as Frank Simon and the Kentucky AFA) and the church itself is a heavy practitioner of "deliverance ministry"--a form of dominionism that states that everything outside the church group is infested with demons (and all ills are the result of demonic influence) and that people must "take dominion over Satan" and "tear down Satan's strongholds" in all areas including takeover of the government.  Dominionism and the prevailing "demon haunted world", especially in AoG churches practicing "Third Wave" or "Brownsville/Pensacola" type theology, are very much two sides of the same helix); I have previously reported on the coercive and spiritually abusive tactics used by dominionist groups promoting "deliverance ministry" on Talk2Action.  (Now you know how it all ties in together.)

(John Ashcroft, interestingly, was an example of how this is often done in practice (both in his political views and his "eccentricities" such as annointing areas with Wesson oil and covering up Lady Justice's boobies).  As John Ashcroft is apparently a part of a multigenerational AoG family, this would fit; it's also now known that the Assemblies of God was a major funder of John Ashcroft's political campaign for senator in 2000 (the one where he was beaten by a dead man).  (DefCon folks--would this be enough to get an entire denomination's tax exempt yanked?  Dunno))

The AoG also has a known history of "stealth evangelism" and in fact considers it completely acceptable and desirable.  (For the record, I am a walkaway from an AoG church, so I do know of what I speak.)  The AoG has over forty groups of national and international interest used for purposes of targeted stealth evangelism--most of which do not reveal their affiliation with the AoG (and some of which try to claim are "interfaith" or "ecumenical", but upon digging at the AoG's website it is found they are actually AoG front groups); many researchers of spiritually abusive groups consider this a danger sign in and of itself.)

The AoG has also, almost since its inception, heavily targeted other countries--especially in South Korea and in Australia.  Australia in particular has given press regarding scandals among AoG churches, many involving involuntary exorcisms and diversion of funds.  In fact, many exit counselors in Australia are beginning to consider the AoG in and of itself a coercive group (which would fit the experiences of myself and other walkaways from that denomination).  (this sitehas a good page on this in general)  This is something that the US has exported to Oz, and the Ozzies are having to deal with it as a result.

Interestingly, there are indications of at least sympathies betwen the Australian dominionists and the American ones (aside from the AoG being heavily involved in both): this link discusses how John Howard, the present PM of Australia, is also heavily influenced by dominionists including Family First.

Multiple newspaper commentators have compared the style of Family First to American dominionist groups, perthis link:

The big issue was the idea that religion and politics shouldn't mix.

Some of the commentary was openly hostile toward the idea of church involvement in politics. But many spoke of the need for bringing religious morals back into parliament.

Weekend Australian foreign editor Greg Sheridan argued the US Christian Right, the majority being evangelical, had been accepted into the mainstream and the same should apply in Australia.

"There is nothing even remotely threatening to the traditional Australian way about a political movement that takes its inspiration from Christian values," he said.

Writing in The Australian, journalist Frank Devine welcomed religious morality into politics.

"The desperate poverty of our campaign discourse stands exposed. Because we exclude moral values, our political landscape contains vast tundras of unspoken thoughts and taboo subjects," Mr Devine said.

He also thought Australia should follow the US lead where big issues such as war and abortion are debated in the political sphere at a moral level.


At least one documentary has commented on the "heavily American flavour" of Family First, per this article:
Dr Laurie's opinion of the party is that, "the `happy-clappy' brand of self-righteous vacuity of which `Family First' is a part, seems to me very American and alien to the mass of Australians." He doubts they will become a phenomenon in this country as evangelical outreach is usually so individually focused, "Sure they provide lots of singing and `fellowship', but there seems little in the way of social outreach, let alone ecumenical outreach to other Christian groups." Both Redman and Laurie point to the canny marketing and public relational skills of the Assemblies of God church, noting that Guy Sebastian's musical ability was harnessed in the church.

