Secretive "Exclusive Brethren" Scandal Assumes Global Dimensions
In Christianity, there are a welter of "Brethren" groups but only one "Exclusive Brethren" ( or maybe two, as it were ). The secretive cultish religious association - out of concern over gay marriage - has recently moved into active engagement in politics. Of special interest to American politics, leading up to the '06 election and beyond as well, are the accusations that the "Exclusive Brethren" have abused nonprofit status, conducted anonymous political capaigns, and engaged in partisan politics while receiving public funds.
Richard Bartholomew does a characteristically thorough roundup of the story at Bartholomew's Notes On Religion
Segments of the blogosphere are abuzz over reports of clandestine political activity by the Exclusive Brethren in Australia and New Zealand. News.com.au has the latest:
PRIME Minister John Howard has admitted he met members of the fundamentalist Christian sect the Exclusive Brethren.
The highly secretive group, which has 40,000 members throughout the world, many in New Zealand and Australia, has been accused of underhanded campaigning against the Greens at the 2004 federal election and subsequent state poll.
...Mr Howard yesterday admitted for the first time he had met representatives of the sect......
Howard's links with the group have been a matter of public debate for over a year. The Sydney Morning Herald reported last September.
...The Greens NSW education spokesman, John Kaye, said the Brethren should return their schools' public funding because they had used a school as a front for political activity. "It is outrageous that a private school receiving more than $2.4 million each year in public funds can engage in partisan politics. It is an abuse of public trust and a misuse of public resources.".....
According to the Morning Herald, the famously separatist Exclusive Brethren were stirred into action by gay rights:
"Go back 50 years when I was a boy: homosexuals went to jail," declared church leader Daniel Hales. "Judeo-Christian principles that are biblical were taken for granted, weren't they? Sacrosanct." But those days are gone and the world is on the slide. "Anybody committed to a principle is now having to defend that principle."
....in 2004, the Brethren began to pour cash into politics. It was a revolutionary departure for a sect in which nothing changes without the approval of its world leader, Daniel's brother, Bruce, a businessman in West Ryde known to the faithful as the Elect Vessel, the Lord's Representative on Earth and the Paul of Our Time.
However, the new-found activism was not just confined to Australia:
....They spent more than $1 million in 2004 backing George Bush and an anti-gay marriage Senate candidate in Florida. Next they ran a national campaign against same-sex marriage legislation in Canada. Last year the sect had a war chest of nearly $1 million in New Zealand to fight the Greens and promote the conservative National Party.
( hat tips also to: Beware Of The God and Cult News Network