Redman has investigated and accurately broadcasted the stories of the Family First Party and the federal election: exploring the ethics of the relationship of religions and politics. Redman defends Family First in this instance, noting that Methodists founded the Labor Party and the National Party has a Christian values system. "It has to start somewhere. I was impressed with the fact that they don't talk about five years, but fifty years."


(The fact that dominionist groups DO make fifty-year plans is specifically why they should never be underestimated.)

There's also evidence they're (much like the dominionist groups that are heavily AoG and Southern Baptist influenced here in the US) using explicitly sectarian tests for things like refugee status. This link has more info:

One aspect of last month's announcement that was downplayed in the media was the involvement of right-wing Christian fundamentalists. Two days before unveiling the new visa category, the government revealed that it was reviewing the cases of about 30 Iraqi and Iranian detainees who had converted to Christianity while in detention. The timing of the two announcements suggests that these detainees will either be reclassified as refugees or granted one of the new bridging visas.

Questioned on Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, Howard denied that the government was discriminating in favour of Christians. "There's no Christianity specific clause. There's no denominational religious specific clause in the administrative of our immigration policy," he said.

To overtly single out Christians for favourable visa decisions would violate the principle of separation of church and state and possibly breach the Australian constitution, which prohibits federal government interference with religious freedom.

There is no doubt, however, that the government is responding to definite demands from the Christian right. In particular, the Family First party, which won its first Senate seat in last October's federal election, has been agitating for a policy shift. In a little-reported media release last December, Family First chairman Peter Harris emphasised that while his party supported "tight border security", it wanted more "consideration" given to the possible religious persecution of deportees. He said the party had been in contact with the government and would not "let up until change occurs".

Like Howard, Family First has attempted to disguise the religious basis of its push for greater protection for Christian converts. Harris said the party's senator-elect Steve Fielding would introduce a private member's bill to parliament when he took his seat in July if the government failed to make the refugee assessment process more "compassionate".

Since it came to office in 1996, the Howard government has sought to inflame and exploit fears and insecurities to divert attention away from the deteriorating social conditions caused by its free market program. Together with the "war on terrorism", anti-refugee scare-mongering has been a key aspect of its political platform. For attempting to escape political and economic oppression, asylum seekers have been demonised as "queue jumpers", falsely accused of throwing children into the sea and depicted as possible terrorists.

The government has fiercely clung to this orientation despite opposition within those business and media circles that favour greater immigration to provide new sources of readily exploitable labour. Howard and his ministers have also defied mounting public opposition to mandatory detention, rekindled by the recent case of Cornelia Rau, an Australian woman who was wrongfully detained for 10 months as a suspected "unlawful non-citizen".

Increasingly, echoing the tactics of the Bush administration and the Republican right in the United States, the government has encouraged and relied upon right-wing Christian fundamentalists to provide a support base built on appeals to emotive "moral" and "faith-based" issues such as censorship and bans on abortion, same-sex marriages and stem cell research.

Howard has worked closely with Family First, which is aligned with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, and which gained its Senate seat largely as a result of preference vote-swapping deals with the Liberal Party, as well as Labor and the Australian Democrats. As part of his pre-election agreement with the Christian party, Howard agreed to establish "family impact" investigations into all future legislation.

Far from pointing to any softening of the refugee detention regime, the latest cynical twist in policy perpetuates an inhuman system while, at the same time, pointing to the growing influence of the Christian right on the Howard government and official policy.


(A bit of backgrounder--there is a very large national controversy in Australia right now regarding the treatment of refugees--often from Indonesia or other countries in the Southeast Asian region.  There is debate on whether many are leaving for humanitarian reasons or as "economic refugees"; also there is quite a bit of controversy regarding maltreatment of refugees, which are often housed in "tent cities" in the Outback with minimal provisions.)

(At any rate, this is why I say that Australia is likely not an option for people who may need to make refugee plans in the event the dominionists do take over the US completely.)

For that matter, Family First is even explicitly taking cues from dominionist groups in the US:
(from the crikey.com.au article referenced above)

"I note that the list of factors contributing to South Australia 's low population rate did not state that thousands of abortions were carried out each year. In South Australia last year a total of 5 471 abortions were carried out.... It is my understand­ing that, if we applied the same figure given for the number of abortions carried out last year ... to the year 2050, the population of South Australia would rise by 246,376.

"It is my understanding that certain centres in the United States , such as a centre called A Woman's Concern in Massachusetts , provide extensive support, counselling and assistance, as well as accessing the use of technology such as ultrasound to allow the expectant mother to view her baby. The result is that many women make a choice not to proceed with abortion. It is my understanding from a preliminary survey carried out from October 2000 to December 2001 at The Revere Centre (a centre that follows the above approach, that is, counselling and the use of ultrasound) that, of the abortion-minded women who contact the centre to have an abortion, a total of 74 per cent do not abort. My questions to the Premier are:

"1. Will the government investigate programs in the United States that are reducing the number of abortions being carried out in centres such as A Woman's Concern and The Revere in Massachusetts which provide counselling and the use of technology such as ultrasound to inform women prior to an abortion being carried out; and will the government give consideration to a pilot project being undertaken in South Australia? If not, why not?

"2. Given the government's new population policy aimed at increasing the population in South Australia to two million by the year 2050, will the government give consider­ation to introducing a bill to ensure that medical practitioners obtain a signed declaration from both abortion vulnerable and abortion minded women to confirm that full disclosure of all the risks associated with having an abortion has been presented so that these women are fully informed when consenting to an abortion? If not, why not?


Not only this, but apparently the AoG in the US and the AoG in Australia engage in nearly identical patterns of explicit electioneering in the churches, per this link where an actual link to an example of Australian AoG electioneering is posted:
FAMILY FIRST
By now you would be aware that Pastor John Lewis will be standing for the Senate at the next
Federal election. Furthermore, a number of good Christian people have nominated for Lower
House seats. I spoke last week with Brigadier Jim Wallace (from the Australian Christian
Lobby) concerning a number of issues and proposed laws currently being prepared for
presentation in our Federal Parliament. As ministers of the Gospel, we must have a genuine
sense of responsibility as we watch our social fabric deteriorate.
We all need to handle political issues wisely, and though we have no right to tell our people
how to vote, I urge you to:
  1. Call your people to pray leading up to this next election.
  2. Be aware of what each candidate stands for. Where necessary, meet with them prior
to the election.
3. Encourage your people to vote for men and women who will stand for righteous
values - not just play some party line.

So in essence:

  1. By the way one of our Pastors is standing for the Senate as an FF candidate
  2. We will not mention any other politcal party before we:
a) Point out that while we don't tell you how to vote
b) We will suggest you vote for someone you can meet (at a recital perhaps?)
c) Discourage you from voting for a major party, and tell you to vote for a Chistian.

mmm...I know, I'll vote Family First!


(Yes, this sort of not-quite-so-subtle electioneering is commonplace in AoG churches.  As I previously noted, the AoG donated nearly $20,000 to John Ashcroft's Senatorial campaign; in the very AoG church I walked away from, it was always noted by the pastor and in the weekly church guides that "Deacon Frank Simon will be handing out voter guides, and you will find voter guides provided by him in your pews...be sure to vote for candidates who support Christians".  ("Deacon Frank Simon" just happens to also be the head of the American Family Association of Kentucky and just happens to be distributing voters' guides published by them and by his other group, Freedom's Heritage Forum.  An example of one of their voter's guides is available at here courtesy Project VoteSmart, and Freedom's Heritage Forum is known to publish their voter's guides online during election periods in KY.  In fact, Simon's group has been the subject of investigations by the FEC to determine whether they are violating elections laws.)

Anyways, this is posted to show that the same people who are causing the problem in the US are now trying to cause similar problems for other countries, and that it is NOT a problem of the US alone.  Countries IN GENERAL and people in general are going to need to take much more of a proactive stance to make sure people like this never get in office, and also to make sure regulations are passed and enforced to make sure the crossing of religious and political lines doesn't happen.  We do not need a "Christian Taliban" in Oz, Canada,  or the US.




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